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As current chairperson of the Royal Society of Biology (RSB) Plant Sciences Group and member of the BSPP I applied for BSPP conference-funding to support the ‘Plant Health Summit for Future Leaders’
The tagline of the event was ‘Shape the conversation – Develop your impact – Grow your networks’ and was targeted at early career professionals with up to 10 years’ experience in work that has relevance to keeping plants healthy, or relies on plant health – from those working in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, food, research, academia, landscapes, retail and more. The PH Summit was a unique virtual conversation that operated in three stages between October 2020 and January 2021 that culminated in the summit meeting on 2nd – 4th March 2021.
The truly unique part of the ‘Conversation and Summit’ were the series of discussions that were compiled, visualised and shared with the community by Tim Casswell and Jenny LaTrobe at Creative Connections. This was achieved through an agile process of conversation, improvement and iteration with outputs published and widely disseminated, with the potential to influence decision making at all levels across sectors involved in plant health.
Over the course of six months prior to the Summit, Creative Connections circulated a series of questions to stimulate ideas and develop of the thoughts of the participants. This conversation focused on these areas:
- Dread for the world: Looking at the world today and anticipating the world our children will inhabit, what makes you uneasy, angry, and discouraged. In other words what is it that fills you with dread?
- Delight in the world: Looking at the world today and anticipating the world our children will inhabit, what do you find interesting, encouraging, and hopeful. In other words, what is it that fills you with delight?
- Dream for the world: In your dreams, what is the wholehealed world you yearn to see our children inheriting and inhabiting.
- Frustration with the Plant Health Community: Looking at the Plant Health Community today and anticipating the direction it is going, what do you find depressing, worrying, and frustrating about the way you work and interact?
- Enthusiasm for the Plant Health Community: Looking at the Plant Health Community today and the direction it is going, what do you find interesting, encouraging and hopeful about the way you work and interact?
- Aspiration for the Plant Health Community: In your dreams, what do you want to see continue to happen, begin to happen, and stop happening in the way you work and interact, in order to achieve greater breakthroughs, insight, influence and impact in the world?
The answers were complied and visualised by Creative Connections in a series of marvellous pieces of art. An example of the ‘Delight in the world’ is below. The other visualisations can be found here: https://planthealth.rsb.org.uk/the-conversation.html
The summit was a mix of keynote talks from Lord Gardiner (Minister for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity), Professor Nicola Spence (Chief plant health officer, Defra), Gerry Sadler (Chief Plant Health Officer for Scotland and Head of SASA) and Nick Talbot (The Sainsbury Lab) alongside a series of moderated small-group discussions over the three days to discuss the following emotive topics:
- The Art of Collaborative Networking
- Interdisciplinary Collaborative Projects
- The Art of Influence
- The Art of Workplace Vitality
- The Art of Equity, Diversity, Justice and Inclusion
- The Art of Campaigning
- The Art of Dream Teamworking
Although groups were mixed throughout the Summit the participants got to know each other and therefore could engage in more involved discussions. The Summit ended with each group reporting back to the other delegates on the important factors to be considered in order to bring people together to tackle the global plant health challenges.
The visual representation of these final discussion is shown below:
In the short-term Summit delegates created a PH Professionals LinkedIn group in which they can stay in contact. https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12519020/
Over the longer term the RSB has obtained funding from Defra for a plant health professional development advisory group to oversee three distinct activities:
- Plant Health Professionals Register:
- Plant Health Undergraduate Studentships (PHUGS):
- Management of the Future Leaders Network and Events.
Watch out for updates from this group coming soon! Thanks to the Gatsby Foundation and the BSPP as the event Platinum sponsors and in particular to Dr Celia Knight MBE who was the driving force and vision behind the Summit