Beyond the pandemic, the world still turns. Actually, during this year Barcelona is the World Capital of Sustainable Food, an initiative that includes the development of almost a hundred projects and policies to promote sustainable food and a program that will run the entire year. The city wants to promote healthier and more sustainable diets, generate more economic opportunities for local sectors, fight the climate emergency and build resilience towards global risks and social inequalities.

Great challenges increasingly demand an approach from a collaborative perspective in which all societal sectors participate: administration, industry, academia and citizens themselves. In this context, the Studies Center on Science, Communication and Society (Pompeu Fabra University) and the Barcelona Metropolitan Strategic Plan, in collaboration with Barcelona World Sustainable Food Capital  and the Barcelona City Council, organized an intensive course on collaborative innovation between March 16th and 25th.  The course focused on the challenge of sustainable food and its main objective was to provide participants with collaborative innovation tools to address major social challenges.


Source: Unsplash

The course is framed within the European project RiConfigure. This project, which counts with the participation of several countries, seeks to support innovation solutions to the complex, interrelated and global challenges that societies face, and that include issues related to climate adaptation, food security, energy sufficiency, public health and rapid urbanization. Its objective is to promote the inclusion of civil society in innovation processes, together with its great creative capacity. Traditionally, such processes have been dominated by academia, the public and the private sectors., This model, which focuses on the interaction of the four sectors of society (academia, business, government and civil society), is known as the quadruple helix collaboration (QHC) and is characterized by the inclusion of all stakeholders as active players, jointly creating and experimenting in the new ways of doing things to come up with new services and products.




The course, entitled “Addressing great social challenges with collaborative innovation tools: the challenge of sustainable food”, was aimed at a small group of people (17 participants) who represented the four sectors of the QHC model. The training was conducted online, following an intensive (four  days), innovative and participatory format. The main objectives of the course were:

  • To understand the importance of the QHC model.
  • To develop skills to use resources, tools and methodologies for the design, implementation and evaluation of intersectoral collaborations.
  • To promote the creation of responsible innovation environments.
  • To apply the concepts and learnings of the QHC model to the participants’ projects (new or existing).

The participants worked collaboratively in the development of ideas and projects related to the challenge of sustainable food. Some of the ideas they worked with were “how to intensify local production and consumption in a fair and sustainable way” or “how to reduce waste in homes and schools”.

Source: Pexels

Despite the limitations of doing a course of this type in a 100% online environment, the feedback was very positive. The great usefulness of the tools used and the concepts learned, as well as the importance of the role of the facilitators during the development of the activities, were especially highlighted by the participants.





In innovation and decision-making processes, it is increasingly becoming evident the great value that brings the active inclusion of civil society, an actor that has traditionally been marginalized in such processes. The participants of the course have especially highlighted the contribution of this sector, and how the tools, knowledge and skills developed during the course can help pave the way so that, from now on, civil society has the relevance and prominence it deserves.


Ferran Bustos Salvador


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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation under grant agreement no. 788047.

Este blog cuenta con la colaboración de la Fundación Española para la Ciencia y la Tecnología – Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación