UNDP and ALC work with a team of Basque and Catalan chefs to create a space for experimentation on the food systems in Uruguay

UNDP and ALC collaborate with the Municipality of Montevideo to search for new solutions to the largest landfill in the city, Felipe Cardoso. In the same way, both organizations are working with the Municipality of Canelones on the designing of a recipe book that contributes to the new strategy for local tourism. This work is part of of the Social Innovation experimentation strategy of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which has chosen Uruguay as a key place to test its strategy for addressing complex problems.

How can we rethink a food system based on a shorter supply chain, with a lower carbon footprint, linked to local history and heritage, and that supports the tourism and gastronomy sectors of Uruguay? With the aim of responding to this highly complex challenge, UNDP and the Agirre Lehendakaria Center (ALC) have teamed up with the main Municipalities of the country’s metropolitan area to generate a system that supports the massive experimentation of initiatives that respond directly to the citizen challenges and opportunities.

After collaborative and multi-stakeholder work with the municipalities of Montevideo and Canelones, in which companies, universities, technology centers, civil society, entrepreneurs in gastronomy, waste management and circular economy or the main food management centers in the country have also participated, among others, an open and collaborative innovation process is launched with the objective of redesigning the food system in Uruguay, starting with the main municipalities of the metropolitan area.

The process will be supported by the Basque group of chefs Imago, with the collaboration of a member of the El Bulli Foundation, and will address two very different and yet directly connected aspects of the country’s food system: waste management and gastronomic identity for tourist positioning.

In the case of Montevideo, the process will try to test solutions at different levels of action in the Felipe Cardoso landfill, working together with the Municipality, the transporters and recycling companies, the classifiers and with the entire social and economic fabric that connects with the dump. In Canelones, the process that is being evaluated with the Municipality would address the new tourism strategies and the redesign of food systems from the design of a local recipe book that combines in a radical but balanced way the purest tradition of Canelones with the most avant-garde trends. The design of this cookbook (products, producers, traditions, distribution, system, identity), will lead to visualizing the food system and its areas of opportunity. Both processes have the aim of connecting at different levels and work in the same way to address different challenges, since they are naturally linked through the management, supply and food production chains, as well as consumption in homes, restaurants and supermarkets.

This way of working tries to generate new management systems so that cities can develop experiments in an interconnected way on a large scale (portfolios or batteries of connected actions that address the same problem, at the community level, public services, companies or regulation, among others). The process of mapping and deep listening allows this experimentation process to respond to local needs. The platform will leave the integration of this way of working for the public sector as a legacy, regardless of the final development of the Deep Demo. This is especially useful for the public sector, since most of the initiatives promoted by the administrations continue to be designed as projects to tackle specific problems in a linear fashion. The way in which these projects are managed, financed and evaluated limits the possibilities for organizations to invest more resources in better understanding community perceptions, experimenting with new interconnected solutions, making mistakes and being able to adapt work plans in real time in case alternative solutions are generated during the execution process.

As an alternative, the Deep Demonstrations that the UNDP intends to promote globally are articulated as platforms for experimentation and social innovation that seek to interconnect organizations and actions (portfolio approach), in order to achieve an impact in the territory as a whole.