The 11 FIT4FOOD2030 Policy Labs are working towards the alignment of research and innovation policies and programs on Food and Nutrition Security. They do this by building on and expanding existing national and regional networks. Each Policy Lab is unique as all organise different activities and focus on the most relevant food system challenges for their location. The Basque Policy Lab has been highlighted in a recent interview, which you can find below.

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In short:

The Basque Policy Lab has gathered a broad range of agents relevant in the food system to identify and prioritise research and innovation challenges that must be addressed to achieve a sustainable food system by 2030. So far, the meetings have highlighted the importance of a social paradigm change focused on the consumption, production and distribution of food. During its activities, the Basque Policy Lab was confronted with some challenges. They noted that attending the meetings was a burden for certain participants because of their professional activities. They also faced difficulties when trying to engage public policy makers. Fortunately, having a broad and diverse group of agents work together in the meetings was not an obstacle because they mostly faced similar challenges.

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Read the interview below:

Why did you choose to join the FIT4FOOD2030 project? What were your expectations when joining?

There are various reasons why we were interested to partake in FIT4FOOD2030. Firstly, it is a unique opportunity to develop a platform with Basque agents from the whole food system spectrum to discuss/debate openly about our food system and where we want to go with it. In fact, we have tried to guarantee wide participation and include agents from different levels of governance in the platform. This platform allows us to analyse more in depth the current Basque food strategy, achievements and gaps.

Secondly, FIT4FOOD2030 is a critical window of opportunity, to influence European policy makers in a different way. Indeed, it is an innovative way for policy making (a need that has already come up in our lab).

Finally, as an institution with an academic background, the possibility to network with other agents of the European food system (academy, policy development …) was very appealing to us.

Could you please give a description of the activities you perform as a policy lab?

As a policy lab we organise meetings gathering a broad profile of agents (academy, industry, civil groups, consultancy, agrarian unions, educators…) to discuss how Research and Innovation can lead to a more sustainable food system in the Basque region.

We try to include actors from the whole food system, as we aim to work from a systemic perspective.

We design the policy meetings to obtain common grounds of work, rather than turning on the discussion. We use different sets of exercises, based on qualitative methodology, in order to engage with the agents and get the objectives set for the meeting.

By the end of each meeting, the main points are discussed together, in order to get an understanding, if not a consensus about the results obtained.

We also have a facilitator who helps us energize the meeting to get the most of each agent and discussion. It also helps us, the policy coordinators, to be centred in getting all the data correctly.

Lastly, we maintain a line of communication with the participants, in order to maintain them engaged (reports of the results, Twitter messages,…).

Meeting 1: Clustering common challenges

Meeting 2: Clarifying Research and Innovation concepts

Could you briefly explain what you have accomplished up to now? Were you able to achieve concrete results? If yes, please describe.

The policy lab members have identified a set of challenges in the area of Research and Innovation (R&I) in order to achieve a sustainable food system by 2030. Some of them are:

  • generational relief in agriculture
  • value of the local product
  • protection of the productive land
  • equitable participation in public policies (governance innovations)
  • inclusion of nutrition experts in the public health system
  • food education as a transversal element in the school curriculum
  • spaces for access to local and seasonal food
  • empowering the consumer

The most urgent and local challenges have been classified further into Research and Innovation specific gaps during the second meeting. The results highlighted the importance of a social paradigm change. This change should not solely be focused on the consumption, but also on the production and distribution of food.

Besides, we have actively promoted the FIT4FOOD2030 project in the media (various radio interviews and newspaper articles, and social media). It is a timely project; hence, we use this opportunity to sensitize the population in food sustainability matters.

What obstacles were you confronted with? What has facilitated your work?

Obstacles:

For the coordinators, the policy-lab implies an important amount of resources and time-allocation to design and develop a good meeting that will lead to tangible/coherent results.

The meetings we organise also imply time and commitment from the participants. For some, this can be a significant burden for their jobs (i.e., farmers or SMEs). Still, the discussions we organise are fundamental to communicate between the food system agents. Hence, this type of open platforms should have some legally binding results, for the participants the feel empowered. Otherwise, future platforms will lack an important part of the representation of the food system, and the discussion/results will be biased.

Along with that, we have observed difficulty for the public policy makers to engage and participate in the policy lab. We believe it is linked with the above stated, and a very vertical culture in the way of doing policies. This poses the question on the policy-making strategy: Which interests do the public policy makers follow?

 

Facilitating elements:

We have gladly found that having a broad group of agents from different views has not been an obstacle. We have focused on the challenges, and it was observed that they have joint challenges more than disagreements.

Elements that have facilitated our work are: knowledge about the Basque sociogram of the food system, experience in Participatory Active Research, having a facilitator, and the commitment with the topic. Further, being part of a European project makes it easier to engage with stakeholders.

What are your plans and expectations for the near future, within the FIT4FOOD2030 project?

We will work on a definition of the Basque Research and Innovation strategy for Basque Food2030. This will be done under the umbrella of the common vision of Food system 2030 that will be developed in the third meeting (June 2020).

We will try to get opportunities to develop a funding call for the Basque Food2030 R&I strategy, by talking to our guarantors for the Fit4Food2030 project.

We are going to present the Basque Food2030 R&I strategy to the Basque Government Science, Innovation and Technology team.

Our communication strategy includes the development of an infographic, publication of articles for the media, and public meeting, to obtain results but also discuss food system matters and sustainability with the public. In fact, social groups from cities have already contacted us regarding the development of public talks.