Nourishing 9 Billion SolutionLab: UC Davis Event Addresses Global Food Challenges

The world’s population is expected to grow from 7 billion to 9 billion people by 2050. Figuring out how to feed 9 billion people—while also advancing rural development, curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and protecting valuable ecosystems—is one of the greatest challenges of our time. To contribute to the solutions for a sustainable future, Net Impact and CollaborateUp hosted two "Nourishing 9 Billion" SolutionLabs at UC Davis and Tufts University this spring. Both events were part of a new national series designed to allow students to work side-by-side with food system experts to engage with this critical issue and develop solutions that could change the world. President of the UC Davis' graduate Net Impact chapter, Stefan Gerlicz, shared his perspective of the event.

Margaret Mead is widely quoted as saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” This idea rang true at the University of California, Davis Nourishing 9 Billion SolutionLab event I was pleased to help organize. Hosted by our UC Davis Net Impact Chapter, the Nourishing 9 Billion SolutionLab provided a space for a small group of students and professionals to discuss agriculture, sustainability, and how we can change the world to feed the growing population.

Though my background is not in agriculture, I have made sustainability a focus in my career so I was interested in how food production ties to sustainability, and Net Impact’s mission of creating a more sustainable and socially responsible world. As the Net Impact chapter president, I had the opportunity to work firsthand with Net Impact partners, CollaborateUp and Monsanto, to produce the SolutionLab event. Given the small size of our chapter housed within the Graduate School of Management, I was nervous about our ability to produce an engaging event for the students and professionals who came from around the Davis and Sacramento area. However, through collaboration with our co-hosts and sponsors, in the end we were able to deliver an impactful experience for everyone in attendance.

We gathered four food system experts from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the UC Davis World Food Center, Monsanto and Freedom from Hunger to speak about the agriculture system, farmer productivity and nourishing a growing population. The nearly 80 participants then split into small groups to brainstorm solutions for how to feed a growing population sustainably. Through these discussions, one takeaway I had is that it’s easy to formulate an argument based strictly on your view of the issue, but a successful solution requires us to put ourselves in the shoes of everyone involved.

All of us have different perspectives on how we should deal with issues in today’s world. To find the right solution, we need to consider each perspective and look at the issue from all sides. The SolutionLab gathered a diverse group of people with varied opinions, which led to wide-ranging solutions. The impact a small group of people can have is amazing. By bringing together passionate, diverse groups of people – no matter the size – we can bring ourselves closer to the grand challenge of nourishing a world of nine billion in the most sustainable way.

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