Securing future food and energy security requires drastic changes to policy, markets and mindsets. To that end, IIED, in partnership with Hivos, is aiming to foster disruptive, citizen-focused initiatives in a "change lab" innovation process.
IIED and Hivos want to help build fairer and more sustainable energy and food systems.
The challenges are enormous. Rising demand is putting excessive pressure on the natural resources we rely on to produce food and energy. There are huge inequalities in access to food and energy between rich and poor. Current governance systems too easily ignore less powerful people's needs, and are driven by narratives that seriously misrepresent the real drivers of food and energy insecurity.
Solutions and drivers of change will be highly diverse and unpredictable – from technology innovation and lifestyle changes, to visionary policy shifts or response to crises.
One of the big questions which often gets lost in the noise is how citizens will be involved in energy and food systems of the future.
Acting on this context, a partnership between IIED and development organisation Hivos is taking a social innovation or "change lab" approach to catalyse positive disruptions to energy and food challenges in a way that puts citizens at the centre.
A strategic partnership
Hivos brings its 40-year track record of supporting social movements and civil society organisations in more than 30 countries to IIED's policy influence through environment and development research in a complementary partnership.
In January 2014, IIED and Hivos agreed a formal strategic partnership, signalling their intent to improve sustainable food and energy systems, using their relevant expertise and large networks to catalyse change. This builds on a previous successful collaboration between Hivos and IIED on a programme of work called 'Small producer agency in a globalised market'.
A change lab approach
A change lab is a social innovation process. It is an open space, hub or platform that allows stakeholders to co-create and seize upon emergent and disruptive innovations that address the complex challenges of the present and future in an equitable way. Beyond technology, these innovations can be in public policy, new business models, framing of cultural values and behaviour change. Read more about labs here.
The IIED-Hivos partnership aims to scope, test, design and establish at least two such change labs that will bring together various stakeholders in certain regions around issues of food and energy.
Citizen-centred green energy transitions
The prevailing narrative on energy transitions covers three elements: how countries can ensure secure, affordable supply, while keeping within climate limits, and at the same time delivering access to those without electricity or those reliant on inefficient and polluting cooking technologies.
The 'people factor' seems to gets less attention in energy transition debates compared to issues around energy sources and supply. Yet citizens have very diverse roles and interests – for instance, as consumers, producers and sellers of energy; or as voters demanding better performance from their governments or utilities.
The partnership's energy lab will focus on how to catalyse citizen-centred approaches to energy policy and investment. ‘Energy literacy’ will be critical to all these approaches, as IIED Senior Researcher Sarah Best highlighted in a blog discussing the importance of ‘energy literacy’ to all approaches.
Sustainable food consumption
Prevailing narratives of food production and consumption tend to highlight the need to increase production to address under-consumption of the poor; the 'productivist' approach to addressing food security. This can often overlook the issues facing the urban poor who are short of time and space and thereby continually forced to make trade-offs between quality, food safety, convenience and price in formal and informal markets.
By shifting the focus to consumption dynamics of the urban poor, the IIED-Hivos partnership and its food lab will aim to find new openings toward a greener and fairer food system for all.
Remote but productive: Using energy access investments to catalyse enterprises and income in Tanzania’s rural communities, Sarah Best, Ben Garside (2016) Working paper
Are you interested in how our partnership will address issues of energy literacy and citizen engagement in the energy system or the dynamics of food consumption of the urban poor in the food system?