The Building Future Food Leaders programme is fostering a new generation of changemakers in the food system, by offering trajectories for learning and acting and by connecting participants in a strong global network.

The food system is transitioning: new initiatives, start-ups and networks of change-makers are emerging at the grassroots level, harbouring ideas and massive potential to break through the current system. However, we still struggle with enormous challenges: natural resource depletion, hunger and obesity existing side by side, climate change, soil erosion and so on. The urgency for a different, more sustainable and equitable food system is felt and recognised by more people every day.

Within this myriad of complex societal and environmental problems there’s a tension between tradition and vested interests on one side, and innovation and deep change on the other. We underline the necessity for a transition, offering sustainable alternatives to the status quo and therefore we strongly believe that young people - leaders of the future - need to be empowered and engaged in shaping this food system of tomorrow.

What is the Building Future Food Leaders programme?

The Building Future Food Leaders Programme is a vehicle for support to change makers in the food system. We are a global platform where young food leaders and innovators can connect and develop their personal skills, while at the same time experience peer support in enhancing the impact of their work. We offer a body of learning and leadership modalities, such as trainings and events, designed to deal with the complex, systemic global challenges in our food system. The program is run by and meant for young people (up to age 35) that are actively working towards a sustainable food system in their local context. We offer modalities for diverse audiences, linked to specific aspirations, time and skills.

We are Hivos, the Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN) and Food Hub. We have a strong believe in the potential of youth as current and future change makers. We are not starting from scratch. Hivos has over fifty years of experience in working with civil society groups and grassroots in initiatives in the global south, incorporating leadership development, social innovation and collaborative learning as core strategies for achieving durable change. SFYN is a grassroots movement of young food leaders from across the world, connected to the international Slow Food Movement. Food Hub is a Dutch company set up by leading individuals in the Dutch Slow Food Youth Network; it designs trainings and innovative food education curricula against the backdrop of the global food system transition.

We started our collaboration at 2016’s Terra Madre event in Turin, Italy, where we organized a full day workshop with over 100 young changemakers from around the world, culminating in a change makers guide that is now widely shared and used. Next to this, Hivos and local SFYN chapters are collaborating in East Africa and Latin America, and on a global level, Hivos and Slow Food are partnering in the UNEP Sustainable Food Systems Programme.

Pushing the transition

How does change happen? We believe that transitions are (wo)man-made phenomena, so it is up to us to push the food system in the direction we’d like to see: a good, clean, and fair food system. When these visions of our future food system connect with networks, ideas, projects and innovations at the grassroots level, the current system (‘the regime’) will be under pressure from the bottom up. Likewise, when these new visions start to take root inside the system, it becomes under pressure from the inside. Therefore, we point our efforts to forces ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ the current system. We aim to create and strengthen innovative practices by youth operating in niches outside the regime, while simultaneously building leadership and advocacy power for youth operating inside the system. A global cohort of conscious, motivated and empowered young citizens is our best insurance for a sustainable future.

Responsible and collaborative leadership

The 21st century is marked by a series of systemic global challenges that threaten the stability of our economic, social and ecological systems. Old mental frameworks and solution schemes no longer suffice. The challenges of our world today ask for new kinds of leadership: responsible, collective leadership that is committed to the wellbeing of our people and planet and that is able to transform that intention into collective action.