Inaugural Innovation Jumpstart

The first ever event by the Innovation Institute for Food and Health (IIFH) struck surprising consensus in the food, agriculture and health agenda. The Challenge Definition Workshop set the stage for dialogue around such issues as crop selection, soil health, nutrition education, consumer decision-making, and technology feasibility – all under the overarching themes of health, sustainability, knowledge and governance.

The workshop saw the inaugural convening of many perspectives that will make up the innovation agenda. The charge for the October 29 event was ambitious: define the most pressing issues facing food, agriculture and health.

More than 100 participants from a unique cross-section of investors, entrepreneurs, students, researchers, and corporations represented the entire food system, from production to processing, and distribution to sale and education.

With an invigorating kick-off by IIFH director Justin Siegel and Mixing Bowl Hub co-founder Rob Trice, the event was powered by a shared vision for building uncommon collaborations and game-changing solutions to the challenges at hand.

Innovation Institute Challenge Definition Workshop

Through several rounds of active deliberation, more than 30 issues facing food, agriculture and health were narrowed down to a half dozen grand challenges. From there, a lively conversation resulted in consensus on four collective themes: health, sustainability, knowledge and governance.

The exercise proved that issues facing food, ag and health can each be defined from the perspective of those joining the conversation. The diverse participant mix revealed that such topics as undernutrition, GMOs, or technology, can be tackled from multiple angles. Therefore, it becomes necessary to establish common terms as a critical first step toward creative collaboration and consensus building.

In November 2015, the next round of events included Focus Group Retreats in which smaller groups of multifunctional teams dove deeper into issues identified at the workshop. On December 2 and 3, 2015, the IIFH hosted its first public Solution Summit in which hack teams, keynotes, and panelists explored innovative solutions with a broader audience.

The IIFH’s first event served as clear evidence of the much needed movement for promoting cross-sectoral collaboration to solve complex issues. The process of bringing together diverse perspectives, expertise and priorities is inevitably “messy.” However, as history has proven time and again, the greatest innovations often come from the least expected solutions.