Global Crisis Mitigated

Global private and public sector collaboration is used to develop a strategy in response to a global economic crisis impacting 25 million farmers worldwide. The issue was complex with crisis management, issues management and grand challenge strategy components.

The Challenge

An industry faced a global crisis as low commodity prices, oversupply, and decreasing product quality dramatically reduced the incomes of the 25 million farmers worldwide. The industry also faced mounting attacks from NGOs concerned about the livelihoods of the farmers. The challenge was to develop options and steps to help ensure an adequate, sustainable commodity supply in the range of qualities demanded by consumers, while addressing social and ecological needs.


Robert Nelson designed a problem-solving think tank (Global Summit) that brought together 36 thought leaders throughout the global supply chain. Leaders were invited from Asia, Africa, North America, Europe and South America. The Summit was held over two days. Harvard Business School published a case study on the process used to address the problem.

In addition to receiving briefing materials prior to the Global Summit, the participants were provided with relevant factual information regarding the state of the crisis and some environmental influencers. The presentations were designed to provide factual information. Care was taken to ensure the presentations didn’t drive the group toward convergence prior to engaging in creative thinking exercises. Government officials, development banks executives and select private sector groups delivered the presentations.

After framing the issue and reaching consensus on a problem statement, heterogeneous groups, organized into large and small units engaged in problem-solving and strategic development sessions over a two-day period. A modified force field problem-solving model was employed.


Eight strategies were developed for the global industry’s consideration, which addressed the clearly defined problem. If adopted and executed by the industry, the impact of the current economic crisis would be reduced and the impact of future economic crisis had on the farm communities would be mitigated. The participants identified advantages and disadvantages of implementation for each strategy, along with high impact environmental forces that would be encountered should the respective strategies be pursued. Driving forces that pushed toward realizing the strategy and restraining forces that would impede strategy execution were identified.