In the previous four years, the summer school has culminated with the student presentations, and this year’s online edition was no different. For the students, the presentations are a chance to package their learning from across the summer school curriculum into just five minutes – which is no mean feat.
Each of the four groups tackled the issue of food systems resilience from the perspective of a different organisation: a government agency; a mid-sized abattoir; a large food manufacturer and a charity committed to fighting food poverty and waste. In the final video presentations, the groups mastered an impressive a range of communication and problem-solving techniques. Colour-rich graphics elegantly conveyed the breadth of the issues and role-played vox pops with food system stakeholders shone the spotlight on those for whom the food system is failing.
Despite the challenges of collaborating over a short time frame, over often-unreliable broadband and even over time zones, the groups distilled a year’s worth of learning into five minutes.
Views from the workplace
As the final day continued, three professionals who have forged careers in the food sector spoke about their careers and took questions from the (Zoom) floor. Anna Turrell, Head of Environment at Tesco, emphasised the importance of collaboration between the corporate sector and NGOs. Previously Head of Sustainability at Nestlé UK & Ireland, she also offered an insight into the work required across internal departments in a large organisation in order to achieve its sustainability commitments.
Barbara Adolph, Principle Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) reminded the students that about there are many pathways towards becoming an influencer, citing her own decision to step outside the academic sphere and work more directly with stakeholders to create impact. Defra’s Chief Plant Health Officer Nicola Spence highlighted how her career has been propelled by passion; she also remarked how government is an excellent career destination for scientists as they bring the rigour and knowledge required to make a difference. Across the talks, the value of diversity in thought and experience was a recurring theme.
Saying yes to opportunities
Closing the event, IFSTAL Programme Lead John Ingram reflected on the three days which had seen the summer school take a new online form and encouraging the students to “say yes” to the opportunities that come their way in the future. Citing the creation of this year’s virtual summer school as an example, he stressed how a group of people with open minds and diverse skills can create something new and exciting.