Working on how food impacts the UN Sustainable Development Goals: Unleash Innovation 2017
I am writing from Copenaghen today. When few months ago Lisa and Sara, two friends, mentors, great examples, both dropped me a text with the link unleash.org and written “You should apply!”, I’d no idea I would ended here. Seriously. It is the middle of August, after 6 weeks where I went through Bologna, Florence, Trento, Maastricht, Amsterdam, Bolzano, Catania, Padova, San Francisco, Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Davis, Sacramento, Munich and Berlin, I now find myself in a fascinating Copenaghen, speaking with the mayor of the city and a mind-blowing Flemming Besenbacher, Chairman of Carlsberg Foundation. One thousand talents from all over the world, 129 countries represented (sad note: just few Italians), ten days and three locations in Denmark for working together with sponsors and partners to accelerate our common path to hit the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
What are the SDGs?
In the 25th of September 2015, the 193 member states of the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Development Agenda titles “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. The agenda comprises the Sustainable Development Goals: 17 goals with 169 targets aiming to make the planet a more sustainable place.
Why work with the SDGs?
The SDGs provide a framework for the talents to work with. The ultimate goals is to create a better, more incluse and more prosperous world by 2030. The UN believes in the crucial role of youth. Unleash is the first initiative that involve such a number of diverse people, physically gathering them to make this happen. As Flemming Besenbacher said at the kick-off speech, “Diversity is the refreshing evidence of how innovation happens”.
How does this work?
Divided in 7 themes (Food, Water, Urban Sustainability, Energy, Sustainable Consumption, ICT & Education and Health) we spent the first 2 days of this amazing journey knowing each other and interacting with partners and the city it self. We attended a lunch at the City Hall, we physically made a long snake going from the youngest talent (just 18 years old!) to the oldest one, we physically splitted among only children, older, middle and younger siblings, pairing then with someone with a different family situation. We created hubs for startups&business, NGOs, governments and academia. We cooked, ate, listened, spoke, shared.
The location was simply gorgeous: Lokomotivværkstedet. It is an old train workshop, close to Copenhagen Central Station with a 9.000 m2 hall with a raw and rustic look. There we had all these inspiring and fun activities complained with some open-minding speech.
As part of the food theme, myself and my foodie peers took part to a 1-hour challenge organised by Meyers and Nordic Food Lab to create an appealing and easy-to-eat shelf product based on a sustainable protein source: insects. Working with other nine talents we came out with a simple product that I was honestly very proud of: GRUB, a bread spread based on insects, almonds, tomato, carrots, zucchini, chilly, cilantro, coconut milk, tahini and lime. A thai flavour which hit sustainability, tastiness and healthiness, combining sweet, salt, bitter, sour and umami and getting us to obtain the first place in the ranking. A great way to kick-off this journey! The purpose was to show how much we can create together in just 60 minutes.
The day was characterised by several speakers. Flemming Besenbacher, Chairman of Carlsberg Foundation, is the mind behind all that. It is mind-blowing how Flemming and his foundation are committed in proactively involving young talents in co-designing impacting solutions. The valuable ideas that will come out from these days will be exposed to supporting companies and organisations that might directly support teams or single talents in the implementation. We then listened to Anders Runevad, Group President & CEO, Vestas, Peder Holk Nielsen, President & CEO, Novozymes, and Charlotte Mark, Managing Director, Microsoft Development Center Copenhagen. The involvement of Microsoft equally impressed me.
Another interesting personality on stage was Aric Dromi, Futurologist at Volvo, that showed us some data about moonshot technology, especially on my beloved AI. His position around “humanised artificial intelligence” to just help human beings to step to the next level, without replacing our humanistic central role, found myself extremely aligned. It reminded me a Tim Grouber Ted Talk about “Every time a machine get smarter, we get smarter”.
Now, placed in Folk High School we are heading to an intense 5-day journey of practical working on solutions able to impact the SDG. The work will be guided by one of the main sponsor, Deloitte, together with other experts and facilitators, that will lead us through a 5-phases innovation process, going from problem framing through ideation, prototyping, testing up to implementing.
The starting point is the result of the ideas that talents were applying with at the very beginning: a great clue to frame the main challenges faced and scope down the focus point. In my case, the starting point I proposed was very much related to Feat.
Facing the problem of chronic conditions and diseases: illnesses that could be prevented, managed and/or cured through a better eating and an active lifestyle. Our failure to act on that knowledge is expensive in both financial and human terms: 35.1% obesity rate worldwide,1 in 3 prehypertensive person worldwide, 1 in 3 prediabetic person worldwide, $245 billion diabetes cost each year. My proposal was related to encouraging young generations to start and maintain a healthy lifestyle, by leveraging technology and their natural desire to play. Building a wellness action platform for young generations that enables kids to adopt healthy behaviours, using social gaming and food experiences to foster wellbeing, socialisation and lifestyle education. So, really much as a kid version of Feat — that by the way will be launched sooner the expected I guess!
Now, we just divided in 5-people teams, we will are more than ready to go!
I am eager to work with Deloitte facilitators on this design process and see what we can come up with. I strive to see how Microsoft wants to impact education and be part of this path. I can’t wait to directly work with the other food unleashers and discover the great projects they are working on (I actually strive to feature all of them in Maker Magazine, Future Food Blog and more to come!). I am eager to see how Feat can provide value in carving a solution out to impact the SDGs number 3 and 11. I mean, I am over-excited and it is just day 3!