Food assistance towards food security: the second local workshop in Tuscany (Italy)

On the 3rd of May, the second local workshop for “Food assistance towards food security” took place in Florence. This allowed to close the circle and make sense of the work started in workshop 1 (read this). The aim of the workshops is to engage key players in exploring plausible futures in order to test food assistance strategies. The final goal is to provide suitable instruments for stakeholders to tackle the challenges they currently face in the changing context.

The groundwork for this second workshop was laid during the first workshop (held on the 1st of February) and by the following elaboration of the content by the UNIPI research team. In particular we obtained two sets of apparently disjointed results:

Four scenarios downscaled to the local context.

European scenarios from the TRANSMANGO consortium had been downscaled by the four groups of participants by imagining “What would the (EU) scenario mean for the food assistance system of Tuscany?”. While analyzing the four downscaled scenarios in the period between the two workshops, we realized that there were two key variables within the scenarios, that allow to compare them. The first is way of intervention by Government, which may entail the State adopting an emergency approach (i.e., the State responds from time to time to social emergencies, when they arise) or a strategic approach (i.e., the state anticipates social emergencies by adopting a proactive approach). The second variable relates to the openness of society towards societal problems, such as immigration (i.e., civil society demonstrates an open or a closed attitude).  
Beautiful cartoons represented the main features of the four diverse but plausible context for Tuscany in 2030 (Figure 1):

    • “Tuscany in 3D” (top-right): the “right to food” enters fully into the political debate: food assistance is conceived as a strategic task that allows to tackle bigger problems and needs. Public authorities develop a strategic approach to achieve closer collaboration between all players in the food system. Citizens are willing to contribute with voluntary work. The role of civil society associations is viewed by government as a resource for survival and functioning of the welfare system.
    • “It could be better” (bottom-right): the pressure on the national health care system – due to rising uncommunicable diseases derived from years of poor diet – brings a reduction to public expenditure on social services. A reactive public management approach and poor coordination between services prevail. Social actors must find a way to cope with the increased (food) poverty.
    • “Solidarity in half” (top-left): Italian government adopts a restrictive welfare strategy, by supporting “eligible” citizens with minimum incomes, exacerbating the differences with the most vulnerable groups. Civil society is very closed and uninterested to social problems .
    • “Do I want to go to live in the countryside?” (bottom-left): the government decides budget cuts on social measures, considering these not as a priority. Food assistance support is limited to transferring European resources to social parties. The food assistance actors must intercept surplus of small producers and retailers, which are most resilient in the regional context, but this has become more complicated. Society is very closed, therefore human resources, ie volunteers are also scarce.

introduzione workshop 2

 

Three plans for key objectives.

The second outcome from the 1st workshop was a set of priorities drawn from the vision and a draft of back-casted plans for three macro-themes: person’s centered approach, education, governance and networks (Figure 2). The main part of the 2nd workshop was dedicated to testing this plans against the four scenarios.

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The first step was a re-immersion in scenarios: in this phase, each participant was asked to add any missing elements by writing them down on post-its.

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Then scenario groups worked through the plans according to the question Is this action or strategy possible in this scenario, or not? If not, what could be recommended (concretely) to make the plan better able to work in this scenario?”.

Participants tried to find the most important strengths and weaknesses of each plan associated with a sub-objective; clear and concrete suggestions that would allow the plan to succeed in each scenario were given. The outcome of this exercise were four plans revised according to the scenarios. When the group reconvened in plenary after lunch, the participants shared in turn the key insights that each scenario group had elaborated in the morning session.

For example, in the “Tuscany 3D”, a rather positive scenario, the strategic goals of the plan seem to be achieved. However, participants realized that, to get there, there was the need to start immediately to fill identified gaps and delays. In the case of Solidarity in half, with a narrow-minded and egoistic society, participants recognized the need to make a lot of preliminary advocacy, information and communication work, for those plans to become even conceivable in that scenario.

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Next steps towards the Alliance for Food in Tuscany

The real impact of the process towards the “Alliance for food” in Tuscany will be revealed only by time. However, some short term and long term outcomes were explicitly discussed. In the short term, the agreement to report and disseminate workshops results in various public events was made (e.g., the annual Caritas report in October 2016). For the longer run, the opportunity to establish a partnership to develop an integrated regional observatory on food and nutrition security in Tuscany was discussed.

One thing is certain: the two workshops made possible for key actors to come together and reflect upon issues that go beyond their daily and ordinary tasks and, furthermore, to commit for the next months, involving the UNIPI TRANSMANGO team in this path. We, as a team, enjoyed the challenge. To be continued… (hopefully!)

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