Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food

274 Thomas Legrand and Luis Camargo - Shifting the narrative to capture food’s positive potential

January 05, 2024 Koen van Seijen Episode 274
Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food
274 Thomas Legrand and Luis Camargo - Shifting the narrative to capture food’s positive potential
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

A conversation with Luis Camargo and Thomas Legrand about the regenerative mindset in food systems, transforming the inner capacities for sustainability and regeneration, personal growth through reconnection with nature, food systems and narratives, and much more.

This episode is part of the Regenerative Mind series, supported by our friends at Stray who are exploring systemic investing with awe and wonder as well as our friends at Mustardseed Trust, who are enabling a transition to a care economy that fosters regenerative food systems.
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Speaker 1:

Welcome to a very special series of conversations diving deep into the mindset shift needed for the regenerative transition, hosted by Emma Chauw, friend of the show and active in the regenerative space. For a while, she worked with many of the largest food corporations in the world and went on a deep personal regeneration journey, leading, among other things, to a love for cacao. This is the first time we host another voice on the podcast, so I hope you all give her a very warm welcome. Emma, the mic is yours.

Speaker 2:

Thanks, coon. It's great to be back, and this time in the hosting seat. Through six rich conversations with a range of guests, we're exploring the role of the mind. What mindset enables people to serve as regenerative leaders for a radically better food system? What are the common threads across these conversations? Well, we're about to find out. We're looking at regeneration from the inside out. This series is supported by our friends at Stray, who are exploring systemic investing with awe and wonder, as well as our friends at Mustard Seed Trust, who are enabling a transition to a care economy that fosters regenerative food systems. Thanks so much for tuning in. We hope the conversations crack the door open for you and invite you to explore new ways of thinking and embodiment towards a regenerative tomorrow. Does the way we act define the stories we tell, or is it that the stories we tell define the way we act? Today we go deep into the role of narratives in accelerating food systems transformation. The stories we shape about our food, where it came from, who created the conditions for it to thrive and the living systems they are a part of, influence the way we value our food, experience it, perceive nature and our relationship as part of nature. Get ready for a journey into conscious food systems with two inspiring guests I hope you enjoy. Welcome to the show.

Speaker 2:

Today is a special episode because I'm joined by not just one but two guests. My first guest is Thomas Legron. He is the lead technical advisor for the Conscious Food Systems Alliance, which is convened by UNDP, the United Nations Development Program, and he's also the author of a book called Politics of being. My second guest is Louise Camargo. He is, amongst other roles, the founder and director of Organization for Environmental Education and Protection, and he's also the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication Regional Vice Chair for South America. Both of them individually and together. They're doing some pretty amazing work and I'm really excited to explore it all together. Thomas Louise, thank you so much for coming on today.

Speaker 3:

Thank you, emma. It's a pleasure to be with you and Louise.

Speaker 4:

Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be in this conversation. I'm sure it's going to be really exciting and expanding.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, thank you, and I want to dive right in. As you know, this series is all about the regenerative mind, and this isn't necessarily a commonly heard phrase. So for you, when you hear regenerative mind, what comes up?

Speaker 3:

Okay, I should go first, I think, regenerative mind. There's a lot of things. It's really the focus of our work at the Conscious Food Systems Alliance, but I think, in particular, repairing what we have, the destruction we have caused to nature, working, being part of nature and working with it rather than against it, and I would say, reconnecting with ourselves, each other and nature. What about you, louise?

Speaker 4:

I would agree. I think a regenerative mind for me is a mind that actually acknowledges that we are nature, that we are part of an interconnected, interdependent system and that we actually can activate our capacity to become designers and actors in creating the conditions for life to thrive, like Janine Benio says.

Speaker 2:

I love that. Conscious peace is about being part of nature, I think is important and that is the work that you both are doing in your day to day. And before we go any further, maybe Thomas can you first share for those who've never heard of the Conscious Food Systems Alliance from the UN briefly, just what is it? What's it working towards?

Speaker 3:

Yes, so we are a community of people dedicated to this issue. You know of how we can cultivate. We talk about the inner capacities, so mindset, values, worldviews, transformative qualities and skills that activate regeneration. So it's very much about this regenerative mind. We could say we're trying to cultivate together these minds through learning from each other, collaborating and bringing that to all projects and organization, working to transform food systems.

Speaker 2:

And when did it start?

Speaker 3:

It was launched publicly a year ago, in late 2022, after two years of co-creation with partners.

Speaker 2:

And what was the motivation? Because I know, at least in some of my conversations, when I've mentioned COFTA and then that it's the back way to the UN, people are sometimes surprised. So I'm curious from your inside view, what was some of the key motivations for the UN to be behind something like this?

Speaker 3:

Indeed, it's quite an unusual initiative in the UN systems and I've heard that people, when they read our websites, sometimes they are surprised to see it is convened by UNDP. So I think it started from the journey of Andrew Bovarnik, who heads up food and agriculture within UNDP. He has worked for 10 years on how to try to green sustainable value chains, to build sustainable value chains and trying to bring all the stakeholders together to better collaborate, and he realized that one important dimension that was missing to really make this work really impactful is to work on the inner side of the people who are part of this dialogue that he was convening. So, also, being on his own journey, he saw the potential of inner transformation, and not only at the individual level, but also what it could mean for our work in sustainability. So he decided to develop that initiative.

Speaker 2:

And then tell me because we didn't just bring you two together randomly, it was definitely by design, and you're doing some interesting work together where your worlds are colliding. Maybe, louise, can you share what you're working on.

Speaker 4:

Yes, my work is focused mostly on education or inspired by education and Iran, opepa, which is the Organization for Environmental Education and Protection, and our main objective is reconnecting people to the earth in order to accelerate the transition towards sustainable and regenerative cultures and, in the process of understanding the human nature, let's say, gap the break in relationships that we've created during the last couple of centuries. I would say that has increased. We realized that connecting deeply was really important. So we brought that idea into education and we have developed, in 25 years of working, an understanding of education that needs to bring nature to the center. And bringing nature to the center has to do with a relational focus of the work, because ultimately, we started reconnecting people to nature but realized that as we were doing that, people were being reconnected to others and they were being reconnected to themselves. So we realized that that triad of relationships is fundamental to activate what we would call the regenerative capacities in human beings. If we're not able to actually connect deeply with ourselves, with others and with nature and synchronize those relationships, it's impossible for us to really activate our regenerative minds.

Speaker 4:

And in this process of my work, you know, connecting deeply maybe awakening our capacity to sense the visible and the invisible, and acting regeneratively is critical as, let's say, the trunks of the work. But the canopy has to do with nourishing those capacities. And nourishing those capacities is directly related to food systems Because ultimately our bodies are nourished by the interactions and collaborations around all of our planet. So if we're going to have a drop of honey, that honey was brought to our tongues by so many magical interactions of so many organisms and elements. That is incredible. And if we are not able to recognize and connect to that, you know, it's impossible for us to recognize and connect to our natural selves. So that's where we ultimately get connected and I learn of Kovza early in the game and participate, and I love it because I think you know, being conscious and bringing inner capacities to all we do, especially what nourishes that canopy, that allows and enables us to connect deeply, to awaken our natural spirit and to act generatively, is fundamental.

Speaker 2:

Such important work, and it's the exact motivation why we're even having this podcast series to explicitly talk about these inner capacities, because, at least in my experience, it's often overlooked. It's like we just mentioned it one time oh, the mindset's important, or being connected and remembering that we're part of nature is important, and then off we go, totally consumed with, you know, measuring different aspects of the soil, health and things, which is totally vital, but what you're saying is that we can't separate ourselves and our inner landscape with the outer landscape and vice versa. So thank you for that, and you know, clearly you're both inherently carrying and embodying the regenerative mindset as we're understanding it. But was this always the case or did you go through an either gradual or quite quick shift in your own worldview and understanding of living systems and yourself? Maybe, thomas, we can start with you on that one.

Speaker 3:

To me it's very connected. I would have experienced it as a spiritual journey and it started for me some 20 years ago when I was doing a student exchange in Mexico. And through connection with native spirituality I experienced a profound reconnection, I would say, to the earth and also, at the same time, to myself. I was reminded that when I was just listening to Luis. Now all these two connections go together and this really changed my life and I prioritized my own inner journey in my life. I said that as a priority and it really put me on a change also the way I envisage my professional life. It put me into a path of service.

Speaker 3:

I did, a few years later, a PhD in ecological economics on forest conservation in Costa Rica, because what I experienced in particular in Mexico was this deep reconnection with the forest in particular, and I learned later how that was linked to my soul journey. I think I'm a soul and coming from the forest, and so that was through the forest, reconnection with my soul which lead me to explore different wisdom traditions. And now I live next to the monastery of Zen master Tick N'Town, a plum village in the south-west of France. We'll consider, by the way, that the mind is also organic. So that's just what came to me when we started talking about the regressive mind. Is that even in according to Buddhist teaching, even the mind is organic and is constantly evolving, which somehow neuroscience also recognize.

Speaker 2:

The dynamicism that we see in the living systems, yeah, and the plasticity of it all sounds like it's been quite a fundamental piece of your adult development and it happened quite early in your life. What about you, luis?

Speaker 4:

Well, in my case, I think I've lived with it but not recognized it always. So you know, I was born in Bogota, in Colombia. In Colombia, for me, has always represented a really nature rich space. You know, we are one of the richest in biodiversity in the world. But beyond that, my experience as a young boy was influenced by my grandparent, who had a lot of work in the fields and in farms. In that process I had a lot of contact with nature in different ways. So I think that's where I ultimately started to synchronize.

Speaker 4:

Nonetheless, as I went into high school and you know my adolescent years I kind of forgot that totally and went into the normal. You know a run and flow of life and thinking of a career and a future. I did go to mechanical engineering, but I didn't find my place there. I then did a master's in fine art. So you start seeing where that, you know, dissonance is pushing me from side to side. And during my master's in fine arts I really focused on something I loved, which was nature and the way nature worked.

Speaker 4:

My master's was in animation and design, so I focused it at communications, on planetary issues, and in that process I realized that you know, I was getting lost in what I thought I had to do and I went into a short, self-induced, you know, let's say, meditation for 10 days, with a 10 day fast, and it was a rite of passage that I created for myself.

Speaker 4:

And in that process, the question I wanted to solve was what my duty was, you know and the duty in italics, Because I had read many books from Western, from Eastern philosophies, and duty was such a powerful word and in that process I came back with an answer that I never really expected and I realized my duty was to share those things that created deaths within me with others, and those were the opportunities to be in touch with nature. At that time, I was also an avid explorer, so Montenegro, kayaking, whatever you think of in the outdoors, I would do. So I continued in that path and really focused on understanding how the experiences in nature molded my inner self and, ultimately, how I could actually help others have transcendent experiences in nature that could help them awaken and mold their own selves, and that's how I actually ended up creating a PEPA and walking into this path that I am right now.

Speaker 2:

Wow, so rich. And the work that you're doing now with a PEPA. How much of it is bringing people into nature versus are you in classrooms more like traditional education settings?

Speaker 4:

Okay, we're really not traditional at all. We have four areas. So in this discovery, I realized that learning is much more than education. So we do work with school, with students, we train teachers and work with students in wilderness education programs that are in this framework. But we're also working with communities that live next to national parks and are involved in everything that has to do with nature tourism, realizing that, you know, nature tourism and regenerative tourism, if we're going to use that word has to do with our capacity to bring that deep sense of belonging and understanding of our land and sharing it lovingly with others. So for me, that is what I would expect in a nature tourism space where I get to and someone to share that depth with me. So we've been focusing on nature tourism in that perspective and working with communities.

Speaker 4:

On the other hand, we realize that regeneration is really not well understood, and 10 years ago it was an emerging idea.

Speaker 4:

Today is an idea that's becoming trendy, but it's actually becoming tokenized, I believe.

Speaker 4:

So we created an initiative focused or inspired by Christian Wall's regenerative cultures work, thinking on how we can uphold the principles of regeneration and narratives of regeneration so we can guide, let's say, the implementation or the appropriation of these concepts in different spaces and with that we're working with communities by regionally, to strengthen their capacities to transition towards regenerative, by regional approaches.

Speaker 4:

So those three are really well connected in terms of regenerative mindsets. And then we have a more practical work that has to do with bridging Bridging those mindsets with issues like climate change, biodiversity loss and the implementation in the real world. Because, if we look, we do believe that we're at a moment that we cannot expect to just magically switch to a regenerative mindset. We have all these scaffolds and structures that hold us, almost trap us, into a way of being, so we need to start building bridges that allow us to escape those structures and start building new ways or new structures that support regenerative mindsets. So we've been focusing on working on trying to permeate you know, our country's response to climate change and decarbonization from those narratives of regenerative and living systems perspectives and how we can inspire those small shifts that will allow us to build the structures that enable an emerging regenerative, let's say future or culture to emerge.

Speaker 2:

I love that. You're what you're emphasizing there about. We expect that we just move from the conventional mindset not regenerative to regenerative magically overnight. And it's making me think back to another conversation that I had as part of this series with Giles Hutchins, who talks about this threshold, and it's actually not just some smooth, linear path, but we can't underestimate how challenging that process is, and it's this metamorphosis, as he speaks about, and a lot of shedding or belief systems, ways we see ourselves in the outer world, and then adopting new ones which are based on the living systems. So thanks for that. And could you because, as I understand it, you're exploring more about this piece of narratives that you come back to together Do you share what is that investigation looking at like for those who might not be so versed in that language of narratives in their more quantitative world and their day to day? What do you really mean by that?

Speaker 4:

So, in order to explore the idea of narratives, it all comes to the stories we tell. So I asked myself in this process, you know, does the way we act define the stories we tell, or is it the other way around? Do the stories we tell define the way we act? And this was very important for me because I realized this is both simultaneously. Like many things, we live in a constant play between, you know, creating stories that define how we act and acting in a way that defines the stories that we create. And maybe we have fallen trap to this, to this cycle, and we have lost our volition or, you know, our capacity to step out and realize that we actually create the stories. So, if we look at modern economics, if we look at, you know, the current way we relate in race, gender, in any of the stories we tell, their stories we are telling ourselves we have created. So the next question that arises for me is if we're creating the stories, why can't we create different stories? You know, why do we have to commit to the stories someone else created in the 50s? Or you know these structures that are almost reinforcing themselves day by day. So this is where the idea is. You know, we definitely need to work on the ground to shift processes and systems, and this is what I would call working in the transition, in shallow regenerative approaches, which are practices and processes. But we might also need to start working deeper, so in deep regenerative thinking, and this is where narratives really come in, because narrative molds the way we think and the way we think molds the way we act, and the way we act molds the way we become, you know, and that's how we end up becoming. So I think, in that process I realized that we need to work in both spaces and actually it's not binary, it's actually multiple spaces. But we need to create narratives, so we need to create stories. That allows us to understand the world differently.

Speaker 4:

So if we look at living systems or we ask a forest which is something I always tell people just ask the forest and see what it responds. We'll see that. You know, living systems never respond from fragmented, siloed perspectives. They're always interconnected, interrelational. It's always about the relationships, it's not about the components. So we start seeing responses that inform maybe new stories we need to tell.

Speaker 4:

So if we focus that towards food systems, you know, when we eat something, like I mentioned earlier, if we, you know, have a bread with honey, are we able to really understand the story behind the honey?

Speaker 4:

You know the seven kilometers of flying of a bee to pick up a drop of nectar from a flower and bring it back to the hive, and then four or five bees buzzing around to try to evaporate the water to make it more dense.

Speaker 4:

You know, these are things that are almost romantic in many ways, but they tell the story of who we are. You know we are in relation to everything we eat and to everything we relate to. So creating new narratives means really researching on what are the current stories we're telling ourselves about food systems, about the soil, about production, about transformation, about, you know, the whole chain required for the food to reach our homes. What is the story we're telling ourselves of? How we eat and consume the food, how we choose, how we, you know, move through the whole system and trying to understand if those stories can be told in different ways, in a way that might bring that deeper interconnectedness to the story, that might at least bring value to us when we actually act and consume, you know a product of the earth and start relating to the whole story behind it and how that might change our full relationship with nature and with others in that context.

Speaker 2:

That's the thing that I find is, and I love so much about working in food is food as this vessel for powerful positive change on something like nothing else in the world, because we are taking it into our bodies literally multiple times a day and it is giving us this invitation to connect with what you just explained, these incredibly rich stories and journeys that that food has come on from the hands that tended it and the you know, the bees that came and pollinated to the person preparing it, maybe in the kitchen of a restaurant where you're eating. And I remember, on conversations, probably a couple of years ago, someone asked me what would you want to change most about the food system and I almost felt nervous to say it because it was so qualitative by just reconnecting us with our food, like understanding, knowing the people and places behind it, because I think there's so much power and the stories are so important. So, thomas, what is what's Kofsa doing in terms of shifting the narrative when it comes to food?

Speaker 3:

Well, as Luis was saying, it's also, I think, you have to experience also these new narratives. So in the way we are convening, you know, discussion, in the way we relate to our members and partners, we are trying, you know, to embody these values and other ways of being and doing. The first change of narrative that you know is all objective is really to position that issue of the importance of inner capacities for food system transformation. That is in itself, you know, changing a bit the story. And I think what we want is for everyone, every stakeholder in the food system, to realize that the food systems are not something that is outside of them, out there, and they don't. I mean through their, the narrative they are holding, the mindset in which they are participating into that food system. We are all shaping these food systems. So that is also a narrative of you know, realizing also our power.

Speaker 3:

You know, through changing our own being we can change the food systems and it can go in many different ways. And even you know the way we are in these discussions, with having these meetings etc. Can be. I think what an important thing we do with COSR is that we make people, we allow people to start discussing this agenda and that is very liberating for people. We've heard that UN agency is offering the space to have this discussion the way also, you know, we present ourselves, we show up in these discussions maybe more as trying to emphasize, you know, the human dimensions rather than go with, or you know a lot of people are used when they work, to be with some kind of masks and professional posters, etc. So if we can draw that, that also invite people to do the same, so we'll be. We are starting also at the moment Luis and his team is also working on specifically help us articulate what would be a more conscious narrative to food systems transformation.

Speaker 2:

And, as you're speaking, go ahead, go ahead.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I just wanted to add because I think there's something we're not bringing to the table right now.

Speaker 4:

Many of the food systems we're getting accustomed are so far from natural because, you know, food processing has become just a way of creating all these things that we consume and I think you know that distance in terms of urbanization, technology and food process has really increased that disconnect.

Speaker 4:

So part of it is actually finding ways to break those barriers or to leap beyond these huge gaps we've created.

Speaker 4:

And for me, you know, what has really inspired me is speaking with some of the kids. You know, and this is not recent 20 years ago, even in Colombia, you know, you would ask a kid where the milk came from and the responses were totally surprising because there was no association of the food to the land or to any other being associated to that. So I think we have a great challenge and we really need to understand, you know, how, food processing and this whole movement of creating these quick fixes in things that can be saved for forever, that are almost chemically produced, and the impact that they really bring to ourselves. And if we look at school systems, for example, where kids eat every day, you know what is happening within those institutions and companies, and I think we've seen some really interesting changes with the large tech companies that brought in organics and local farms and more conscious foods, and that is just the proof point of the importance of you know, bringing inner capacities and connecting it to the processes that allow us to be intentional in relating to our food.

Speaker 2:

So do you have any ideas like how do we bring this approach shift rather to some of these companies? What would you do in a dream scenario Like there's so much process, like you're talking about it, food that we're calling food, but it's not even alive? How do we crack into those spaces?

Speaker 4:

That is a big question.

Speaker 2:

You don't necessarily need to have an answer.

Speaker 4:

No, I clearly don't have an answer, a full answer but I have ideas.

Speaker 4:

I think it all starts with recognizing our relationships, and that's why inner capacities become so critical, because once we start reconnecting to the earth, reconnecting to our food, we start recognizing the value that is beyond, let's say, the superficial part of our relationship, utilitarian relationship to eating, you know, when we realize the power of food to bring many other things in terms of well-being, of health, of nutrition, of energy into our lives. So I do think, you know, narratives are fundamental, because we need to start bringing in narratives, as the markets brought narratives of fast foods. Let's, you know, go back 40 years ago when, you know, the birth of fast foods in the United States occurred, and it actually happened through TV and through marketing. You know, telling people huh, aren't you tired of, you know, working all day and having to cook? So we'll give you a fix. You have this package meal that you can cook in 10 minutes, and that's how it was a narrative. We created a narrative, but in creating that narrative of convenience, we also stripped, you know, the experience of cooking, for example, which is an incredible experience if you learn to do it. We have people in our communities that have never cooked, and that is incredible, considering our most constant relationship with the earth is through the food we eat every day. So in that sense, I think, shifting narratives in different spaces, the work we're doing right now with COFSA is gonna focus on journalists and communicators because we think, you know, if they're able to add new ways of communicating the narratives, it's gonna be important.

Speaker 4:

But we have foreseen, you know, that new narratives need to come into policymakers, into families, into many groups, and be able to tell stories. The new stories and telling the new stories allow people to ask themselves new questions and to consider new solutions and new actions. So I think that's definitely one way of doing it. The other way, I think, is more practical in terms of the relationship of food systems with climate change and other of the big issues we have in our world.

Speaker 4:

If we are really going to work on decarbonization and work on recuperating soil, health and work on these issues, we definitely need to focus on food. You know we need to focus on the way food is being, let's say, generated in general in our relationship to that. But that brings, you know, our also focus on the territory to light. So, starting to work by regionally and understanding our local foods, so the narratives of the foods around us that are close to us, that can come fresh, that can come and bring vitality to us, but at the same time that we can ourselves move to the place of that food and understand and connect to that land. You know, that's still gonna enable our inner capacities to be more conscious, be more aware and to start living in communities that are more resilient, that sustain themselves and that build, you know, in many other capacities. So they build the soil and I really think that regenerating soil will ultimately regenerate communities and our capacity to live well in on the planet.

Speaker 2:

Why do you think that?

Speaker 4:

I think that because in order to regenerate soil, you know current farmers need to start changing the way they relate to the soil and that changes the way they relate to the food, in terms of the food being a commodity, to the food being, you know, a result of this magical exchange between soil, nutrients, water and the relationships generated between the plants.

Speaker 4:

Because if we're talking about a shift towards more agroecological let's say, food production systems, you know that brings a whole new level of understanding in relationships and in order to do that switch, communities and farmers start relating with other communities and farmers differently, and then you get pollinators that come in as actors and other mammals and other species that become integrated into a relationship that is a lot more complex and that brings the qualities and the potentials of that food system to awaken. And as they awaken, they're waking up communities of microbes, communities of plants, communities of pollinators, of birds, of mammals, of humans. So as we start relating from a different perspective and using that new awareness, you know, by regional or you know, starting to shift from local towards, by regional and then towards the global, escape will definitely shift our relationships also. So I think we can build really strong communities as we shift. You know the way we generate our foods locally.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I just wanted to pick up on the listeners if they haven't come across this phrase of bioregional food systems, because you're seeing it more and more often and I'm a big believer in that's the direction we need to move big time and moving from what you just described like the linear supply chains that we're often referring to to actually like these webs and networks that are very dynamic and interconnected and not homogeneous and overly centralized as they are today, but entirely different distribution of the energy flows and the power as well. So thank you for that, tomas. I just want to bring you in. I know we went off on a bit of a journey there, but in case you had any thoughts on that initial question of ideas, so the question was how to bring things specifically you said companies into that right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, especially those that at large or very far, we'd say, from having a regenerative living systems approach to their products and operations.

Speaker 3:

Sure. So I mean, our approach is to work from the inside out. So, really, first, you know, practicing with you know, the people, so that they can, you know, first reconnect with themselves. We have developed a training, a conscious food systems leadership program, which is with our partner, the Inner Green Deal, which is structured around the inner development goals. So the first goal is about being you know and how we can, you know, be in touch with all cells and or be more intentional about our values. The second session is about thinking and how we can, you know, have a more systemic thinking and aware of the fact that, you know, we're all made of relationships, so being able to see all the entire connection in the food systems. We are bringing also, you know how to, you know, look at our assumptions on narratives about food systems transformation, and we use also the work that we're doing with the Recento Peppa on that. So then, we're bringing, you know, compassion, meditate on, you know, the people that are and the beings that are involved in these food systems. Maybe you know, we can use also some mages or some flags. You know from the cattle industry and you know about animal welfare, for example, and what does it spark? You know, being able to open up, you know, to this natural quality of care and find our calling. And then we look at collaboration and how to, you know, better manage our relationships with one another and in a way that is more regenerative for everyone, how to deal with conflict, etc. And finally, the last, you know a goal and session is about acting, you know, and how we can. What does this mean then in our work? But we need to first experience ourselves so that we are then inspired to bring that into our work and into our projects.

Speaker 3:

One in COFSA we talked about consciousness practices. One of them we see very powerful and very aligned with our work is a mindful eating practice, and I did guide one recently either way in the inner development goal summit in Stockholm, and it was. I was even surprised how transformative it was for people. Myself I'm quite used to it. I live, you know, next to this mindfulness practice center, but you know we need. I did a guide on the short talk 15-20 minutes about just to contemplate you know what is in or played before eating. Where does it come from? No, etc. And and then you know, just being able to eat in silence for 20 minutes was usually transformative for some of the people. For them it completely changed there, as they say that day. No, at least it completely changed, you know, their vision of food. So that's a very simple practice, but just telling us, you know that can be very transformative.

Speaker 3:

So we're starting, you know, to work with people. We want more, basically, more regenerative food system is just also more, you know, human food systems, without you know falling into the anthropocentrism, but it's just about also us being more human. And yeah, that's our entry point. I have to say, in a Capsa, we have, you know, put the priority on gathering first the people that naturally, you know, believes in this agenda, and I think it was a very natural step and much needed to convey, you know, that sense of community to many people who often feel isolated or not entitled to bring this perspective, this agenda, into their work, and I think that has been perceived very impactful. But, yes, we're looking for next steps about how to engage people who are a bit further away in that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, as you emphasize, we all eat. Right, we may not all be meditators. Listening that might seem a bit whooo whooo scary, but maybe just slowing down a bit, not eating, watching a screen and just even being present with that first bite of food can start to shift that relationship. And again for those who are less familiar with Capsa, when you're speaking about the members, who are they? And if people listening are working in food systems, can they join? Is this something that they can participate in?

Speaker 3:

Sure, they can check our website ConsciousFoodSystemsorg, and there's a page by joining the movement where they can become members. So in Cofsa we are having people. We are taking a whole systems approach to food systems transformation. That means we have identified entry points throughout the food systems for this agenda. At the moment we are having discussion on, for example, farmers' well-being and psychological resilience, which is a big issue, the role of traditional wisdom, especially within indigenous people and local communities for food systems transformation. So at the local level.

Speaker 3:

But also we'll be looking at some point into conscious consumption, into what does this mean for policy processes and multistakeholder dialogue and even how to evolve the cultures of our organizations. So we are having people from all over the world and from all across the food system, so it's very diverse and we recognize also that this ConsciousFoodSystems approach means very different things in different contexts. So we are very aware and we appreciate this rich diversity and I think it's very powerful also just to align also and come together around one simple message, which is we also need to look inside and transform food systems from the inside out also.

Speaker 2:

And where, because it's still fairly recent, starting a little while ago with that first paper, which is a great credibility point, I find, to just legitimize this topic and conversation. But when we play things out in one, three, five years, what is your dream of what Kofsa will become, or what will it become? What's its essence?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it's very difficult to say. It's very open-ended and we are very emergent. We are all constantly evolving, also as, depending on opportunities and resources, I think I mean to us important next steps are about how to empower our members so that they can become agents of transformation for this agenda. So one thing is we will have courts of members for this Conscious Food Systems Leadership Programme that I mentioned, and we are developing tools, toolkits etc. For them to be able to bring this agenda into their work, into their community. We also have financing projects on the ground, testing interventions, as we are doing now with OPEPA and Luis. So I think one thing is to empower members.

Speaker 3:

I would say the other important aspect would be also, as part of that also, is to find more strong strategic partners to come with us in Kofsa and decentralize more the work between different partners, not necessarily through the Kofsa Secretariat in UNDP. And I think, finally, an important objective for us also is to be able to raise more funds, because we see not only for ourselves, let's say, as Kofsa Secretariat or Kofsa members, but we are having, you know, right now we are preparing a donors round table where we will discuss this whole agenda, not only for food, but also the role of interchange for the environmental agenda, including also for use. So it's really, I think, a new field, it's a new part of a broader movement, you know, looking at interchange for regeneration, sustainability, and it's not yet much on the map of decision makers and funders, so we are trying also to grow this awareness.

Speaker 2:

And I can imagine there's so much in terms of the learnings already to date that can be leveraged and applied well beyond food. Now I want to shift gears and ask a couple of questions that I like to ask all my guests. So one of them is we've spoken about so much of this very in very qualitative terms, and some people ask can this be measured? Do you think a regenerative mindset can be measured and if so, how? Maybe you can kick us off.

Speaker 4:

That's a great question, emma. I think it can be measured, but it cannot maybe be measured in the same way. We measure everything, or we think we should measure things. So I'm working a little bit of inspired by Nora Bateson's work on warm data. Everybody asks me of the work we do. So what are your KPIs? And I have immediate reaction and rejection to that phrase and I realize it has to do with what I now call the KPIs. It's key behavioral indicators, not key progress indicators. So how do we measure this?

Speaker 4:

We measure this measuring the quality of relationships in a community and the quality of relationships in those three layers that I spoke of, in relationships with myself, with others, with nature. So it has to do with measuring mental health, measuring hope, measuring these qualities that actually are a representation, our manifestation of the state of a community in its totality. So we have to be able to measure vitality of living systems, vitality of community organizations and events, happiness, these type of more warm oriented aspects. So I do think we can measure, but the true measure always ends up being within. So this is where it becomes more complex. Everybody, in their development and in their evolution, is in a different place. Every company is in a different place. So we cannot measure in the same manner everyone, because actually I think the regenerative mindset is not measured in comparison to other regenerative mindsets. It's actually measured in the transformation of my capacity to move towards the concept of realizing my interbeing, and I think Plum Village and Niche has been, let's say, the champion in this concept. But really being able to move towards that place where, in all my relations, is creating the conditions for life to thrive.

Speaker 4:

So that is the process of, let's say, I think, embracing regenerative minds. So each person needs to measure its own, based on where they are, the speed of transformation they're engaged in and the constant or the inertia they're generating the momentum. And I think in that sense we realize that the collective mindset moves as the individual mindsets move and it's not in comparison. So it's not something to say I'm moving faster than you or I have a more regenerative mindset than you. No, it's our capacity to collectively start shifting and evolving together At the same time, the capacity we have to shift and evolve our inner capacities and inner being and be able to measure in those qualitative, warm data points.

Speaker 4:

So we should definitely ask ourselves how happy are you, how whole do you feel? How connected do you feel to yourself, to others and to nature? How at peace are you? And maybe creating inner capacity measurements that a person can monitor and be able to see if they're building those capacities to move forward and measure this and I'm sure there's science measurements to many of these qualities, but I do think it's more from the warm data sciences than from the traditional KPI structures.

Speaker 2:

Thank you for all of that, and it sounds like a foundation underpinning all of it is sufficient awareness to even be able to report, self-report on some of these things like connection and happiness and sense of wholeness. Thomas, what about you?

Speaker 3:

Indeed, we are just starting to work with an important coalition, probably known, called Region 10, which have started to recognize the importance of mental models as part of their framework on regeneration, and they want us to, and we are about to work with them on that too. And what we are proposed to develop is a methodology for local communities to have these discussions on their cultures, on their values, how regent if they are, and, as you say, at the same time we are, and that may be used as a situation analysis, a baseline that can inform, for example, some project design. But, at the same time, having this conversation, looking into this subject, is bringing some awareness to this inner collective landscape. So, and we with them, we have had some discussion that are ongoing about, because they are working on an outcome measurement framework for regeneration, and can we fit mental models there or not? So, definitely, our approach would be very qualitative, but there may be also some ways to kind of pre-code answers around different, around some scales, and see how this evolves as we go, which, yeah, I think this is very possible, but it's part of all I mean in our UNDP Food and Agriculture team. We are a project and we are looking very much at how to from system change approach, and we have a project looking and monitoring and evaluation for system change and there are a lot of aspects, including relationships, et cetera, that are quite hard to measure or trust and these kind of elements that are important for system change. And also, we have to recognize that these transformations are not linear, whether at the collective level or even at the individual level.

Speaker 3:

Transformation is a process and sometimes it's a heating process and sometimes it has to go worse before it goes better.

Speaker 3:

Often people go even many regenerative people went through a burnout and just which was transformative to them. So, and what we have found, also in CUSA, is that people really need to experience in person these kind of work to understand how transformative it is. We had this year a strategic retreat in Schumacher College in the UK and which was, you know, we were 40, and we have a couple of testimonies that said for them, it was a life-changing experience and we only had, let's say, three days of being together, but the way we connect through these kind of practices was really transformative. So, and that's even our strategy to involve, you know, more donors, more partners is that you will get it much more easily for able to spend time in person together. So, yes, we need to work on these measurements, show the impact of our work, et cetera. But this whole inner or insider transformation you really need to be able to experience yourself in order to understand. You know what's the potential for communities, for societies.

Speaker 2:

It's something that rational mind can try to but can't fully comprehend the way that lived experience can just following that Vedic experience first knowledge, second principle. So thanks for emphasizing that. Now we're heading to the end of our conversation and I want to. I know we spoke a bit about what we might do with ideas for working with the big companies, but if we zoom out even more and we say if you could do one thing tomorrow to help as many decision makers and investors in Food and Ag develop their regenerative mindset, what would it be, louise? What comes for you?

Speaker 4:

For me, one thing not related necessarily to food systems is allowing them to have all, to experience all and fall back in love with nature. I think that is definitely the beginning to many changes and, in relation to food, really creating a space, in whatever scenario it is, for people to actually think and reflect intentionally of what happens and where the food is coming from that they're using. And I think this has to do a lot with the mindful eating, but also with the conscious awareness of the connections associated to what we eat and the question of relationships. So I think those two things in combination allow people to open their hearts into a different level of compassion and a level of empathy with living systems and an understanding of the interconnected and interdependent qualities that actually allow the vitality for us to enjoy this magical planet.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, Tomas, for that view.

Speaker 3:

I don't have much to add. No, I think, yeah. How do you do that? Maybe spending time in nature, spending time also allowing time for yourself and being connected to what is important for you, to step out of the automatic mode, to be able to be present for yourself. For take some nature walks and just think about what's really important for you, what really makes sense in terms of bringing happiness and meaning to your life. I think that's probably the way that we can solve the seeds of regeneration in everyone's mind.

Speaker 4:

And Emma, if I'm allowed to add one thing, and I'm listening to Tomas speak and the sense of allowing moments of silence becomes really important. I think in today's world we're so saturated by everything that's around us, both in the cities, in our phones, in communication, that really allowing space of silence it can be not in nature, but it would be best in nature, or even looking out the window and have yourself a space of silence, looking at a tree dancing in the wind Just those moments of silence definitely allow us to sense the different qualities that make us human, which sometimes are overhauled by all the noise we have around us.

Speaker 2:

It's like you read my mind, because I was going to ask for someone who's just wanting a day or two, or just wanting a brief practice where they start, and you just offered one. Even you can do it at your desk and look outside the window, because even if it's a leaf on a tree in the middle of a city, that too is just as valuable as a tree in the middle of an incredible forest and connecting with it. So thank you for that. I think that's a perfect place to end on. So thanks so much for coming on and having this global conversation and just crossing several countries today.

Speaker 3:

Thank you, Emma, for being together.

Speaker 4:

Thank you very much, it's been a pleasure.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much for listening all the way to the end. For the show notes and links we discussed in this episode, check out our website investinginregenderagriculturecom. Forward slash posts. If you liked this episode, why not share it with a friend or give us a rating on Apple Podcasts? That really helps. Thanks again and see you next time.

Regenerative Mindset in Food Systems Transformation
Exploring Regenerative Mindsets and Nature Tourism
Shifting Narratives in the Food System
Shifting Narratives and Transforming Food Systems
Measuring the Regenerative Mindset
Nature's Impact on the Regenerative Mindset