The Importance of a Common Language

by Juliet MacDowell

(crossposted from Medium)

At the turn of the 21st century, the development sector realized that alignment and partnership are paramount to achieving a shared vision of a prospering world. Therefore, following the Millennium Development Goals — MDGs (which was more of a symptomatic approach to tacking development and sustainability issues), the world came together in 2015 to agree on the Sustainable Development Goals — SDGs. The triumph of the international consensus on the 17 SDGs (and the 169 targets which followed), is not only that they are holistic, forward-looking and goal-oriented, but that they were agreed upon by stakeholders from a multitude of sectors and provided a roadmap to improve the present conditions of our world. Therefore, we can all agree that a global definition or guideline is fundamental to maximizing resources and achieving a common goal.

While perhaps not as monumental as the international consensus of the SDGs, the consensus on what it means to be a professional farming organization is significant and has the potential to wield a significant sector-wide improvement. What I am referring to is the IWA29. This guideline, published by a Dutch standardization body, is the precursor to an ISO standard. Similar to the MDGs and SDGs, the development of the IWA29 was a highly consultative process that involved 220 stakeholders from around the world in a series of 6 international workshops. Among these stakeholders were representatives from SCOPEinsight. SCOPEinsight is a company that, for the past 10 years, has been offering a methodology towards professionalizing farming organizations. Participation in this process was validating for SCOPEinsight as the international consensus is closely aligned with what SCOPEinsight’s tools measure.

As the international community begins adopting the IWA29 standard, I will be interested to see how the sector transforms. Based on SCOPEinsight’s intelligence, the case for farming organization professionalism is highly compelling: Positive correlations between professionalism and a host of outcomes like income, sustainability, quality, human rights (and the list goes on!) suggest that professionalizing farming organizations not only have benefits at the farmer level but also on the sector level as organizations are in a better position to create important business relationship. These correlations underpin the importance of focusing on farmer organization professionalism as a top priority in the agricultural sector to meet the goals of SDGs 1, 2, 8, 12, and 17.

In closing, the IWA29 is the framework that is needed for sector alignment and SCOPEinsight’s methodology is the common language around which unites a multitude of actors. I strongly urge those working in the agricultural space in emerging markets to reframe the problem (if you’re not already focusing on farmer professionalism) and to use the IWA29 guideline.

If you’re interested in knowing more, please send me a message