SCHOOL OF INFLUENCERS – PARIS, June 2022

By Francesco Bottegal

Introduction

Advocating and campaigning for a fairer and more sustainable food supply chain in Europe and beyond: this is the essence of the OUR FOOD OUR FUTURE project.
In a society where technological progress has deeply changed the way we interact and communicate with one another, how can we use digital tools for campaigning, raising awareness and mobilising the public? What is the role of social media in advocacy, as they represent a space where information spreads instantly and on which everyone can have a say on any topic? Can we still fight effectively for what we believe in? How can we make our voices stand out in an ocean of opinions?
These are only a few questions we tackled during our last School of Influencers (SOI) activity that took place in Paris. After a first session held online at the beginning of May, we organized a presential event in Paris which lasted two days from 18th to 19th of June 2022, and turned out to be such an enriching and inspiring IN PERSON experience, as we were welcomed by our French member organisation, MRJC, in their office.
Together with 20 aspiring campaigners from all over Europe, we learnt and discussed about the EU “Farm to Fork” Strategy (or F2F) and we learnt what its current state of affairs is. After clarifying many thematic aspects of the policy at hand, the participants moved on by improving their understanding of social media campaigning, the opportunities associated with these digital spaces, with the help of our amazing trainers.

WHAT DID WE SAY ABOUT THE F2F STRATEGY?

Drawing from the conclusions attained during the online session of our School of Influencers held in May, we focused our attention on the current debate happening both within and outside the EU institutions. At the time of writing, the main item on this European agenda, that impacts us all, is the discussion on the use of synthetic pesticides in agriculture and the introduction of legally binding reduction targets.
In such a critical moment for the European transition to sustainable food system, agribusiness lobbies and a number of national governments have instrumentally used the war in Ukraine to postpone and undermine EU environmental commitments. Furthermore, this ‘hostile’ front, consisting of several actors, is engaged in fierce lobbying activity sharing partial studies (some funded by the industry itself) and deliberately spreading misleading information against the “Farm to Fork” Strategy.
UPDATE
On 22nd of June 2022, the European Commission proposed a set of new rules, to be included in a Regulation, hence in a legislative tool directly binding for all the Member States, to reduce the use and risk of pesticides in the EU, delivering on the Farm to Fork Strategy.
The main points regard the introduction of legally binding targets to reduce by 50% the use and risk of chemical pesticides by 2030; a ban on the use of all pesticides in sensitive areas and an exceptional EU support for farmers through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

WHAT DID WE SAY ABOUT Campaigning on social media?

The other focal point of our weekend revolved around the notion of campaigning and how our understanding of it has changed due to technological and digital progress.
Social media have revolutionised the way we interact with one another, and how we receive and elaborate information, allowing to each of us to share our opinions and messages with thousandth, millions of people with just one click (by a single click?). The potential reach that these digital spaces offer to their users is one of the most interesting features when it comes to talking about social media as valuable means in awareness-raising and advocating.
Led by our experts, we reviewed and took inspiration from some successful campaigning efforts, such as the Patagonia Sin Ripresas and the Perwez campaigns, aiming at improving our comprehension of social media campaign dynamics. Thanks to this exercise, we appreciated how the social media landscape has provided campaigners, lobbyists and activists with a plethora of platforms that can be key in the effort to raise awareness and advocate. Looking at each platform with its features, we learned what to think of when we start devising our own campaign. We began with the difference between strategy and tactics, to continue with the elements that help us defining our target audience/s and accordingly choosing the most suitable platform to pursue our goals.
These learnings fed in our final activity, that indeed consisted of crafting and preparing a series of social media posts to raise awareness on the matter of the F2F strategy and, more broadly, on the subject of sustainability in the food supply chain, in Europe and beyond.

Conclusion

We are still enthusiastic about this session that brought together so many engaged and inspiring young people. We are going to share soon the outcomes produced by our participants. So, stay tuned and do not miss them and you’ll discover more on what MIJARC Europe and OURFOODOURFUTURE have in store for you!

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of MIJARC Europe and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

SOURCES

Agribusiness lobby against EU Farm to Fork strategy amplified by Ukraine war | Corporate Europe Observatory
Leak: industrial farm lobbies’ coordinated attack on Farm to Fork targets | Corporate Europe Observatory
Nature and human health cannot afford policy delays | Corporate Europe Observatory
Farm to Fork (europa.eu)
What it is about – Our Food Our Future (ourfood-ourfuture.eu)

Youth Labs Summary Document.

After more than 1 year within the OFOF project, as part of the youth spaces for sharing, learning and discussing, more than 40 National Youth Labs and 5 International Youth labs have been implemented with the joined effort of all OFOF partners and the young participants. MIJARC Europe invited more than 150 participants to these events.

Within this events, European young participants have

  •  Contributed to OFOF’s Manifesto
  • Contributed to the design of OFOF’s Campaign
  • Discussed and reflected on topics such as: Food industry and climate change / Migrants’ Workers, Rights/ Right to food and Food sovereignty/ Agricultural Policies/ etc.
  • Learned about action Planning
  • Created some concrete actions for the OFOF campaign

MIJARC Europe is now, together with other OFOF partners, preparing a Summary Document with the main results of all National and International YLs. Soon we will share it  with you.

School of influencers

What it is going to happen during the 2nd Year? MIJARC Europe is organizing the School of Influencers (SOI).

SOI are young changemaker training and webinars for EU Youth who are interested in becoming Our Food. Our Future ambassadors, micro-influencers and activists. 

These intensive trainings will: 1) Provide knowledge to understand what it means and implies a real transition to a social, economical and environmental, fair and sustainable food system. 2) Offer knowledge on lobbying and advocacy strategies: a) Provide knowledge and insight in specific policies (mHREDD and F2F) ; b) Provide skills to spread the insights; c) Provide tools to get active. 3) Provide tools for campaigning on social media on European and national level.  

MIJARC Europe, together with its member Organizations (MOs) will implement 2 training Programs (the School of Influencers) to train young OFOF’s changemakers and ambassadors, divided in 4 weekends (2 days each)

Program 1_ Part 1: It will take place on 5th-6th March 2022 in online format. I will be co-hosted by UMBRELLA, Georgian MIJARC’s Member Organization  

Program 1_ Part 2:  It will take place 16th-17th April 2022 in offline format. I will be co-hosted by UMBRELLA, Georgian MIJARC’s Member Organization. The event will take place in Georgia.   

Program 2_ Part 1: It will take place on 7th-8th May 2022 in online format. I will be co-hosted by MRJC, French MIJARC’s Member Organization  

Program 2_Part 2: It will take place on 18th-19th June 2022 in offline format. I will be co-hosted by MRJC, French MIJARC’s Member Organization. The event will take place in France (Paris)

Our second international activity of the year was carried out in a hybrid format with participants meeting in national groups or connecting exclusively online to create a diverse, joyful and motivated group of young people who managed to learn from and inspire each other despite the global pandemic.

”The topic is really actual. We have so many things to do to find right solutions. There are really a lot of similar problems connected to agriculture all over the world.”

– participant to the seminar

The hybrid seminar and youth lab „Youth Participating by a hectare” was the second activity included in the our work plan „Rock, paper, participation” which is co-funded by the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe, and the first international youth lab of the #OurFoodOurFuture project, co-funded by the European Commission and Renovabis.

The seminar and youth lab took place between 3-6 December 2020, after it had been postponed from July to September and then postponed again to the end of the year, when the restrictions imposed by the pandemic across Europe, allowed some of the participating counties to organise face to face meetings. In Armenia, Bulgaria and Georgia our local movements were able to meet in national groups for 4 days and connected with their peers from Belgium, Germany, France, Malta and Romania via Zoom. A group of 44 registered participants, representing 8 European countries joined the activity. 37 of them attended the seminar and youth lab for its entire duration.

The general aim was for participants and their organisations to leave the seminar with concrete measures and practices that they could use in order to increase the extent to which young people get involved in agricultural policies at local level. It also focused on a transformation at individual level, as participants were expected to enter the activity as mere consumers and leave as informed people who know the problems and know where to act to contribute to change them.

With the help of many online tools such as Miro, Mentimeter, Genial.ly, Canva and a lot of creativity, the team of facilitators managed to create an effective hybrid educational activity that increased the participants’ knowledge on sustainable agriculture, its processes and activities (35 out of 37 participants) and on the Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life (30 participants).

The most useful thing I learnt was how to use the Charter to engage youth in agricultural policies.

participant to the seminar

The activity started with a warm-up evening during which get-to-know-each-other games, exercises and songs brightened the atmosphere and gave a nice introduction on how the hybrid seminar would be led. The facilitators explained the ground rules, helped the participants who had technical difficulties, clarified their roles and tested all the tools that would be used throughout the seminar. The group was happy to welcome Margit Barna from the European Youth Foundation who played a fun quiz about the EYF and the Council of Europe.

On the second day the participants were introduced into the topic of youth participation, food production and agriculture and started their day with a visit to a virtual museum where the priorities identified in each country during the local visits, within the first phase of the work plan, were displayed. Starting from there the participants went on to mapping the realities in their countries guided by questions such as:

  1. What are the main agricultural productions in your country? Give 3 examples.
  2. Point out 3 biggest problems in agriculture caused by climate change in your country and explain how the governments try to solve those problems. 
  3. What is the role of women and young people in agriculture?

The day ended with an offline guided tour and national work groups in which the participants started writing down priorities in their countries and formulating them as objectives in the National Action Plan template prepared by the team of facilitators on Miro. Last but not least, the evening programme took the participants through an escape room where they had to crack a code by working as a team and performing multiple challenges: such as calming a crying baby, playing memory games, signing songs and impressing a mad clown.

The third day was dedicated to three practical workshops on: soil, animal walfare and water and land grabbing. Each workshop was led either by one of the trainers or a guest speaker and oferred specific information, examples and reflection exercises on each of three topics. The day ended with a participatory workshop during which the participants summarised each topic in a mind map. Then the facilitators conducted a virtual world cafe in order to allow participants to discuss connections among the three workshop topics and a collection of European best practices.

Water talks to me, I speak for water. I didn’t get support and I was called crazy, but I never gave up. What I can always do is to continue with my determination and do whater is possible, whatever you are good at.

Ranjan Panda

The fourth and final day relied on emotions, engagement and inspiration to continue the work and take the results of the hybrid seminar a step further. A spiritual impulse created the perfect start for an imaginative exercise that took participants into the future and invited them to reflect about the seminar. Next, the participants had to prepare a 30-second elevator-pitch to deliver to the Commissioner for Agriculture, whom the meet by chance while taking the elevator to the MIJARc Europe office. Want to see or hear what our participants had to say? Here are their recordings: elevator pitches.

The main outputs of the hybrid seminar are the eight national action plans, focusing on increasing youth participation in agricultural policies and tackling the most stringent needs related to agriculture that the participants identified in their countries. The action plans are the basis for the development of the project proposal during the next international activity – the winter camp “Cultivating youth participation’.

Main learning outcomes:

  • increased knowledge on the Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People at local and regional level
  • increased awareness on the situation of women in agriculture
  • almost 90% of the participants declared that they knew more about sustainable agriculture, food supply chains and about agriculture in the other participant countries as a consequence of having attended the seminar

“I want to discover what offline MIJARC is! I want to travel outside my country to meet you! Online MIJARC seminar was the best you could have done considering the circumstances, big up for the organisation team!

participant to the seminar

Outputs:

Miro Board

Designing the campaign with young people

What is wrong with our current food system? Who is responsible for it? What are the many areas directly affected by its functioning? What can we do to change this? These are, among many others, the numerous questions that the actors of the #GoEAThical project are asking themselves and that we wish to answer together with the young people.

On the 28th of September, MIJARC Europe, in collaboration with other organisations of the #GoEAThical project consortium, organised an online session with young people from all across Europe, in order to reflect with them on the development of the campaign that will be launched. 48 participants attended this session.

The #GoEAThical project foresees the holding of different YouthLabs (at national and international levels) so that young people can take part in the development of the campaign and the project. However, the sanitary circumstances we are experiencing have significantly slowed down and then prevented the holding of these YouthLabs. In order to ensure that young people can still have their say, we thought of this session.

Learn how to design a campaign with our expert Julius

Julius van de Laar is a campaign and strategy consultant with many years of international campaign experience. During Barack Obama’s presidential campaign of 2007 and 2008, Julius was a full-time US presidential campaigner for him.

Julius is therefore our advisor in the implementation of the campaign for the #GoEAThical project. He was of course invited to this session, in order to briefly introduce the participants to the basics of running a campaign. Among the many keys he gave, Julius explained that a good campaign should be like a good story: to arouse emotions in people. Using this metaphor, he invited participants to reflect among themselves on what stirs up emotions of anger and indignation in them about the way the current food system works. He then proposed to them to name the actors of this system who could be considered as the villains of the story, being largely responsible for the inequalities denounced by the participants.

Highly invested and creative participants

“It was great meeting, I learnt a lot, and not only about campaign but also about how to do a very good online meeting and discussion. Thank you a lot!” Here is one of the feedback we received after we proposed to the participants to give us their views on the session using an online survey.

And indeed, the participants who were divided into 8 groups through breakout sessions, were particularly productive, not only in naming the injustices and actors involved in maintaining this unfair system, but also in proposing solutions and tactics to change it.

You can take a look below at their many proposals, which they managed to formulate in a very short space of time as the session lasted only two hours.

Participants wrote down their ideas on a miroboard.

This session was of course only an outline, to reflect with young people on national, European and international issues concerning the food system and learning the basics of a large-scale campaign. But there will still be many steps in the design of the campaign and we look forward to continuing to work with young people, both those who attended this session and new ones, for further discussion and debate.

This publication has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of MIJARC Europe and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

YouthLabs are participatory activities (online / offline format) to involve YOUNG Europeans in the design process of our pan-European campaign strategy.

MIJARC Europe is responsible for organizing, within its network, 3 National Level YouthLabs and 5 International Level YouthLabs.

The first national youth lab of our #GoEAThical project was carried out in online format, in Romania together, with our member organization Asociația Asistență și Programe pentru Dezvoltare Durabilă – Agenda 21.

The activity took place in online format on the 5th of June 2020. It lasted around three hours.

42 young people, were selected among the network of global education schools of APSD-Agenda 21. They worked together with Mr. Daniel Alexandru – head of the Laboratory on Agrometeorology– from the Romania National Institute of Meteorology, and our colleague Florina Potîrniche as facilitator.

Using the SEE-JUDGE-ACT methodology, participants were able to go through different questions such as: What is climate change? // Is Earth’s Climate Changing? // What Is Causing Earth’s Climate to Change? // What Might Happen to Earth’s Climate? // How does it affect the production of food? // Conventional agriculture vs. Organic agriculture?

Later on, after summarizing the discussion and highlighting the interconnection of food production and climate change and the main impacts climate change has on different parts of the world, the participants analysed a case study, which was based on real facts –The impact of the El Niño drought in 2016 on one family in Lesotho

Through this case, participants were able to see how climate change affects the normal weather and climate patterns. The result was a severe drought that lasted since 2015 until 2016. This led to food supplies constantly decreasing, the price of food increasing and ultimately the poorest population not able to ensure they daily food. This led to poverty, hunger, the urgent need for humanitarian support and massive migration.

All the young participants could reflect on the negative impacts of climate change, and in different groups, they went into the ACT part. Divided in breakout rooms of 4-5 people they went through an exercise to design some elements for the #GoEAThical campaign. The youth participants participants discussed and created different proposals of messages for the campaign, topics for the campaign, as well as different activities to be carried out.

They produced really interesting ideas!

Here you can read some of the comments from the young participants gathered during the evaluation:

 I really liked that I interacted and came up with many different ideas. I learned new things about climate change and what we can do to make it better

I liked this lab because I learned a lot of new things. The most useful thing I found out is the connection between climate change and migration

Participating in this laboratory helped me to become more aware of why it is important for each of us to have a responsible attitude towards the environment and what are the consequences of reckless long-term actions on the climate and especially food production. Change begins with each of us!

Change for the better and  feel good about it”