After nearly four years of leading the Global Food & Agriculture Program at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, I want to share that I will be stepping down from my role as Managing Director this September. It has been a unique privilege to steward this program and to play a connecting role across the community working on global food and nutrition security, and I am thankful that in my next professional iteration I will continue to be part of it. I will be joining the Council’s ranks of non-resident fellows, where I plan write and speak on the issues facing people across the food system; I will also be supporting the work of a start-up called BST, working to digitize child growth monitoring for the assessment of stunting and other forms of malnutrition.
I am so thankful to have had the chance to oversee the production of over a dozen publications written by leading experts, many of them supported by diverse and skilled task forces. Through these publications, we have explored water, youth, urbanization, security, trade, and agricultural extension, to name a few topics, and we have hosted countless blogs, discussions, and online conversations. We even tried our first entirely digital report on the incredible power of rural girls to transform the global landscape---one of the most visited pages on the Council website. Our work benefits from consultations with the community and learning from the richness of experience all of you who are working on global food and nutrition bring to the discussion.
The luxury of having nearly a year at a time to dedicate to a major dimension of the challenge like youth or water and agricultural development really sheds light on the complexity of these issues; but it also illuminates the immense problem-solving capabilities of the community and the often-unexpected consensus we reach on many issues. Still, divergence is where the most exciting conversations always occur. We have to challenge assumptions and remind ourselves to update our mental models as new data become available. The world is changing fast, and the challenges facing people twenty years ago are not necessarily the same as they are today. The dimensions of what we’re facing and the tools we have to address it are constantly changing.
The work is daunting and it often feels like progress is elusive or simply too slow. But there is so much progress to celebrate in this same moment, and so many leaders and innovations to look to for inspiration. Breakthroughs are born out of moments of frustration. They emerge when people stray off of the predictable path to follow a radical idea. Or they come when people commit fully to a lifetime of service to a single injustice. Inspiring stories are rooted in struggle, risk, and faith, and they are often moved forward by the people doing things a little differently and a little better in even the most difficult situations---the ‘positive deviants’.
Our program will be looking for the next leader to step into this role for the next era of work and I hope you’ll help us find them by sharing this link or exploring it yourself. This next leader will help the Council grow and evolve as it reaches its centennial in 2022.They will champion policies and innovations that will help us build a sustainable, equitable food system as the Sustainable Development Goals approach in 2030.
The Council has been a tremendous platform for elevating inspirational leaders and holding our collective feet to the fire on the evidence of what actually works and what must be done to solve the challenges we’re facing. I will continue to champion the Council’s work, which celebrates collective, multi-sectoral wisdom while also highlighting the pioneers exploring the next breakthrough idea. I particularly hope to support innovators or maybe even become one, and I look forward to continuing to work with all of you in new ways in the years to come. Thank you.