Future of Fish
"A strategic, trimtab project. This is a brilliant strategic analysis of the market, a major leverage point in the system and a really important design perspective.” – Kenny Ausubel, 2012 Challenge Juror
– Kenny Ausubel, 2012 Challenge Juror
Future of Fish
WEBSITE: Future of Fish
BFI Statement: 2012 Runner-Up, Future of Fish
Critical Need Being Addressed
If we do not reduce worldwide overfishing, scientists predict the end of commercial fishing by 2050, a catastrophic event for the 200 million employed by the industry and the 1billion who rely on fish as their primary protein. We help innovate to avoid this fate.
Description of Initiative
The FoF incubator has been operational for 15 months. We support 15 entrepreneurs and have six active projects that cover industry stuck points ranging from traceability technology to supply chain re-design using forward contracts and cost-plus pricing, strategies that bring stability to other commodity markets. Our work is informed by an analysis of the complex, systemic problem of overfishing that surfaced the "holes" in our collective efforts to solve it. That research included sending anthropologists into the supply chain to identify where change was getting stuck. We visited 8 sites on 4 continents, observing processing facilities in China, fish farms in Canada, and distribution centers in the United States.
Our insights led us to tackle the hurdles that prevent the middle of the supply chain from becoming part of the solution to overfishing, including a lack of perceived incentives to innovate, a culture that inhibits long-term vision, a value proposition that is at odds with the reality of seafood scarcity, and inadequate inventory tracking and warehousing technology that result in between 30 and 70 percent of fish being mislabeled in the marketplace. We believe that by launching and supporting a group of networked entrepreneurs whose ideas, technology and practices re-set standards for the supply chain, we can drive the market to adopt more responsible approaches to profitmaking. By connecting entrepreneurs at different levels of the supply chain, we foster a cooperative network whose ability to partner makes its impact more than the sum of its parts.
BFI Assessment Summary
Founded in 2010, Future of Fish (FoF) brings to light the power of combining rigorous design thinking with a comprehensive systems view of a given problem space. Cheryl Dahle, founder of FoF, is applying this approach to the massive crisis of overharvesting that threatens the world’s wild marine fisheries with collapse. She has developed pragmatic processes for understanding this complex system and is incubating innovative market based models that are designed to drive second order change in the sector.
The FoF team has broad experience working at the intersection of business and social change. Before launching FoF, Dahle was a director at Ashoka, where she distilled knowledge from the organization’s network of 2,500 fellows in order to provide strategic insight to foundations and corporations. Dahle spent more than a decade writing about social entrepreneurship. She founded and led Fast Company’s Social Capitalist awards, a competition to surface top social entrepreneurs. As the project manager, she helped design an evaluation methodology to measure compelling models for change.
FoF was born out of a research partnership led by Cheryl Dahle which included The David and Lucile Packard Foundation (currently FoF’s primary funder), Ashoka Change Makers, and Central, a design strategy firm. Through this process Dahle learned that over the last decade funding and policy change was directed, almost exclusively, toward two areas: adoption of sustainable fishing practices and reducing consumption of overharvested fish at the retail level. She also discovered that the middle of the supply chain, namely fish processing and distribution, was a largely ignored stuck point at the heart of the fisheries crisis.
So Dahle decided to put her extensive knowledge of social entrepreneurship to work by incubating a “cohort” of “co–entrepreneurs” consisting of industry pioneers and innovators, (16 so far with more on the waiting list), that were selected for their ability to transform this neglected part of the supply chain. Instead of just supporting each entrepreneur on an individual basis in growing their own business, as is typical in most incubators, FoF leads its cohort, representing all levels of the supply chain, through processes that amplify the success of others in the group. This gives FoF the ability to foster greater industry change than any one business could accomplish alone.
The clarity and strength of the FoF strategy, its pioneering quality, its counterintuitive, out-of-the- box insights, its holistic methodology, deeply impressed the review team and are all evident in the application and the interview. All this adds up to FoF having the potential to be a critical trim tab in transforming the multi-billion dollar fishing industry. The interview also revealed that Dahle’s underlying strategy can be readily applied to other sectors as well and embodies the Challenge criteria in an exemplary way rarely encountered by the review team. Furthermore, the organization that Cheryl Dahle is designing as the vehicle for FoF looks like it is destined to be an important model for 21st century civil society.