Systems thinking to reorganize and manage food systems

Systems thinking to reorganize and manage food systems

January 23, 2020

Systems thinking to reorganize and manage food systems

The IFSTAL program, which has been running in the UK for the last few years, aims to create a new generation of "thinkers" who approach food systems in a completely new way

In order to change food systems, new approaches based on systemic thinking are needed to design new ways of learning and acting, and greater collaboration between different professionals. This is according to John Ingram of Oxford University (UK), who, together with a number of colleagues, describes the objectives and results achieved so far by the  Interdisciplinary Food Systems Teaching and Learning (IFSTAL) in the brand new Nature Food scientific journal.  

Collaborative relationships

Launched by Oxford University in October 2015, with the active involvement of other partners in the UK, the program aims to transform food systems by training new "thinkers" to deal specifically with food systems, but with a different approach to those used so far and based on so-called systems thinking. “Everything is based on creating collaborative relationships focused on a wide variety of skills and experiences and on analyzing multiple criteria rather single causes”, say the researchers, explaining that this approach has the potential to lead to more effective interventions in terms of food safety, health, environment and business in the medium and long term. 

Multidisciplinarity at the center

Confirming the fundamental role of inter and multidisciplinarity, the students enrolled on the program come from different areas of study and focus on four main themed units during the academic year: food system concepts, systems thinking, food system methods and action to change food systems. In addition to these there are seminars and practical activity periods in different contexts, always carried out with the aim of working across borders between different disciplines. In its first three years of operation, IFSTAL has trained over 1,500 students from 45 different university departments, 350 of whom have already undertaken a career related to food systems. “We believe that IFSTAL is changing the way we think, work and act in the field of food systems”, the authors conclude.   

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