The global food system depends on collaboration. The art of collaboration is built into humanity. Collaborative leadership is the reason cities exist and why people are everywhere on the planet. By working together to achieve a common goal we are strong.
Unfortunately, some of the big collaborative systems we have created over the last century are not as good, or as efficient, as they should be. The food system is one of them. That is why, this year, a massive focus point for the UN is the Food Systems Summit.
Take a good look at West African cashew nuts and you can see how profit-driven collaboration created an unsustainable situation.
A journey that is nuts
Cashew was born on a humble farm in Cote d’Ivoire. He took an ocean voyage to India and Vietnam where he came out of his shell. From there Cashew boarded a plane to Europe, got a little toasted with the locals and briefly worked in a packaging plant.
Cashew, along with a bunch of new friends from all over the planet, hopped back on a ship. Together they navigated port authorities, trucking companies, wholesale warehouses, and grocery store shelves. And that is how Cashew and his friends ended up at your house for one final homestay.
The amount of collaboration between players up and down the value-chain to make this journey a success is staggering.
Thousands of kilometres (and tonnes of fossil fuel), hundreds of people, and dozens of companies, to get one bag of cashew nuts into your lunch box.
And all of this was made possible by incredible collaborative networks and the ability of human beings to work together for a common goal.
Right now, that goal is about making profits, and unfortunately it comes at a huge cost. Sending a cashew across the planet to be shelled, roasted, salted and repacked multiple times in single-use plastic, is extremely damaging to the planet.
With so many people involved who want to take a profit at every stage, it means consumers pay high prices, and the farmers often get very, very little money for actually growing the nuts.
Collaboration is extremely important to make global industries work. However, we need new style of collaborative leadership that can fix problems in the food system.
We need collaboration with the goal to end poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. We need collaboration that stops food and resource waste and leaves the planet healthier and more diverse.
Only by working together can we build a food system that can withstand shocks, benefits local production and pays a fair living wage to workers.
How can you be a super-collaborator?
Collaboration happens at many different levels inside and outside a company.
To find out if you are making full use of the power of collaboration, ask yourself these five questions based on the five types of collaboration by Fares Laroui of eXo:
- Do you work together in a team, using a mix of processes and technologies that champion the strongest ideas to achieve a common team goal?
- Are you joining forces with people from other backgrounds, disciplines, departments, or industries to get completely different viewpoints, eliminate bias, and generate unconventional and innovative solutions?
- Do you share your knowledge with, and learn from, communities and groups that help people to overcome specific challenges?
- Are you strategically partnering with other companies to combine resources and share expertise to both your benefit when you want to diversify your products range, access new markets, or get a competitive edge?
- Do you align with different players in your supply chain, like material suppliers, manufacturers, logistics, and retailers, who have a similar objective as you, to optimize costs and efficiency?
Where can you sharpen your collaboration skills?
Great collaborators share ideas clearly. Strong communication and interpersonal skills are cornerstones for collaborative leaders.
You can hone these skills by interacting with likeminded agripreneurs in collaborative communities like GoGettaz and Nourishing Africa. By sharing advice and learning from each other you can sharpen your communication skills. And with it, your ability to identify, express, and direct effective collaborations will grow.
Incubators, accelerators, and hubs can also be invaluable training grounds for collaborative leaders.
Incubators are where you hatch young businesses. Accelerators help to speed up growth. And hubs bring different businesses closer, so it is easier to work together.
The benefits of these support structures are all about collaboration.
Working closely with mentors, experts and other business founders in a formal structure will help you make valuable connections. You will also build relationships with suppliers, and even find future clients and partners.
In a purpose-built incubator or accelerator ecosystem people are encouraged to share ideas. By working together you can speed up business growth and get momentum going..
Collaboration for Change
Our food system needs responsible, visionary collaborative leadership to build better processes. By the very nature of collaboration, we don’t need just one leader.
We need many leaders who are willing to work together and learn from each other and from past mistakes. Their goal should be to get the best result for their companies, their communities, and the planet.
Our future food system depends on collaborative leadership.
Are you one of the changemakers? Join the GoGettaz Community and start sharing your knowledge.
Learn from the mentors, make connections, and take the first steps towards a fair, nature-positive, food systems that eliminates poverty and malnutrition.