IFSTAL Workshop 4: Shaping Change and Developing Solutions

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The final IFSTAL workshop of the academic year took place on Wednesday 21st in Warwick and Thursday 22nd February in Reading, Oxford and London. During units and workshops 1-3 the focus is on the problems and complexities of food systems, and how best to understand them and analyse them. This can get pretty overwhelming and disheartening. In the last unit and workshop, it’s time to look at what can be done about it and how to create change.


As in all the workshops, the aim is to provide students with ‘tools’ they can apply to food systems work, and try a few out in practice. In the fourth workshop, this tool was ‘Theory of Change’ (ToC). Not really a ‘theory’ so much as a method, ToC comes in many names and guises, and is often used across different sectors for planning, evaluation and reporting. It helps to envision a desired change and work out the steps to get there. We used the 5-step Bond model, which prompts with the following questions:


  • What is the overall change you want to see?  ​
  • What are the ‘preconditions’ needed to make the change e.g. what stages do you need to go through to make change happen? ​
  • What is your role?
  • What does progress look like i.e. what are outcomes? ​
  • What activities, goals and indicators are you going to undertake to get there? ​


In interdisciplinary teams, students worked through an issue – most used the ‘sugar reduction’ we suggested as a challenge. The scenarios ranged from the perspectives of state and charity to corporate. As is core to the IFSTAL values and being an effective food systems thinker, reflection is always important, so we all evaluated our methods. We revised the ToCs with our systems thinking hat on, looking out for ‘assumptions’ that may invalidate or hinder the process of change. We also considered and applied some of the tools and thinking from previous workshops and units, such as BATWOVE (see workshop 2), and the various actors, activities, drivers and consequences, in order to highlight any pitfalls or additional factors that could have an impact.












In Warwick, the topic of responses to British food security was explored, with guest speaker Dr Lopa Saxena and local PhD student Wendy Eades. They discussed the complex issues surrounding food surplus, social enterprise and poverty in light of the exponential growth seen in food banks in the UK.


Blog by Lauren Blake, Education Coordinator and Postdoctoral Fellow at LCIRAH.


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