The IFSTAL Summer School has Started!

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We kicked off with a welcome from Dr John Ingram before a quick introduction to Communities of Practice (COP), led by Dr Bex White. IFSTAL was presented as a COP – a ‘living curriculum’ on the food system in which we all support each other to learn, challenge and practice food systems thinking, and where we draw from the richness that is offered through the professional and life-experiences of those who take part in the programme.  


We got to sample some of that richness as we came together in groups and learnt about the ‘trajectory’ or learning journey of those on our tables. The COP approach emphasises the importance of understanding your self and what you believe as knower-practitioner – through doing this you can better engage with your community, understand your positionality, and be aware of what you bring to a COP. It was fascinating to hear about a diverse set of learning journeys from the entomologist, veterinarian, environmental scientist and cookery teacher/food waste activist with an interest in food policy, on the table!  


Participant trajectory diagrams


Then it was time to get on our feet and move around! One interesting exercise had everyone move to different parts of the room depending on whether they felt business, government, civil society or consumer-citizens had most power in the food system. Many felt that business currently held the most influence, although we agreed that the distribution of power would change if we were in a different country, or region of another country. We then discussed the future – what would we like to see? While many felt that the citizen-consumer needed more sway in the system, a strong argument was made for a better and meaningful partnership between these different groups. 


The name game


We finished up with a great session on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test led by Fiona Corby from the Reading University Careers Service. After some quick questionnaire filling out about our tendencies and preferences we discovered our MBTI ‘type at work’. While I’m not sure I’d class myself as a smooth talking persuader (my daughter would certainly disagree…perhaps I lose that quality once I leave the office!), there’s no denying it can be insightful and helpful in thinking about what ‘feeds’ us, how we work, and next steps on the career path.  

Then it was time to head to the bar on campus, have a beer and get to know each other a bit better. Football may have entered the conversations too…..