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Multi-Stakeholder Mechanisms

Key Findings



A comparative analysis on the structures and governance models, policy formulation and implementation processes, and effectiveness of 10 SFS MSMs at the national and sub-national level.

Key Takeaways


  1. SFS MSMs can help tackle intertwined problems of climate change, biodiversity loss, food insecurity, poverty, and health to meet sustainable food systems through a whole of society and a sustainable food systems approach.
  2. Funding and institutionalization of MSMs and other participatory decision-making processes are key.
  3. The power balance gap: While most SFS MSMs had representation of all relevant actors, good governance principles were agreed and implemented, and plans and strategies were created (a key step for results), only a few SFS MSMs established procedures to address power imbalances and manage conflicts of interest. 
  4. Participation influenced by the power of money: Funding mechanisms to support the meaningful participation of disadvantaged groups is critical.
  5. Meaningful engagement and collaboration takes time, effective leadership is paramount, and good facilitation is key.
  6. Blended deliberative and participatory democracy methods are used for consultation and policy formulation. 
  7. Most SFS MSMs succeeded in formulating a holistic food policy, aided by a first key step: a holistic participatory food systems diagnosis. Many also embedded food-related issues into policy processes related to urban planning, climate change and environmental issues policy processes.
  8. In most SFS MSMs, dialogue among actors helped address the inevitable trade-offs found in complex food systems issues, and navigate controversial topics, but better tools are needed for evidence-based decision-making.

Source: Linus Shentu



Foundational and structural factors
  • It takes more than political will to create an effective SFS MSM. 
  • Building successful collaboration takes time.
  • Funding is crucial.
  • Institutionalization is pivotal.
  • Connecting at different levels promotes a greater impact. 


Roles and thematic areas of SFS MSMs
  • Lobbying and advocacy are the key roles played, but most MSMs also are directly involved in policy formulation.
  • SFS work is still dominated by a focus on agricultural production, but there are winds of change: a focus on consumption and environmental issues is emerging.
  • There is a growing uptake of the ‘food systems approach’.


The “rules of the game”: governance and dialogues
  • All food systems actors (sectors, constituencies, activities) were represented in the SFS MSMs studied, and received government support.
  • The SFS MSMs have set relevant goals, plans and strategies, considered a key element for their effectiveness and results.
  • Most SFS MSMs adopted, applied and respected multiple good governance principles.
  • The balance of power gap: Only a few SFS MSMs established procedures to address power imbalances and manage conflicts of interest.
  • Good facilitation helps: Most SFS MSMs studied appoint a facilitator for meetings.



    Copyright Credit: © James Morgan / WWF-US


    Stakeholder engagement
    • The level of participation and engagement of all stakeholders in the SFS MSMs regular meetings is high.
    • Government and private sector representatives engage more frequently in verbal exchanges. This could reflect a more active use of (informal) lobbying.
    • Participation influenced by the power of money: Funding mechanisms to support the participation of disadvantaged groups is critical.
    • Networking, information and learning are strong motivations of participants.
    • Effective collaborative leadership is paramount.


    Lessons from policy formulation and implementation
    • Most SFS MSMs have supported the formulation of food systems policy, and contributed to embedding food topics in related agendas (e.g. climate change).
    • The first step is a holistic participatory food systems diagnosis.
    • Most SFS MSMs used a blended whole-of-society approach for policy development, combining deliberative and participatory democracy methods.
    • In most SFS MSMs, dialogue among actors addressed the inevitable trade-offs and navigated controversial topics.
    • The main topics prioritized in the food policy documents are: sustainable diets, food diversification, food environments, local food production and (peri-)urban farming.
    • All SFS MSMs engage in policy implementation, but the level of engagement and roles played vary greatly among SFS MSMs.


    Participants perceived achievements and challenges
    • Perceived achievements: 1st- “Networking of food stakeholders”, which increases connectivity among food systems actors and their capacity for action.  2nd- “Policy formulation” including the “mainstreaming of food into other related policy processes”.
    • Perceived drivers of collaboration and success: Four key elements perceived as key drivers of successful multi-stakeholder collaboration:
      • the balanced representation of all food systems actors;
      • the conducive leadership and governance;
      • the trust built upon many years of networking and collaboration;
      • and the perceived political support.
    • Perceived challenges: The main challenge reported by SFS MSMs is ensuring financial stability. Additionally, participants identified low political support and the limited time to engage in additional activities as major obstacles faced by their SFS MSM.

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