Savory Trailblazes in Covid Times


In these uncertain times, pivoting is the name of the game for impact entrepreneurs, as well as everyone in the regenerative ecosystem. Savory Institute and its global network are not exceptions. We love to tap into our global creativity and experiment together, as this is the seed of any innovation process. We embrace challenges and thrive in addressing them holistically. Our ability to pivot in the face of change, within our context (and not just the challenge itself), and to design new holistic pathways is robust.  I say this humbly because we do this as a community.

Program Pivots

Since the Covid-19 crisis hit, Savory, which runs a variety of business and mentorship programs for its global Hub network of entrepreneurs, field professionals, and agriculture producer networks, has pivoted by finding ways to turn initiatives that usually take place in-person into virtual events. Plus, it’s stepped up activities to support its network partners trying to also pivot themselves into the virtual space.

The SI in collaboration with Savory Network Hub in the UK, 3LM just held a series of “state of the art” virtual training for SI team and regional representatives from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America, on precisely the topic of “virtual training”. 

Tuesday Team Call from Global Network Coordinator, Abbey Smith’s office – learning how to keep virtual engaging and productive. We were good at it, now we are even better. Thank you Sheila Cooke from UK Hub, 3LM for all the training

With 47 Hubs headquartered in over 30 countries across all inhabitable continents, and over 130 Accredited Professionals working alongside training and supporting farmers, ranchers, and pastoralists in contextually relevant ways in their regions, the Hub program has been recently redesigned to continue to equip the leaders and their teams to be successful and impactful, despite COVID. 

Programs have usually consisted of two 10-day intensive sessions, with homework in between, during an 18-month span. The COVID crisis added new urgency to continuing to support and expand our global work even in these trying times. Physical programs are now made available to our Network partners digitally. They have shifted to more and shorter sessions, distributed during the same timeframe.

Running these sessions remotely has had unanticipated advantages—namely, the ability to hold them year-round and enlist more Accredited Professionals, and additional experts (among them our cadre of Savory Advisors) who can help address the targeted issues faced by Hubs, but who might not have had the time or availability to join in person-sessions around the world. Using a variety of platforms to make our virtual time enriching and engaging to support learning around this new virtual reality, we are striving to get better every day and passing on the lessons to our Network community.  

A combination of new strategies complements the Holistic Management and the Design Lab and Development Phase when these entrepreneurs build their dreams and business models for impact in their region. We have added an invaluable new component to the programs: mentors. Mentors (who are usually successful Hub leaders from previous cohorts) work with their fellow Hubs in training during the whole program and become key members of their community of practice, helping holistically design and implement solutions to problems in the greater context of their vision for their landscapes and their communities.

Other enriching design insights and bodies of knowledge incorporated into the program come from amazing groups and partners such as  Ashoka, (of which Allan Savory is a Fellow), Unreasonables, DSIL Global, nRhythm, Being Imaginal, Merlin method, and others. We pride ourselves in being a learning community, and we actually hold us accountable, measuring indicators to ensure that we are!

The current Hub cohort includes entrepreneurs from Costa Rica, Croatia, Hungary, Spain, Kenya, and three states in the USA (Arkansas, Vermont, and Virginia). 

The real and most fruitful work takes place after the program is over, as Hub entrepreneurs go and execute their plans, in many cases as true startups, taking all of this learning forward to their local contexts and sharing it with their communities. This is where real transformation happens and the real impact begins. SI continues the journey with them, honoring and fostering the uniqueness of each context, providing a strong foundation of continued learning and support, from webinars, business leads, investment leads, program engagement, a community platform, our global network gatherings, and advice provided in perpetuity, as long as Hub leaders continue to work in alignment with the values and Holistic Context of the Institute and the network, to solve the environmental, economic, and social issues tied to their landscapes and their inhabitants. 

Savory’s Land to Market and EOV program teams have also pivoted to virtual engagement, which has resulted in enhanced multi-stakeholder training for all parties in the value network, from farmer, to Hubs, to our Accredited Professionals, to brands and buyers.

More Structures for Abundance

In addition, to help cope with the uncertainties of the COVID times and better understand the unique challenges of our partners in the regions they serve, the Savory team moved their in-person Discovery and Opportunity “DO” sessions – to online. 

These “deep dives” with SI and the leaders of all accredited Hubs in a particular region are held once a year. These are highly innovative, diagnostic, solution-oriented, peer-to-peer coaching sessions. The outcomes of these sessions inform new Hub regional strategies, needed structures, and collaboration for the region as well as Savory own program investment and resource allocation. 

DO session for Latin American Hubs in Fundo Panguilemo, Chile – demonstrations and learning site of the Chile Hub, Efecto manada. From left to right Felipe Urioste (Uruguay Hub), Isidora Molina (CHile Hub), Juan Pedro Borelli (Argentina Hub), in background Juan Andres Galilea (rancher, entrepreneur,  and advisor).

With a great commitment to delivering value and building true community with those we serve, the SI is gearing to virtually co-host, in collaboration with Network partners, their Annual Network gathering in late 2020. This Network event is extremely valued by all and was planned in person for March 2020 in Australia just prior to COVID-19 forcing a change in plans.  

In the meantime, Savory is connecting Hubs to larger opportunities through Signature Projects with larger NGOs and Foundations interested in partnering with and funding our programs and network, to accelerate the implementation of their own social and environmental impact agendas. Among these amazing partners, Heifer International, ADRA, EverGreening Alliance, and ReNature can be mentioned.

Personal Health

On a different note, physical exercise, mediation, enneagram and flow training, and weekly breathing and meditation sessions prior to our Team calls have allowed our team to stay focused, productive, fulfilled, calm, and in the flow as much as possible. 

We are committed more than ever, to facilitating and accelerating the on-the-ground implementation of regenerative agriculture and climate change agendas, with science backing up the outcome of our global work, entrepreneurially, collaboratively, together, in community. 

Daniela Ibarra-Howell

Daniela Ibarra-Howell

Daniela is CEO and co-founder of the Savory Institute. An agronomist with over 25 years of international experience, she has led the design and implementation of Savory’s revolutionary, entrepreneurial, grassroots, network-based strategy to reverse desertification and tackle the systemic food, water, and climate change crises.
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