How the Food Action Alliance designs and selects Flagships that take a food systems approach

By: Dylan Anderson-Berens


The Food Action Alliance (FAA), a global food systems initiative implemented by the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, promotes market-driven sustainable food systems transformation.

In the first of four blogs in this series, we introduced the Food Action Alliance (FAA) as a delivery and support mechanism for country-led pathways for food systems transformation aligned with the SDGs. We described how facilitation led by The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT in Latin America galvanizes an ecosystem of multi-stakeholder flagship projects to collectively deliver tangible impact at scale across four impact areas, in response to regional food system imperatives. We shared an intro to FAA Latin America flagships and the benefits of joining the initiative. In this second blog, we examine the FAA flagship design criteria and selection process.

The regional food systems imperatives in FAA’s four impact areas identified and shared in our first blog serve to guide and orient FAA Latin America portfolio development. Further development is also informed by any remaining portfolio gaps in the region e.g. key geographies, value chains/crops, impact areas/themes, organization types, etc.

However, it is FAA partner priorities that must deliver action on these imperatives and help the FAA fill critical gaps. On-going stakeholder consultations and Partner Group Meeting discussions (1,2,3 and 4) help us understand, map and monitor partner priorities and make spaces for them to propose flagships in line with their interests and in multi-stakeholder partnerships that weave together other stakeholder interests. The occasional Calls for Expressions of Interest (such as this one developed on market-driven malnutrition initiatives) have also elicited flagship proposals and key initiatives to monitor.

When a potential flagship anchor organization has sufficient interest, it completes a flagship application by responding to questions on eight design criteria.

With feedback on its methodology and expansion of the food systems approach, the FAA has been evolving the criteria over time.

The flagship criteria are designed to ensure that applicants design flagship proposals for projects that are systemic, scalable, partner-led, and market-based. One key aspect of what sets the FAA apart from other food systems initiatives are its impact areas and this is also captured in flagship admission criteria under ‘Demonstrable Impact’ where flagship applicants are asked to document how their proposed flagship addresses two or more of the FAA impact areas:

  • Inclusive: Ensuring economic and social inclusion for all food system actors, especially smallholders, women, and youth.
  • Sustainable: Minimizing negative environmental impacts, conserving scarce natural resources, and strengthening resiliency against future shocks.
  • Efficient: Ensuring that sufficient food is produced and available for the world’s population.
  • Nutritious and healthy: Promoting consumption of a diverse range of healthy, nutritious, and safe foods.

Meanwhile, across its entire portfolio of flagships in Latin America, the FAA strives to drive systemic change across all four impact areas. These elements in their entirety constitute the FAA’s approach to food systems development.

Upon receipt of a flagship application consisting of answers to these eight admission criteria and a proposed flagship needs assessment, the FAA Latin America Team provides feedback to the applicant for refinement which is then incorporated by the applicant. Multiple rounds of feedback may be necessary. Upon endorsement by the FAA Latin America team, the application is then sent to the FAA Global Team for review that is again conveyed to the applicant in order to refine the application before it is submitted to the FAA Steering Committee. The SteerCo reviews the application for a period and provides feedback to the applicant. Barring substantiated objections – the flagship is added to the portfolio with the suggestions from each of these levels/bodies on how it can be developed by the now-flagship-leaders.

Resulting flagships are systemic and scalable partner-led, market-based food system initiatives that are supported by FAA’s network of collaborating partners, funders, and experts. They are transformative, investible initiatives focused on improving food system impact areas using various levers such as finance and innovation.

In the final two blogs in this series, we will examine the project design elements of the seven flagships that have emerged from this process, how they are working and explore how the FAA and its flagships relate to the UNFSS.

For information on joining the FAA, the Latin America Partners Group meetings, its existing flagships or proposing a novel one, reach out to Dylan Anderson-Berens or Mark Lundy.