Hivos International

Food and Energy Change Labs


Hivos and the International institute for Environment and Development (IIED) want to help build fairer and more sustainable energy and food systems. 

The challenges are enormous. Rising demand is putting excessive pressure on the natural resources we rely on to produce food and energy. There are huge inequalities in access to food and energy between rich and poor. Current governance systems ignore both less powerful people’s needs and the real causes of food and energy insecurity.

One of the big questions is how citizens will be involved in energy and food systems of the future.  This is why Hivos and IIED have partnered to take a social innovation or “change lab” approach that will put citizens at the centre of finding solutions to energy and food challenges.

A strategic partnership

Hivos brings its 40-year track record of supporting social movements and civil society organisations in over 30 countries to IIED’s policy influence through environment and development research in a complementary partnership.

IIED and Hivos have agrred on a formal strategic partnership to improve sustainable food and energy systems using their relevant expertise and large networks to catalyse change. This builds on a previous successful collaboration between HIVOS and IIED on a programme of work called 'Small Producer Agency in a Globalized Market'.

A 'change lab' approach

A change lab is a social innovation process. It is an open space, hub or platform where stakeholders work together to seize upon new developments and innovations that address the complex challenges they are trying to solve in a lasting and equitable way. Beyond technology, these innovations can be in public policy, new business models, framing of cultural values and behaviour change.

The IIED-Hivos partnership is developing, testing, designing and establishing a number of such change labs that bring together various stakeholders in certain regions around issues of food and energy. You can watch fascinating footage from the 2015 food change labs held in Zambia and Indonesia under 'See also' in the right sidebar.

Citizen-centred green energy transitions

The ‘people factor’ receives less attention in energy debates compared to issues of energy sources and supply.  Yet citizens are very relevant to the debate as consumers, producers and sellers of energy; or as voters demanding better performance from their governments or utilities. 

The partnership’s energy lab will focus on how to catalyse citizen-centred approaches to energy policy and investment.  ‘Energy literacy’ will be critical, as IIED Senior Researcher Sarah Best highlighted in a blog discussing the importance of ‘energy literacy’ to all approaches.

Sustainable food consumption

According to the ‘productivist’ approach to addressing food security, we need to increase production to address food shortages in developing countries. This can often overlook the issues facing the urban poor, who are continually forced to make trade-offs between quality, food safety, convenience and price in formal and informal markets.

By shifting the focus to the food consumption needs and habits of the urban poor, the IIED-Hivos partnership and its food lab will aim to find new openings toward a greener and fairer food system for all.