Seeing the richer picture at Workshop 1

Seeing the richer picture at Workshop 1

Pizzas, pictures and problem solving at the first IFSTAL workshop of 2018/19

November kicked off in style with the greatest number of students turning out for an IFSTAL workshop to date. Due to popularity, we moved to a larger venue to accommodate the surge in students aiming to become creative systems thinkers. The more, the merrier! And despite problems on the Underground, everyone turned up and the first workshop of 2018/19 started right on time.

Taking place at City, University of London, the day was divided into two broad themes, the first of which focused on an exploration of food systems. Students were introduced to the valuable role of rich pictures in problem solving. A rich picture is a visual drawing and problem structuring tool that captures debate in a non-linear format. The process allows those around the table to consider a wide range of opinions and take into account perspectives that might otherwise be closed down under a more structured approach. Like food systems problems themselves, rich pictures can be messy and complicated!

Armed with large sheets of paper and a kaleidoscope of markers, each group set about creating a rich picture exploring the sustainability issues surrounding various ingredients in a pepperoni pizza. For 20 minutes the room was abuzz with students talking, sharing and drawing – creating messy, complicated and colourful diagrams that reflected their thoughts and conversations.

IFSTAL Education Co-ordinator Harley Pope explains that while creating a rich picture around pizza might initially seem like a basic approach, there is great value in the exercise. “The rich picture is a blank canvas which allows students to come up with their own insights, based on their studies or personal experiences,” he says. “They are the basis for helping students see their position in group work and we build on them later on in the programme. Plus, everyone likes to have fun and do some drawing! During the exercise everyone’s looking at each other round the table, having fun, and that helps with the group experience.”

Although the rich picture exercise is new to many students, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Students cited the creative approach as a plus, and noted that rich pictures can draw attention to personal biases. In addition, we now have a record of these conversations and thought processes, which we will build upon as the programme continues. Slice of pizza, anyone?

Curious about the IFSTAL approach? Read more about how we work with our students here 

Read about the second part of Workshop 1 here