The CP Yen Foundation was honored to be invited to facilitate the Council of Agriculture (COA)'s retreat this year. Participants included 100 COA executives, including the Minister and Deputy minister. For two days and nights the retreat participants dialogued on the "Future of Taiwan's Agriculture".
The retreat successfully created the outcomes the sponsors had aspired for:
This month's dialogue newsletter shares the Council of Agriculture's retreat report.
To respond appropriately to emerging challenges brought by globalization and regional trade integration as well as to take advantage of the rise of new economies shaped by international trends in international digital commerce, environmentalism, cross-sector integration in science and technology, Taiwan’s agricultural sector must have innovative thinking. Consequently the National Development Council called upon each ministry to bring to the fore other important cross-sector issues to guide the budgetary and governance elements of these issues as part of a national development plan for 2017-2020.
The national development plan requires executive insight into domestic and international trends to address key issues for the future of agriculture, to develop strategies and action plans and to serve the Council’s policy planning and budgeting for 2017-2020.
To meet these needs, the Council of Agriculture held for the first time, on April 17-19, 2015, an agricultural policy visioning and consensus building retreat. The organisers expected that through the participants’ brainstorming we could produce an outline of the developmental direction for Taiwan’s agricultural
To generate creative thinking across the Council and its departments to operationalize our mission and vision, we intentionally invited people with a variety of perspectives and opinions. In total 100 people participated in the retreat, including Minister Chen, three Deputy Misters, the Secretary General, the Director and their deputies of various departments and agencies of the Council, and selected people aged under fifty-five with comprehensive understanding of the Council’s mission and visions .
The evening activities on April 17 generated a vibrant, creative and relaxed atmosphere. To bring participants closer together, we began by asking everyone to choose a nickname for themselves, for which Chairman Chen chose, to our amusement, the name Porky! We played games such as “Marshmallow game”, understanding the other side of you” and others to shift the way colleagues habitually interact with one another and to build a sense of team spirit. Because usually our work days are busy with official business and meetings we generally have little time for exercise, so in this retreat program Chairman Chen requested physical exercises that would help us relax. To create this special atmosphere we spent a good deal of time selecting an appropriate venue, and ultimately chose the Taipower Training Center near Feisui Dam.
Recognizing the reality of Taiwan’s rapidly aging population, we invited National Taiwan University’s, Department of Sociology, Professor Chengtai Hsueh (薛承泰) to deliver a seminar about “Taiwan’s population big bang” to enable retreat participants to reflect on the future of agriculture as Taiwan’s population ages. We showed two TED video clips: (1) Professor Hong-Yuan Lee (李鴻源) on how we can respond to the reality of climate change, and (2) Ms. Ying Ying Chung (鍾瑩瑩) on her "1/3 of my life" to start a reflective process on the future of agriculture.
The retreat officially began on the morning of April 18 with the assistance of CP Yen Foundation’s three facilitators. We began by doing an activity reviewing our industry’s environmental context by taking colleagues through the past twenty years and drawing out insights about trends in agriculture up to year 2025.
Next, we entered into an Open Space meeting, where participants followed their own sense of responsibility and passion into discussions about the role agriculture plays in Taiwan’s future development and what we can each contribute to Taiwan’s agriculture. Topic proposers could raise new issues for discussion or choose prepared topics, other participants were invited to use the Law of Two Feet to join any topic of their choosing or one could play the role of a bumblebee traveling between topics cross-pollinating ideas. Over two rounds and three and half hours of impassioned discussion, twenty-six topics were raised, which included: “drawing a blueprint for Taiwan’s agriculture”, “superior agriculture over the next twenty years”, “how to dialogue with farmers” and “how to play the role of Minister of the Council for one day or six months.”
April 19 morning was focused on building consensus for our visions. Participants were divided into three groups to discuss the theme “Envisioning Taiwan’s Ideal Agricultural in 2025”. We decided by consensus that our 2025 vision for Taiwan’s agriculture includes:
Afterwards, the participants divided into four groups each discussing a different dimension of the agricultural industry: rural development, science and technology research, industrial development and sustainable environment. Strategies for achieving the group’s 2025 Taiwan agricultural policy were also outlined by the groups. Strategies proposed relate to the development of:
as well as other proposal as part of the 2025 strategic agricultural policy (detailed in Annex 2).
This is the first large scale agricultural policy visioning and consensus building retreat for this Council. Through both broad and deep dialogue with colleagues we were able to exchange our opinions, thoughts, creativity and experience which inspired rich results. We believe that when colleagues with expertise from different sectors brainstorm together a deep impression is made on each of us that will enable us to influence our own departments with the inspiration and ideas from this retreat.
At the reflective sharing at the program's end Minister Chen mentioned that the Council of Agriculture’s tasks are big, and we colleagues rarely have such an opportunity to talk together over a long period of time to learn what we think and to build consensus, but the results are good and he encourages each agency of the Council to have a consensus building retreat of their own as well. Due to limited time we could only discuss the vision and policy strategies, and were unable to do action planning. The Council’s future is in the hands of the next generation, so we will hold a second retreat for the younger colleagues to continue discussing and shaping Taiwan’s agricultural policy. Minister Chen inspired the colleagues that our planning will build Taiwan’s future agricultural policies and together will realize our vision, as long as we can bear the attitude to open our mind to the unknown.