Ideas & Insights / All Grantee Impact Stories / Ideas & Insights Grantee Impact Story

Designing a Nourishing Food Future for 2050

Maria Balcazar Tellez — Program Manager, SecondMuse
Matt Ridenour — Partnerships & Community Designer, OpenIDEO
A collection of images from Food System Vision Prize submissions

Imagine a world where food systems are more nourishing, regenerative and equitable, where year-round nourishment for all is a reality, and where individual food cultures are honored in their own rights.

“The future of food systems is, without doubt, a complex issue.  When beginning the journey to change the outlook from dire to thriving, we knew we had to start with Visions instead of innovations.  Visions enable us to persevere when there is darkness all around us, when it is hard to see forward,” said Roy Steiner, Senior Vice President, Food Initiative, at The Rockefeller Foundation.

Food System Vision Prize Announcement at SOCAP
Food System Vision Prize Announcement at SOCAP

In partnership with SecondMuse and OpenIDEO, The Rockefeller Foundation issued a call to teams across the world to build an inspiring Vision of their food systems in 2050. Our aim was not only to dream of a positive future, but to create an actionable Vision where food systems nourish all people and are sustainable and regenerative for the planet.

The Prize Structure: How It Works

The Food System Vision Prize is an invitation for communities across the globe to develop a Vision of the regenerative and nourishing food system they aspire to create by the year 2050. 

We asked teams to answer the question:

By February 2020, the Food System Vision Prize team had received more than 1,300 submissions from over 100 countries.  Visions were submitted by food technologists, chefs, farmers, startups, faith leaders, governments, students,  investors and more.

Submissions were evaluated based on their potential to inspire bold transformation of a specific food system by 2050.  Judges scored the Visions against six criteria: Systems-Focused; Transformative Potential; Community-Informed; Inspiring; Feasible; and Community Co-Created.

Semi-Finalist teams are expected to further develop and refine their submissions. They will be evaluated by Judges who will select the Top Visionaries.

Here’s how we built the program:

  • We need to think beyond. Now is the time to be brave. We don’t have time to waste. If you have something to say, if you have an idea, if you have a Vision — now is the time. Put it out there and take risks!
    Christine Gould
    Founder & CEO of Thought for Food
Laying the Groundwork: Extensive Research

The team conducted research in a variety of areas to help aid in the Prize strategy, structure and process.  

Identifying Needs
Despite the plethora of well-funded NGOs, sophisticated strategists, economically and politically powerful networks, and cutting-edge technologies, there have been few systemic solutions offered to global and regional food challenges.

Establishing Best Practices
To better understand the existing challenges, we conducted research into best practices of organizations that run programs in the food and agriculture sectors, or that have similar approaches and goals.

Building a Global Event Strategy
To establish our event strategy, we conducted research on global food systems events and identified 65 relevant events around the world.

United Nations General Assembly - Strategic Partners Meeting
United Nations General Assembly – Strategic Partners Meeting
Laying the Groundwork: Building Networks of Stakeholders

Developing meaningful relationships with key organizations proved crucial to our success.  We relied on teams of people to help us craft language, test out materials, and engage a diverse global audience of Visionaries.

Over the course of four months, we conducted a series of more than 60 interviews. The stakeholders interviewed included government officials, youth activists, farmers, academics, innovators in the food and agriculture sectors, and leaders from nonprofits and corporations. These interviews informed how we shaped Prize objectives and strategy.

Laying the Groundwork: What is a Vision? And How to Build One

Visions are transformative ideas that have the power to turn hope into action. They inspire an audience to engage, aim for feasible solutions, and encourage collaboration.  The goal for the Prize was to identify and nurture  Visions for food systems that reflect the views and needs of multiple stakeholders within their regional system and that support a healthy planet and people.

The next step for the Prize team was to establish themes to support the development of well-rounded system Visions. We leveraged the insights gathered through interviews, research, and systems mapping.  The initial themes were then presented and tested with a variety of stakeholders. Ultimately, we landed on six Prize themes:

  1. Environment
  2. Diets
  3. Economics
  4. Culture
  5. Technology
  6. Policy

Establishing goals and themes helped ensure that relevant and actionable ideas were put forward for the Visions.

Laying the Groundwork: Developing Resources For the Visionaries

Resources developed to support Prize teams included: a bespoke Prize toolkit; a resources database; regular communications via email, WhatsApp and the Prize platform; and topical webinars.

For an effective Prize outcome, we considered the relationships between the many stakeholders and processes in the system. This map serves as a tool to support participants as they capture the complexity of food systems in their Vision. It is a guide for thinking through the system’s impact and how it interacts with established Themes.
Supporting the Intersection of Food and Method

We knew that in addition to  information and expertise in their food systems, Visionaries needed to:

  1. Explore the full context of their region’s food system 
  2. Look forward to the year 2050 
  3. Design for the communities they aim to impact
  4. Leverage stories that will compel communities to make their Vision a reality

The Prize program included resources and training to help Visionaries become familiar with, and sharpen their skills around, systems thinking, future-casting, human-centered design, and storytelling. A few key methods were:

  • The development of digital resources (i.e., the Prize Toolkit, the Food System Map, and a curated list of external resources) 
  • Topical webinars with guest experts for the Prize community
  • Engagement of a cohort of experts in food systems and community design to work with teams on the Prize platform, answering questions, offering feedback, and connecting teams with resources and people to help grow and refine their submission.
The Prize Toolkit provides a step-by-step roadmap, activities, and exercises to support teams in developing their Visions
  • I am constantly inspired by the stories I hear, the people I meet — especially youth and farmers — and I do believe we have a chance. But it is just one. We have to take this moment in time and really acknowledge it and put those hopeful Visions, ideas, innovations and dialogues forward. Or then all of this is for nothing. We have to do this now.
    Danielle Nierenberg
    President of Food Tank
Participants at a luncheon talking around the table.
Big Think hosted in Accra, Ghana
Convening: In-Person with Expert Stakeholders

Building a network of stakeholders is powerful; bringing them together to collaborate, ideate and provide feedback can change the future. To engage stakeholders, we produced pre-launch Big Think events with workshop-style meetings throughout. 

Big Thinks are collaborative design workshops that SecondMuse hosts at the start of innovation challenges to present research, test materials, and receive programmatic direction from diverse stakeholders.

Big Think hosted in Denver, Colorado

The Prize team hosted two Big Thinks: one in Denver, Colorado and another one in Accra, Ghana. More than fifty regional leaders from diverse backgrounds in the food sector engaged in these events. Through shared exploration, evaluation, and creation, opportunities were identified to develop an inclusive and successful Prize program.

A third workshop was hosted during the 2019 United Nations General Assembly with leaders from organizations working in food systems transformation. These partners were incredibly valuable in shaping the program strategy and promoting the Prize in their networks.

Convening: Virtually

The design of the program needed to go beyond simply encouraging submissions, to providing opportunities for connection, collaboration, and feedback. 

As thousands of people began to submit their Visions, Prize designers built convening mechanisms to encourage collaboration. We recruited twelve Vision Prize Guides to support submissions from six different continents on the Prize platform.

As experts in food systems and community design, and having experience in the regions they represented, the Vision Prize Guides were selected to support and guide the Visionary teams. These Guides provided feedback to Visionaries; connected Visionaries so they  could complement and learn from each other; identified community needs; and synthesized emerging themes on the Prize platform for a more engaging and productive process.

Convening: Grassroots Community Events Across the Globe

In building collaborative Visions,  it is important to focus on how they manifest both on and offline. To engage with local communities on a global scale, we supported a series of events around the world to galvanize a multi-stakeholder group to connect and build their Visions together.  

In total, 120+ events were hosted in more than 30 countries, with 6,000+ attendees.

Images from locally hosted Vision Prize events around the world
New Visions for the Future: It’s the year 2050. What does the new future of food look like?

So where are we today?

The Prize is in progress. We received 1,319 submissions; 79 Semi-Finalist teams have advanced and refined their Visions; and ten Finalist teams will be selected soon to join a first-of-its-kind Accelerator. 

The Accelerator will focus on storytelling, stakeholder engagement, and action planning for systems change, and Finalist teams will participate in cohort-based learning; receive one-on-one mentorship from leading experts; and engage in a series of workshops with advisors. Through the support and nurturing of the Accelerator, the Finalist teams will continue to create compelling and progressive Visions for the future of our food systems.

A more hopeful food future in 2050 might look like this:


Eager to learn more? Follow along with the Food System Vision Prize and view the  1,300+ Visions here

  • Report

    Food System Vision Prize: Strategic Network Partner Report

    Envisioning Regenerative and Nourishing Food Futures for 2050.
    Download PDF