28 / 05 / 2024

Baltic Studies Centre Researchers Celebrate the Upcoming Conclusion of the COCOREADO Project

Author: BSC

On 24 April, COCOREADO (Connecting consumers and producers to rebalance farmers' position through ambassadors training) held its final conference – “Building a sustainable food future together" – in Brussels, in which project partners, ambassadors, and other participants gathered to share results and celebrate the conclusion of the project. This event marked a significant achievement not only for COCOREADO but also for the Baltic Studies Centre team – in particular, research assistant Ilze Mileiko and senior researcher Miķelis Grīviņš, who spent five years working on the project’s concept and implementation. At the conference, the Baltic Studies Centre presented the ambassador network and toolkit that were developed as part of the project.

COCOREADO aims to strengthen the link between food producers and consumers to improve the position of farmers in food systems. To this end, an ambassador training programme was implemented under the guidance of researchers from the Baltic Studies Centre. Over forty young activists from different European countries took part to learn skills and knowledge necessary to carry out new business ventures and contribute to the development of sustainable food supply chains. The term 'ambassadors' was chosen because, like national ambassadors, participants represented and disseminated the project’s ideas by co-creating solutions with local businesses and community actors aimed at fostering positive change in food systems. As part of the programme, COCOREADO ambassadors undertook three intensive on-site training sessions organised by the Baltic Studies Centre, in which they also had access to experts, networks, and financial support to facilitate the launch of their seed initiatives. During the training, ambassadors also created local learning initiatives for students, consumers, and farmers, as well as initiatives that helped local farming communities work together more efficiently. Their solutions were later compiled into a practical toolkit, so they could be shared with a wider audience. 
The COCOREADO project started in January 2021 and will end in June 2024. The first part of the conference featured an overview of the goals that were set and fulfilled during this period. Participants had the chance to learn about good practices on novel food systems and public procurement, as well as listen to a panel discussion about the challenges of rebalancing the position of farmers and consumers. Ambassador representatives also participated in the conference to share the latest developments about their initiatives and discuss future plans after the project concludes. Furthermore, the conference featured presentations by researchers from the Baltic Studies Centre – Miķelis Grīviņš provided an overview of the progress made with the ambassadors and the network, while Ilze Mileiko discussed the contents of the toolkit and to whom it may be useful and of interest. In the second part of the conference, participants could engage in interactive workshops – for example, one activity involved everyone roleplaying different food system stakeholders and simulating the process of collaboratively finding solutions to potential food supply chain problem scenarios. The conference was also an opportunity for all project partners to meet after a long time and casually discuss issues that have been on COCOREADO's radar. 

Miķelis Grīviņš presents an overview about the ambassador network

Ilze Mileiko talking about the toolkit
The conference participants commended the Baltic Studies Centre researchers' presentations and contribution. Both project partners and practitioners spoke gave positive feedback about the project's toolkit during the event. As Ilze Mileiko explains, the document was a collaborative effort, partners appreciated that the information and examples included are not only useful, but also reflect their contribution to the project. Other attending practitioners and organisation representatives saw practical applications for the toolkit in their practice. The text and visuals were specially designed to be easy to understand and use, even for those unfamiliar with the specific terminology of the COCOREADO project.

Ilze and Miķelis listening to presentations

The conference was also an opportunity to reflect on the time spent working on the ambassadors' network. Throughout the project, the Baltic Studies Centre team oversaw the development, implementation, and evaluation of the COCOREADO ambassador network and ambassador programme, collaborating with other project partners in the process. As Ilze observes, the final event shows that the work was a success: the ambassadors have outgrown the project, and some continue to work independently on their initiatives, as well as maintain the contacts they established. The ambassadors spoke highly of the format of the project: unlike similar initiatives, in the COCOREADO project they could feel like equal partners who can gain inspiration and learn from one another through exchanging experience. Researchers also gained valuable insights about short supply chains and methods for bringing consumers closer to producers by learning from ambassadors and their examples. 

Ilze Mileiko and the ambassador team

For more information, follow the project on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or visit the COCOREADO website for a summary of the project results