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The Conscious Food Systems Alliance

Thomas Legrand & Noemi Altobelli, from the UNDP’s Conscious Food Systems Alliance, explain the new approach to transforming food systems
Women selling fruit and veg at a market in Jaipur, India

This article first appeared in our COP28 issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published 30 November 2023. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Food connects us with one another, our cultures and our planet.

Rather than nourishing our collective health and wellbeing, however, food systems are at the heart of the social and environmental crises we face.

Despite significant investment and effort towards transforming food systems, the solutions emphasised so far are not delivering the necessary impact.

This impasse calls us to examine more deeply the root causes of our crises and the structural barriers to transformation. 

Spotlight on inner change

There is a growing recognition that regenerating our planet and communities requires an evolution of our mindsets, values and world views, as well as the cultivation of certain transformative personal qualities and skills.

The latest IPCC reports on climate change mitigation and adaptation highlight the role of ‘inner transitions’ and inner capacities of individuals, organisations and societies as a lever for accelerating the transition in the context of sustainable development.

The Human Development Report (2020) likewise emphasises that ‘nothing short of a wholesale shift in mindsets, translated into reality by policy, is needed to navigate the brave new world of the Anthropocene, to ensure that all people flourish while easing planetary pressures’.

To transform food systems, we must work not only on policy, research and project implementation, but also on the inner drivers of individual, collective and institutional behaviours.

Increased connection to ourselves, each other and nature can activate the transformative qualities and skills needed to support the transition to regenerative food systems.

‘Creating regenerative systems is not simply a technical, economic, ecological or social shift: it has to go hand in hand with an underlying shift in the way we think about ourselves, our relationships with each other and with life as a whole.’

Author of Designing Regenerative Cultures (2016)

Food systems transformation

Launched in late 2022, the Conscious Food Systems Alliance (CoFSA), convened by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), supports the cultivation of inner capacities of food systems stakeholders as a key complementary approach for food systems transformation.

CoFSA applies consciousness approaches across all levels to leverage certain practices that actively support the cultivation of inner capacities.

These consciousness practices include a vast range of contemplative mind-body practices, often rooted in a variety of wisdom-based traditions (such as nature connection and mindfulness), as well as psychological and cognitive-behavioural (such as self-reflection and inquiry), transformative spaces and communication practices (such as deep listening and non-violent communication) and transformative education and leadership practices (such as experiential learning).

In cultivating inner capacities, CoFSA emphasises the need for context-specific and culturally relevant interventions, founded on respect and equity, as well as awareness of power dynamics.

CoFSA approaches food systems transformation by working with all relevant stakeholder groups across food systems.

CoFSA interventions can support certain practices or learning environments that support individuals and groups to tap into their inner potential and nourish transformative inner capacities.

In addition, CoFSA interventions can leverage the current political and institutional landscapes by systematically mainstreaming the consideration of inner capacities into existing institutions, structures and systems.

The aim of the latter is to support the structural and political conditions required for the emergence of a more regenerative food system from the inside out.

An agenda for action

The Conscious Food Systems Alliance has already built a solid basis for work. It has framed a new narrative on food systems transformation, highlighting the complementary role of inner capacities and consciousness practices, as well as a clear agenda for action.

A movement of more than 250 members dedicated to this agenda, and more than 1,500 people following this work, has been initiated.

Throughout this transformative process, deep bonds have been created among core members, a community of practice and learning has been built and implementation through trainings and pilot interventions has already commenced.

We are looking forward to seeing the impact of this conscious approach on food system transformation all over the world.

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