20 / 01 / 2022

Welcoming address by Talis Tisenkopfs at the first online meeting with the COCOREADO ambassadors

Author: Tālis Tisenkopfs

[19 January 2022]

We welcome you as ambassadors to the COCOREADO family. The COCOREADO project “Connecting producers and consumers to rebalance farmers’ position through ambassadors training” is aimed to make our food chains fairer and more sustainable through supporting the ambassadors.

Who are the ambassadors of fair and novel food chains?

In the COCOREADO project we have envisaged the position of an ambassador – a person who is passionate about food, who has an idea how to make food chains more sustainable and has a hands-on experience in doing so. An ambassador is a person who connects farmers and consumers and helps good ideas to grow.

There are other words as well in the European projects’ vocabulary describing such a role, for example, an innovation broker or a person who promotes interlinkages between different knowledge worlds and actors in food chains. There are no clear-cut boundaries between various concepts in innovation.

In COCOREADO we aim to advance the notion of ambassadors of good and fair food chains. We have to make this role real, fill it with meaning and activities. It is largely up to us to shape the ambassadorship and define whom we want to become.

We stay away from a rather arrogant Wikipedia definition which portrays an ambassador as “an official envoy, especially a high-ranking diplomat”. Our vision is more democratic and grass-root. We see the ambassador as an active individual who drives the change towards sustainable production and distribution practices, promotes sustainable food values and behaviours. Ideally, he/she should also pursue his/her personal ambition.

Based on such a vision, in September 2021 the COCOREADO project announced a Europe-wide call for ambassadors and received 61 applications. By now we have formed a dedicated group of 40 highly motivated and skilled ambassadors.

To briefly present the ambassadors: we are 19 women and 21 men; coming from 21 countries; from peri-urban (6), urban (16) and rural (17) regions; having different occupational backgrounds (farmers, students, consultants, entrepreneurs, CEOs of their own companies, project coordinators and other).

The ambassadors have applied for this programme for various reasons: to build new connections with other professionals across Europe, to expand knowledge about different parts of the food system, to learn more on how to interact with other stakeholders. While each ambassador’s motivation is linked to the individual professional background, the applications also revealed the common goal: to work towards rebalancing the food supply chain and rebuilding the connection between farmers and consumers in Europe.

Ilze Mileiko, my colleague at BSC, during the last month has been in communication with the ambassadors, answering the questions. The main queries so far relate to such issues as the first training, which is approaching in March, and the role of the ambassadors in the respective regions.

How will the ambassadors work together in the COCOREADO project?

This is the first orientation meeting with ambassadors and our aim for today is to start creating a common understanding and listen to ambassadors’ ideas.

As the COCOREADO project, we are here to serve the ambassadors, attending to them in many ways, help them to become successful promoters of fair food chains while also implementing their own ideas.

The project partners are committed to support the ambassadors, provide a space where they can interact, share ambitions, inspire, and learn from each other.

Therefore, I would like to introduce two main persons who will oversee the ambassadors’ training and help you on a regular basis – my colleagues at the Baltic Studies Centre, Mikelis Grivins, who is the leader of the project’s work package on ambassadors training, and Ilze Mileiko who is the main contact person for ambassadors’ queries.

There will be many moments of interaction between the ambassadors and the project partners, notably the three training events at different European locations.

Soon we will propose a memorandum of understanding between the ambassadors and the project in which we will agree on our mutual commitments and activities. In essence these will be training events, ambassadors’ feedback on the project results, promotion of ambassadors’ own initiatives, seed funding for selected ideas. Perhaps, we will organise smaller ambassadors’ task force groups based on common interest. The detailed training plan is up to further discussion with you.

Finally, I would like to thank you once again for becoming the ambassadors. I believe we have inspirational activities ahead and the ambassadorship will become also your project for both personal and public gain.

Thank you.