Systems Day Blog

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The day started with interactive workshop sessions led by Dr Harley Pope where we were asked to question how we see the world, each other and our place in it through different framings, and what that means for the problems we diagnose and how we try to address them.  We experienced and reflected on food systems as being more than just interactions between objects ‘out there’, but equally conditioned by our thinking and filtering of information. 


Icebreakers and exercises to understand different ways of seeing the world and cool our conceptually overloaded minds! 


Harley presented two different interdisciplinary group exercises.  The first was to help students map the different functions of food systems, what they mean to different stakeholders, and the ways in which the food system can have adverse effects.  The other exercise had students envisioning a future food system utopia and then considering the innovations and behavioural adjustments needed to get there, and questioning the assumptions underpinning contemporary and utopian food systems. 

In the afternoon we were joined by Alice Evans from Lankelly Chase.  Alice shared a history of how Lankelly Chase has radically changed how it operates; the organisation’s experiences of multiple disadvantage as having systemic and interlinked drivers has led it to pursue systemic practice throughout the organisation. This is quite a radical departure from how many organisations work, and it was fascinating to hear about their approach and methods. We experienced some of these first hand as Alice took students through a number of group exercises to help them surface and express their different viewpoints and find ways to work through conflict and different opinions – definitely challenging! 


“A really interesting insight that came up during Alice’s workshop is that we’re always part of the system that we want to change, but we lose sight of this.  For example, we talk about the food system as if we’re outside of it, critiquing it.  But we’re all consumers, we all throw away rubbish, we all make choices about what we buy on a day-to-day basis. We need to engage and make changes ourselves.  Dr Alex Arnall, PI University of Reading 


Hooray! The University of Reading have provided reusable cups to use rather than their normal disposable cups.