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Rethinking our food systems: A guide for multi-stakeholder collaboration

  • Published on June 21, 2023

This guide provides both the conceptual foundations and practical tools and resources that underpin successful multi-stakeholder collaboration for food systems transformation.



The aim of the guide is to support those interested or engaged in convening, implementing, facilitating or supporting  multi-stakeholder initiatives that contribute to the sustainable transformation of food systems, at different levels.

Item Assessment information

Needs addressed

  • c-check Developing strong governance and policies

Leaving no one behind

  • c-check Addressing SCP needs of the national population (including vulnerable groups)
  • c-check Promoting equal women/men participation and development with SCP
  • c-check Enhancing SCP practices and collaboration between key stakeholders (public and private)


  • c-check Tested
  • c-check Applicable multiple countries


  • 12.1
  • 12.2
  • 12.3
  • 12.5
  • 12.7
  • 12.8

How does the tool make an impact on SDG12?

By giving effective guidance on how to achieve successful multi-stakeholder collaboration, the guide supports food systems transformation towards sustainable food systems, which includes ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns (SDG 12)

How does the tool make an impact across SDGs?

Sustainable food systems don’t just help to end hunger. They can help the world achieve critical progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. See here how:

How does the tool promote and/or make an impact on MEAs?

Environmental problems cannot be solved without attention to food systems. They account for up to 34 percent of the anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause climate change. Additionally, pollution from food systems is behind about 32 percent of terrestrial acidification and 78 percent of aquatic eutrophication. Furthermore, food systems are also key contributors to biodiversity loss, and just 50 crops make up 90 percent of our caloric intake. Experts predict that these impacts will increase dramatically in the coming decades thanks to increased demand for food, especially animal-source foods if no action is taken, crippling the chance of meeting environmental goals such as the Paris Agreement goal to keep global warming below 1.5°C.

Supporting food systems transformation towards sustainable food systems is therefore essential to promote and make an impact on MEAs such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF).




Building Blocks

Fostering broad Multi-stakeholder participation

The first Building Block focuses on the inclusion of different actors at multiple levels to better align agendas, and eventually actions, across sectors, jurisdictions and spheres. Broad engagement across multiple areas – from government, producers, civil society, industry and science – is needed to design an agenda for food systems transformation.

Stakeholders can be grouped in several categories under broad headings: public sector, private sector, civil society and international community. Carrying out due diligence to ensure that the relevant stakeholders are included is most relevant at the inception phase. The identification and inclusion process is nonetheless ongoing during dialogues, and stakeholders may enter and exit at different stages. The process can be made more systematic by applying a stakeholder mapping and analysis.

Ensuring a good understanding of the food system

Once a quorum of relevant stakeholders has been established, the second Building Block will need to ensure that a systems approach is taken to identify the opportunities and challenges facing the food system. This process also requires a neutral space for evidence-based policy, technical and process discussions. This requires a comprehensive examination of the food system, informed by cross-fertilized data, qualitative evidence, and indigenous and local knowledge. An appraisal of existing food systems policy frameworks and governing institutions is also important.

Building Block 2 builds on insights from stakeholder mapping under Building Block 1. Timely sharing of relevant and easily understood data, evidence and findings are also critical for informing deliberations, as discussed under Building Blocks 3 and 4.

Nurturing inclusive and effective collaboration

The third Building Block discusses a well-functioning governance system for the initiative, with appropriate decision-making processes that are shared among different stakeholders and multiple levels. Governance arrangements can take a multitude of forms, depending on power structures, systems’ entry points, the institutions involved, resources, and capacities. Governance mechanisms based on respectful relationships, trust in the collaborative process, inclusiveness, and the capacities of stakeholders to represent their constituents are also discussed. Good governance practices will enhance a sense of ownership, contribute new knowledge, and lead to new partnerships.

Defining a compass and a roadmap

Multi-stakeholder collaboration dialogues require well-defined objectives so that the process of engagement is organized and transparent, and investments and resources for solutions can be mobilized. Key conditions for success are clear definitions of the roles of all stakeholders and of the sharing of resources, responsibilities, risks, and benefits. The fourth Building Block examines concrete ways to help stakeholders agree on a shared vision and, from that, develop realistic action plans with a clear strategic view behind them, and a participatory monitoring, evaluation, and learning system to track the initiative’s success and eventually make adjustments.

Securing sustainability of collaboration

To guide a multi-stakeholder initiative beyond short-term financing and project-bound objectives and towards its contribution to food systems transformation, the fifth Building Block underscores the need for institutionalization and long-term funding. This calls for accountability of stakeholders’ actions on follow-up as well as financing.

List of Tools

Fostering broad multi-stakeholder participation

Ensuring a good understanding of the food system

Nurturing inclusive and effective collaboration

Defining a compass and a roadmap

Securing sustainability of collaboration

Building Blocks Assessment

Fostering broad multi-stakeholder participation

Ensuring a good understanding of the food system

Nurturing inclusive and effective collaboration

Defining a compass and a roadmap

Securing sustainability of collaboration