System Change Leaders week Costa Rica - group

System Change Leaders Week in Costa Rica

A recap of a week of profound connection

From September 22 – 30, 2023, the EatThis. System Change Leaders Week took place. With a group of 25 international leaders in horticulture, we headed for Costa Rica. Amidst its lush and vibrant landscapes, we experienced a journey of profound connections—between nature, between people, and in pursuit of a more sustainable future of food.  

With its remarkable success story of reversing deforestation, Costa Rica set the stage for our profound exploration—a testament to the potential of system change. Our backdrop wasn’t just the lush, tropical beauty but also the presence of Álvaro Umaña, the visionary behind this inspiring transformation. His insights and observations added depth to our discussions, sparking our shared hunger for connection and positive change towards.

Our journey began in the capital San Jose, with a viewing of Paved Paradise, a powerful documentary by Sugar Rush Film starring Don Alvaro Umaña. It provided us with context and inspiration to embark on this remarkable journey. In a week’s time, we set out to the mystique cloudforest of Monteverde, the secluded rainforest reserve and contrasting pineapple farms of Boca Tapada, and the mesmerising Caribbean lowlands of Sarapiqui. Our itinerary and tranportation were organized flawlessly by the Green Circle Experience.

In the carefully crafted program, within a safe, fun, and inviting context, we delved into an exploration that amplified our experience. From inspiring sessions, both in groups and one-one-one, led by Judith Schueler, to farm tours, ziplining and a night tour in the forest. Each experience sparked energy, fostered genuine connections, and generated refreshing ideas that will definitely be followed-up. This week was a testament to the transformation that can unfold when visionaries, educators, and advocates come together in pursuit of a shared mission.

Hungry for Connection

What truly captures the essence of our journey are the voices of our participants. As Marcin Krasoń put it, “Since breakfast, only 15 minutes have passed, but I am already hungry again. Hungry for connection.”

Check out what other participants had to say in our captivating video below:

Five valuable insights

Our process leader, Judith Schueler, shares five insights about our week:

  • Embrace what is already there
    “In Costa Rica we experienced overwhelming biodiversity, which inspired us to think from the perspective that everything is already there,” Judith says with passion. “When you embrace this wealth, you discover – often unexpectedly – a wealth of talent and ideas that enable the acceleration of sustainable food production. The fun and inspiration that comes from this is amazing!”
  • Listen actively
    Judith: “One of the most powerful experiences was the moment we found ourselves in the dark forest, simply listening to the sounds around us. The roar of frogs, the falling of a leaf and the singing of the cicadas. I wondered: how often do we actually listen to each other? It was precisely the conversations in which people gave each other space, by listening sincerely, that were most appreciated by the participants.”
  • Take the first step
    “Former Costa Rican Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Alvaro Umaña, played a crucial role in the country’s reforestation program in the late 1980s,” said Judith. “At the time, he did not have large-scale system change in mind, as he told the participants. He simply took the steps that were necessary, such as connecting different ministries and organizations to work together against deforestation. Umaña now looks back with pride on the transition that the government has achieved. Simply starting requires both courage and humility, qualities that the 72-year-old former minister still embodies.”
  • Live your values
    Judith: “The most impressive encounters occurred when people told stories from their hearts. I think back to the proud farmer who turned his land into an ecotourism destination, a participant who had the courage to show his own vulnerability, and a hotel owner who recognized the knowledge and skills of the indigenous people in his food story. It was precisely these stories that led to the most candid exchange of ideas.”
  • Connect
    “System change and leadership start with a deep-seated desire for connection. Opening up to others is the key to creating connections between social issues and the greenhouse horticulture sector. This insight emerged in Costa Rica as a powerful collective conclusion.

It was a valuable week in which everyone went home with their own insights. In addition, plans have been made to work on the challenges of greenhouse horticulture in relation to society based on underlying values. Judith: “It is special to see that there is room for reflection and time in a different environment. This creates wonderful new initiatives and contacts. Eatthis. has created this space in Costa Rica, and it was wonderful to be able to contribute to it, representing ACCEZ. Judith concludes: “what an adventure!”

From inspiration to action

As the sun sets on this unforgettable journey, it marks not an end but a beginning. The ideas that arose this week are the seeds of transformation, ready to take root and flourish.

In the coming weeks and months, we will diligently follow up on these connections, ideas, and inspirations, turning them into tangible action steps. Our mission is just gaining momentum, and we invite you to be part of this exciting journey.

Stay informed about our latest news, updates, and the stories that will unfold by following our news articles and social media channels. Together, we are paving the path to a more sustainable future.