IFSTAL Summer School 2016

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The IFSTAL Summer School ran from the early evening of Sunday 3rd July through to the afternoon of Friday the 8th of July, and took place at Reading University. Thirty students participated in an engaging week of workshops, talks, field trips and presentations.

Day one saw participants learning from Professor Gerald Midgely, Professor of Systems Thinking at  Hull University. Professor Midgely is widely published in the field of soft systems, and we enjoyed a lecture and workshop on the history of systems thinking and exploring ways of mapping and analysing a food system problem.

The second day focussed on communication and how we do this with complex issues. Here we had Andy Ridway from the Science Communication Unit at the University of the West of England, come and deliver a workshop. This was followed by shorter talks from three food system practitioners working on communicating to different audiences – Oxfam’s supporters and policy maker audiences; multiple national agricultural policy communities; and sugar supply chains.


On the third day we got out and about, visiting farms, retailers and a food waste processing facility. Students got to meet practitioners in their place of work and apply and interrogate some of the ideas learnt in the summer school and on their courses.

Day four involved applying some of the skills learnt over the summer school in a workshop led by Professor Tim Lang on policy briefings. This was structured around policy issues introduced by NGO, government and development practitioners. In the evening we celebrated the summer school with a formal dinner.

The final day saw groups of students present their summer school project and receive detailed feedback on this. These projects were set by our visiting practitioners and represented real world problems facing organisations and individuals working in the food system. We topped off the summer school with a talk from Guy Watson, Founder and Director of Riverford Organic Farmers.