I explore how people tackle transformations in nature, organisations and society.

How I work

My research, courses and counsel are grounded in complexity theory and systems sciences, and I apply research-based approaches to foster innovation in agriculture and food systems. I partner with civil society, companies, public agencies, and international organisations to identify the big shifts that increase the resilience of agriculture, food and livelihood systems in fragile settings.

As a researcher, I study the ecology of innovation systems, particularly in regions grappling with food insecurity, climate emergencies, displacements and conflict. My focus is on understanding the intricate relationships between livelihoods, identity, choices, and human well-being during transitions.

I also help organisations identify vulnerabilities in ecosystems, supply chains and operating models, and support leaders in spotting the most promising moves for positive, system-wide change. These includes ways to support internally displaced persons and host communities in managing critical livelihood transitions.

Collaboration is key in my approach. I leverage cutting-edge science from around the innovation ecosystem. Whenever needed, I draw on my global network of ecologists, anthropologists, mediators and change management specialists. Together, we help build the capabilities of organisations to tackle transformations.

Throughout my work, I support people and their organisations to reach agreements, learn, adapt and scale positive impact.

Who I am

I’m a systems scientist and Associate Professor at BOKU University who studies the complexity of change at play when people restore nature, social organisation and livelihoods to build the future they envision. I also serve as a Senior Associate at World Agroforestry (ICRAF) in Nairobi and as a Research Affiliate with the Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab (J-WAFS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. In 2023, I co-founded The Optimism Lab, a design and innovation company partnering with leaders to tackle some of their most critical transformations in teams and communities they support.

I have a natural and social science background, graduated in agroecology and have worked on farm and food system transitions. I believe in the power of participation and design thinking methodologies, and in the balanced use of qualitative and quantitative research tools, including scenario planning and transition management. My most profound insights stem from field experiences, especially in sustainable agriculture and natural resource management in drylands.

What excites me most is the intersection of social and technological change in agriculture. I have explored transformation approaches, focusing on how best to guide organisations and communities through significant changes. Collaborating with the agriculture and food industries, I’ve aimed to enhance their sustainability and resilience.

My past roles have allowed me to create, direct, and merge research programs and organisations. I’ve also had the privilege of mentoring some of the most extraordinary, international teams. At the university, I teach graduate students the essence of navigating transformative change towards sustainable climate, food and water systems.

I worked in sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia and Eastern Europe. I’m based in East Africa.

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