Why the Food Lab?

Why the Food Lab?

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Einstein wrote that, “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

That realization guides the work of the Sustainable Food Lab. We use a methodology called the “U Process” that has been developed over the past 20 years by researchers at the Global Leadership Initiative, the Society for Organizational Learning, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Generon Consulting.


Through this methodology, we bring the Food Lab team through a process that includes:

  • Co-sensing – through shared experiences, we let go of assumptions and observe food systems from new perspectives, giving us access to new ways of seeing current reality.
  • Co-presencing – a process of retreating and reflecting so that deeper wisdom and a commitment to change can emerge.
  • Co-creating – as a common vision crystallizes, we put this understanding to work by developing prototypes that explore potential new solutions to entrenched problems.

Regular learning journeys and opportunities for cross-sector dialogue are used as tools in this process. For example, we sent multi-sector groups to Brazil for week-long journeys to see the food systems there; the diversity of the groups led to fascinating discussions about how we each processed the same information in different ways. Similarly, we have brought Lab members into the wilderness for group and solo experiences in order to access the deeper wisdom we get when we feel connected to ourselves and the planet.

An openness to new ideas—and a willingness to admit that we don't currently have all the answers to current problems—are at the heart of our work, and create a safe atmosphere in which we can work collaboratively toward new solutions. Indeed, we have found that a willingness to admit that we don't have the solutions is a prerequisite to allowing them to emerge.

For more information about the U Process:

  • Peter M. Senge, Claus Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, and Betty Sue Flowers, Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society.The Sustainable Food Lab is featured in this book.
  • Claus Otto Scharmer, Presencing: Illuminating The Blind Spot of Leadership.
  • Adam Kahane, Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities.
  • The U: A Language of Regeneration, Zaid Hassan (2004). Drawing on ancient wisdom and multiple ways of knowing, the U is a theory, a dialogic process, and a language. In an age of collapsing systems, it offers us a series of practices for regeneration.

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