What to expect of a Summit Dialogue event

The standardized approach to Food Systems Summit Dialogues enable different stakeholders to come together to consider and discuss their roles in food systems with others. Through a progression of Dialogues, stakeholders are able to agree on how they will work together to create food systems that are both sustainable and equitable, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, and suited to the needs of our future world and her people.

Each Dialogue event has:

  • A Convenor who is responsible for planning, organizing and executing the Dialogue. The Convenor is ultimately responsible for the final submission of the official Dialogue Feedback form.
  • A Curator who presides over the event including welcoming participants, introducing high-level guests and describing the purpose of the Dialogue. The Curator will subsequently summarize the outcomes from the different discussion groups.
  • A Facilitator per discussion group ensuring that all participants have an opportunity
    to contribute meaningfully and have their perspectives listened to by others.

A Dialogue event features two core elements

  • Discussion Session when discussions take place in smaller groups
  • Feedback Session by each group Facilitator for all participants

Although there is no optimal size or duration, the objective should always be meaningful exchanges between all participants. In this regard, it is recommended that the Discussion Session is 60 to 90 minutes.

Recommended run of show


The Dialogue Curator welcomes participants and outlines the objectives of the Dialogue and how they connect to the Food Systems Summit. The agenda for the Dialogue is presented and (if applicable) high-level speakers are introduced.

High-level Introductions

The purpose of a Dialogue is to give everyone a chance to participate actively in discussions, not to listen to presentations. Short introductory statements by high level speakers can be a particularly powerful way to open and set the tone for a Dialogue. These statements should illustrate the focus of the Dialogue and provide vital framing and context for the participants. Speakers should not talk about their own responsibilities or achievements. There should be no more than three speakers at the beginning. Opening speeches should run for a maximum of 5 minutes each with a maximum of two easily readable visual aids or slides.

Curator Briefing

The Curator then speaks, building on the speeches. Firstly, the Curator provides a short and precise introduction to the challenges of aligning different food systems with the full range of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Curator also indicates aspects of food systems which may need to change. Secondly, the Curator offers a brief introduction to the Dialogue method and the Food Systems Summit Principles of Engagement. Thirdly, the Curator outlines the Discussion Topics and introduces the Facilitators (as well as notetakers if they have been appointed). Finally, the Curator describes the technical details of the Discussion Session (this is important for online Dialogues).

Discussion Session: Discussion Groups, Discussion Topics and prompt questions

During each Dialogue, participants are encouraged to explore how their food systems should function by 2030. They do this in Discussion Groups that meet for at least 60 minutes. Discussion Groups each receive a Discussion Topic which indicate a vision of food systems in the future.

A Dialogue Facilitator is appointed to support the exploration and exchanges in each Discussion Group. The role of the Facilitator in the Discussion Groups is important to ensure all voices are heard and respected. During the Discussion Session the Facilitator encourages participants to connect, examine the topic, explore challenges, consider options, establish the extent of agreement and identify areas of divergence. The Facilitator ensures that all participants have an opportunity to engage and encourages the development of outcomes based on convergence. The Facilitator also takes note of, and encourages respect for, divergent views.

Members of each Discussion Group are offered some questions to prompt their discussions. These prompt questions encourage an emphasis on what should happen in the coming three years to achieve the vision of the future as set out in the Discussion Topic.

A note-taker assists the Facilitator in keeping a record of the discussion and outcomes. It is important that the Facilitator invites each participant in the discussion group to introduce themselves briefly at the start of the discussion and to say goodbye at the end. This is referred to as checking-in and checking-out and is an important way of encouraging respect and clarity of purpose.

Note: If the participants in a Discussion Group are meeting face-to-face they sit together around a small table at the Dialogue event venue. If they are meeting virtually, they can take advantage of the breakout room facilities available in internet-based video-conferencing services (such as zoom, teams or similar).

Discussion Topics

The Discussion Topic given to each Discussion Group is usually a statement which briefly indicates how food systems will function in 10 years’ time. It is an ambitious projection of the future and it cannot be achieved through immediate action. It provokes the participants in the Discussion Group to think beyond the current situation and to imagine something that is altogether better. The Discussion Topic acts as a common objective for all the participants in the Discussion Group, encouraging them to move beyond their current affiliations and preoccupations. It offers a common challenge to members of the Discussion Group and helps encourage a shared purpose. Without an ambitious and forward-looking Discussion Topic there is a risk that participants in a Discussion Group will simply recycle existing thoughts and restate well-established positions. Considering pathways to a better future can, at times, be uncomfortable. It is, however, a vital step in shifting existing patterns of thought and identifying actions that are necessary. Examples:

  • National agriculture and food policies promote the production of affordable nutritious, sustainably produced food while remunerating fairly all farmers and food workers.
  • Comprehensive traceability systems and appropriate labelling ensure all consumers have access to clear, reliable information about how and where food is produced, empowering them to make informed choices.
  • Nationally Determined Contributions to climate action (NDCs) are based on nature-positive agriculture practices that are developed and tested by farmers
  • Fair, safe and sustainable supply chains ensure a responsible use of natural resources and
    a reduction of food loss and waste, making sustainability the easy choice for consumers.
  • Trade policies (import and export) facilitate access to affordable, safe and nutritious food for all, while contributing to countries’ economic and commercial objectives, as well as resilient livelihoods for food producers.

Prompt questions

Prompt questions are designed to help members of a Discussion Group explore their Discussion Topic. They encourage participants to identify the actions which, if implemented in the next three years, will have the greatest impact in achieving the future state (as set out in the Discussion Topic). The prompt questions help the Discussion Group to focus on what can be achieved in the current context. Without the prompt questions and careful facilitation, the members of a Discussion Group may find themselves talking at cross purposes or caught up in hypothetical scenarios. Examples:

  • Who will need to be involved?
  • What actions might be needed?
  • How will these actions come to fruition?
  • What impact could these outcomes have throughout the whole food system?
  • How could my organization support these changes?
  • What are the tensions we have identified and how can we manage them?

Feedback Session

After the allocated time for facilitated discussion, participants return to the larger meeting (the plenary). Participants may be frustrated to have to stop in the middle of the discussion, to which the Facilitator encourages them to see this as a positive sign and to agree to continue their Dialogue over the coming days and weeks, perhaps staying connected through a WhatsApp group or similar.

At the start of the Feedback Session the Curator thanks the groups for their engagement and invites each Facilitator to report back briefly (less than 5 minutes each) to the full plenary on the outcome of discussions and the general feeling in the discussion group. [During the discussion session the Facilitator may agree with the group that someone else in the group be invited to feedback; The Facilitator should ensure that all concur with this decision]. The output of the Discussion Group will be set out in a written form by the notetaker. The Facilitator should pick out a maximum of three main points from the discussion, describe the feeling of the group, perhaps invite other members of the group to comment briefly if they wish (staying within the allotted time that has been given). The Curator should note main points from each discussion group’s feedback. The Curator should be ready to make connections between the different discussion group feedback statements at the end of the feedback session, after all Facilitators have reported. The Curator may also invite questions and reflections from other participants more generally.


The Close of the Dialogue is important. By the time they leave, participants should appreciate the ways in which they have advanced their collective thinking through Dialogue. They should reflect on the value of exploring issues with the perspectives of others as well as their own. They should think about the potential for Dialogue as a way to secure greater agreement among stakeholders on ways to shape the future direction of food systems so that they are aligned with the full range of the SDGs. The Curator should offer a short verbal summary (ten minutes) of the main points that emerged in the Dialogue event (usually five points).

In the summary, the Curator should reflect on the feelings in the Discussion Groups and the plenary and emphasise that divergence is expected. What matters is that divergence is managed with respect and understanding and is not dismissed as irrelevant. The Curator should remind all participants that there is no attribution of comments made to individuals outside of the Dialogue event including via social or print media. Participants are invited to keep in touch with each other, to arrange meetings with others in their stakeholder group to share their impressions and to prepare for the next stage of Dialogue. The Curator invites a high-level speaker to offer final remarks and to close the Dialogue. The Curator and the Convenor prepare for Dialogue outputs to submit as part of the Official Feedback Form.