Scaled Innovation for Small-scale Fisheries

How can we organize a system of misaligned behaviors in fisheries before overfishing goes too far?
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Fisheries and aquaculture are the foundation of both livelihoods and food security for billions of people around the world. Coupled with rising global demand for fish, this dependency has intensified overfishing.

Scientific evidence makes it clear that if current trends continue, the global marine ecosystem risks collapse. Meanwhile, as fish stocks grow scarce, livelihood opportunities for those involved in the fisheries value-chain also dwindle, increasing their socioeconomic vulnerability.

This issue is considered a “wicked” challenge, with a large set of players that have conflicting motivations and demands, complex feedback loops and driving dynamics, behaviors not aligned with long-term welfare, and a system stretched beyond regeneration rates. 


As the Innovation Partner for Rockefeller’s Oceans & Fisheries Initiative (O&F), ChangeLabs worked on identifying robust strategies to produce scaled impact in local fishery management and help secure the lives of vulnerable people. For 9 months, a team worked with the O&F team and their partners to frame the challenges, identify new approaches, and design high-impact solutions.

The ChangeLabs team focused on three main core objectives:

1. Co-Create Scaled Strategies: ChangeLabs worked with the O&F team, a learning partner, a scale strategy partner, Rockefeller’s grantees, domain and sector-level experts, field practitioners, institutional actors, and funders. The entire group met during two multi-day summits that were specifically designed for the project.

2. Develop Opportunities to Influence Decision Makers: ChangeLabs analyzed how main actors approach the challenges inherent in fisheries management and assessed potential innovation opportunities.

3. Provide Input About the Design of Innovation Labs: ChangeLabs' focus was to help evolve the appropriate and effective role of Innovation Partners through a "learning by doing" approach.


Four high-potential intervention strategies emerged from the summits and activities. The ChangeLabs team revised, stress-tested, and significantly refined these strategies, with feedback from relevant context experts. Each strategy sprung from a co-creative process with experts and practitioners, engaged a diverse set of domains, and merged high-level strategic concerns with ground-level realities.

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