Workshop Two roundup

The second IFSTAL workshop of 2018/19 was held at the University of Reading on 19 January. On the agenda was the development of critical systems thinking and communication skills. The workshop was delivered in IFSTAL’s trademark rich interdisciplinary environment, as IFSTAL Education Co-ordinator Yara Chamata explains.

Building on Unit Two’s online material, the morning session kicked off with a brief introduction to systems thinking and how to apply it to solving complex food systems’ challenges. There was also a focus on refining communication skills – an essential component for employability in the food sector – through a multitude of activities, styles and methods. The sessions were led by IFSTAL experts Harley Pope, Rosina Borrelli and Rebecca Wells, with input and real-life examples from IFSTAL alumnus Arianna Bastianini who now works for the charity School Food Matters.

For the first time at an IFSTAL workshop we planned lunchtime 1:1 networking sessions between students and IFSTAL professionals. The inaugural sessions received great feedback. “I loved the 1:1 discussions with the IFSTAL staff,” said one of the students who attended. “As always, everyone is so helpful and interesting.”

One of the IFSTAL hallmarks is to equip students with tools to investigate, analyse and intervene in food systems’ problems. For this second workshop, the ‘BATWOVE’ framework was introduced. The acronym stands for:

  • Beneficiaries
  • Actors
  • Transformation
  • Worldview
  • Owners
  • Victims
  • Environmental constraints

It’s used to consider the perspectives of different stakeholders and parties when approaching a problem. On the day, the framework was applied to a case study related to food packaging issues. In advance of the day, students were given background reading on food packaging and waste, while an overview of the topic was presented just before the activity.

Participants were divided into eight groups, four of which were assigned the role of NGO with the remaining four acting as food businesses. Each team had to prepare a presentation or business pitch to the opposite audience: a food business had to deliver a pitches to an NGO audience, while NGO groups had to present to a corporate audience. After some analysis work, As well as deciding how to communicate their interventions to a group that holds different values, the students gained insight into how others with the same role as them tackled the task.

The group activity was a great opportunity for students to get feedback from IFSTAL staff, reflect on the communication tools they learned earlier in the day, and hone their skills not only in terms of conveying their ideas to an audience, but also in terms of individual and effective communication across an interdisciplinary team of individuals with different approaches and perspectives.

Overall, the day was a great success and the students provided very positive feedback. Many expressed their intention to implement BATWOVE and other frameworks and tools learned into their studies, dissertations, projects, and future career plans.

Some student feedback from Workshop Two

“I am likely to think more carefully about the feasibility of interventions using the BATWOVE framework. I have been inspired to consider my personality traits more closely and how these come across.”  
“Today embedded and brought to life my learning of unit 2 and I will therefore be able to use it confidently now within my lectures, essay writing, and one day when I go out into the workplace within food policy.”
“I will take into account different approaches in the conduction of my research for dissertation. It was useful to understand different perspectives about the same problem.”
“I would like to use the communication tools I learned today in improving my communication skills so that I can explain my research better to people.”
“I learned to think ahead of future meetings to structure the way I will present my views to best suit the knowledge and perspective of the receiver.”
“I would like to take into consideration what I’ve self-reflected on today in the group work, use BATWOVE and DSRP to evaluate the values of components within a system and how to apply them in creating a framework and intervention plan and also in tailoring my communication skills to my target audience more effectively.”
“Today gave me an idea for my dissertation. I would like to analyse the strategies of NGO’s to influence the corporate world.”
“I think I might explore public/private partnerships in relation to food security and food justice. Looking forward to learning more about multi stakeholder partnership at the next workshop.”
“I would like to reflect upon today’s materials and presentations and think about how I can utilise them in my research and studies.”