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Crafting the future: Kyrgyz Republican Competency Center for school feeding hosts strategic planning seminar

Like any other service-rendering process, school feeding requires constant development. This is the only way for customers, in our case, primary school children, to receive high-quality service, i.e. safe, healthy, and well-balanced meals.

In the Kyrgyz Republic, the improvement of school feeding quality became possible thanks to the close cooperation between the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the Social and Industrial Foodservice Institute (SIFI). They assist the government in revamping the National School Feeding Programme for ten straight years.

Every year, partners bring new ideas and solutions to the School Meals Optimization project implemented jointly with the Kyrgyz government: from designing and installing modern equipment in school canteens to establishing a training center for cooks.

Housed by the Razzakov Kyrgyz State Technical University (KSTU), the first Republican Competency Center (RCC) in CIS opened in Bishkek in November 2022 to provide professional training to school cooks and kitchen workers and offer them a possibility to exchange experience and learn how to cook healthy school meals using modern equipment and cooking tools.

The establishment of the center aimed at outlining the development path and bringing maximum benefit. Undertaking the mission, SIFI representative and project manager Yulia Kudla headed to Bishkek to hold a seminar on strategic planning.

Innovation strategic planning methods for the new center

Participants of the seminar - representatives of the KSTU, Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic, UN WFP, and partner organizations - gathered to reach a common goal, i.e. to shape the RCC development plan for the next five years.

So many men, so many minds… What should be done to channel the discussion into meaningful activity, resolve existing problems and lead the center to success? The answer is strategic foresight.

Foresight is the ability to predict what will happen or be needed in the future. The vision is built on actual trends and conditions.

So, an attempt was made to dip into the future not to predict it but to achieve a common ground and understand what it could be like through the combined efforts of all players.

Foresight in action: how participants looked into the future

How do working meetings usually start? People come, shake hands, exchange a couple of words, and take their seats, drawing a deep breath in expectation of a dull discussion with no outcome.

Our seminar brought an entirely new attitude to a typical working meeting. It started with a roundabout discussion, which helped participants know more about each other in a friendly atmosphere that helped hit the right tune.

Upon getting acquainted with each other, the participants started “dreaming” and tried to peep five years into the future to see what the RCC will be like in 2028. After the brainstorming, a common vision for the center was drafted.

A prosperous and constantly developing hub - a platform integrating innovative educational practices and approaches, recognized at the international level and providing services to improve public catering quality, benefiting at least 1 million people.

The future is forged in present times. That is why to work on the center development plan, the participants split into three groups and started analyzing the current situation with school meals. They discussed the availability of resources for introducing hot meals in schools, figured out the organizations that could help with school feeding, and examined the legislation regulating issues related to the provision of school meals.

After a lively discussion, the seminar participants agreed that Kyrgyzstan has all the necessary conditions for school feeding development thanks to support from the government, international and local non-governmental organizations, and the legal framework.

In the next stage, the groups had to describe the global and regional processes that can affect the work of organizations engaged in school meals optimization. As a result, the following list was made: diseases associated with malnutrition (obesity, diabetes, and anemia), the uninterrupted introduction of innovative approaches to food processing and cooking; the growing popularity of healthy eating habits, etc.

Based on the abovementioned trends and available resources, the participants reached the final stage of the seminar. They compiled a step-by-step development plan to make the future a reality and understand what the Republican Competency Center could be like in 2028 without forgetting about positive or negative events that can turn the tide.

The groups developed three different scenarios, proceeding from different points of view:

  1. Optimistic — people who see new opportunities in any situation.
  2. Pessimistic — people who assess risks and possible hazards.
  3. Realistic — people who see the real picture.

RCC development forecast by 2028

Although the seminar participants had their personal viewpoints, they all agreed that competent personnel, unique educational programs, a food laboratory, a well-judged strategy, and proper financing are needed for the successful and sustainable development of the center.

In the long haul, all organizations involved in school feeding should follow common regulations to provide safe, high-quality, and well-balanced nutrition for the growing generation.

This is how a friendly environment helped people create a realistic and, at the same time, promising development plan for the Republic Competency Center.