News: Stepping into the shoes of a food system stakeholder

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Students with an interest in transforming the food system recently got a snapshot of the complexity of just one slice of the food system thanks to one of the 13 GFS-FSR research projects.

Joanne Craven, a serious games consultant and member of the Increasing resilience to water-related risks in the UK fresh fruit and vegetable system (FF&V) project team, delivered an online games session in February 2021 to students on the IFSTAL food systems teaching programme.

The serious board game, Fruit and Veg. vs the Future, was developed by Joanne with her FF&V colleagues from the University of Oxford, Cranfield University and the University of East Anglia. It allows players to pit fruit and veg systems against a number of future scenarios. Each player takes the role of a stakeholder to play out the scenario and reveal both winners and losers. The process allows players to experience different stakeholder viewpoints and understand how increased the resilience of the overall supply chain can be achieved.

The IFSTAL programme, which is a collaboration of five institutions, aims to create postgraduates with interdisciplinary skills to bring about much needed transformation in the food system. Through workshops, online learning and a summer school, they build on their studies to learn how to collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders to tackle food system challenges.

Prior to the pandemic, Joanne and her colleagues delivered in-person game workshops to fruit and veg industry stakeholders at in the UK and South Africa. For this latest session, Joanne adapted the game for online engagement.

The different games Joanne has designed have been used by stakeholders to address a number of challenges, including planetary health and water conflicts. She has seen how serious games like the ones she designs are an effective way to get people talking about complex problems. “Games are fun,” she says. “They reflect complex real-world systems, such as the food system, and put something meaningful on the table for people with engage with.

”We created Fruit and Veg. vs the Future to help us explore how future water risks might affect different actors in the UK fresh fruit and veg system, and how their responses affect the system as a whole. We witnessed a range of dramatic futures played out: long droughts, cut-throat competition, and innovative collaboration.” she said.

“For the IFSTAL workshop, we created a virtual version of the game using Miro, an online whiteboard platform “Players were able to move the counters, draw the cards and scratch their collective head over the strategy – just like in real life. It was great to watch the multiple games unfolding and it led to some interesting discussions.”

The FF&V Project, which ended in autumn 2020 aimed to explored resilience across the value chain to three kinds of risk related to water: its physical availability (which might affect production, so raising prices); reputational risks (when environmental issues are highlighted in the media); and regulatory risks (such as restrictions on irrigation due to drought).





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