A very exciting milestone was reached in the COCOREADO project last week. After almost a whole year of work and planning, the COCOREADO selection team met together in Helsinki to choose our ambassadors. These are the young people who will help represent the project and help shape the future relationship between farmers and consumers.
As well as it being interesting to select the ambassadors and to see the project begin to take shape the process of selection and the range of people who applied is also extremely interesting and the process of selection was a huge challenge that was a privilege for me to be a part of.
Each ambassador application was reviewed prior to the meeting by 2 members of the selection team to make sure that everyone was given a fair look before we even got together. Then each applicant was reviewed again all together in Helsinki. There were some key criteria that we had to have such as being a part of the food supply chain and the ability to work and communicate in English as this is the language collaboration in the project. Once we had reviewed everyone on this basis the real challenge began.
The applications were all of a very high standard and the applicants a hugely diverse and interesting group. After we had reviewed each application at the meeting we had the very difficult task of choosing only 40 to be part of the network. This was one of the most difficult processes I have ever been a part of and cutting the applicants down to the number we required was a great challenge.
One of the most important things about the process was that the network should not just be what we needed for the project but also what we had promised the applicants it would be. This meant, representing the youth, gender balanced, geographically diverse and filling a full range of positions in the food supply chain. So of course, as much as we wanted to we could not take 10 ambassadors from the same country no matter how high quality the applications from there. Imagine you join a network to meet a range of interesting people from across Europe and everyone else in it lives within 50km of you. Or you join as a young farmer to share knowledge with a full range of positions in the food supply chain and find that no other positions are represented.
So working with a full pile of excellent applicants, all of whom we could have selected if we were able, we split them into position in the food supply chain and then recorded how many from each country, how many of each gender and age of applicants. In this way when deciding who made the final cut we could ensure that the network was what was promised.
The other key criteria promised to the ambassadors was that the network and the project itself would have a focus on youth. While we did not have an upper age limit to be an ambassador it was important to provide a space where the next generation of producers and consumers can work together to create the solutions to the problems they will face in the future. So while simultaneously providing the diversity we desired a preference was given to youth where and when it came up.
It was a very difficult process, and the applicants were of a very high calibre but after two very full days of work 40 ambassadors have been selected! Representing 20 countries, a full range of positions within the food supply chain and an average age of 30! It was a hugely rewarding experience to be a part of and I think the network we have built will be not just a great success for the project but also something exciting to be a part of.
John Gillon – Rural Youth Europe