By approaching food safety culture (FSC) as organizational culture, a recent study funded by the Danish Agriculture Food Council has developed a Change Agent Model for FSC. The model illustrates the important underlying mechanisms that an individual or group can work through to become culture change agents and drivers for FSC development.
With the intent of bringing unconscious underlying assumptions to awareness to reveal participants' process of transforming their underlying assumptions, researchers conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with and trained participants using a therapeutic intervention technique known as MyElite Relationship Therapy. Data was collected over a three-year period and participants were employees within the Food Safety and Veterinary department at the Danish Agriculture and Food Council.
The study identified five underlying mechanisms that participants experienced as they trained and engaged to actively change their own individual culture and the culture of the department:
- Accepting senses as the internal navigator: The ability to gain insights into the present through sensory awareness
- Embracing one's emotions unconditionally: Accepting oneself and emotions to form better relationships, trust, and social capital with others
- Witnessing oneself and surroundings: The ability to observe and become aware of oneself and one’s surroundings in various contexts
- Interacting openly with others: Creating an honest and open environment that enables employees to influence people and culture
- Practicing “Safe Harbor”: The practice of developing oneself and the surrounding culture by continuously training one's sensing abilities, and approaching emotional resistance and challenges with openness.
The participants identified Safe Harbor as the best practice to become culture change agents and lead the continuous FSC development. The Change Agent Model produced by the study illustrates the loop that individuals must be willing to engage in to create Safe Harbor in themselves and with others, thereby transforming FSC.
The therapeutic training conducted in the study was too time-consuming and/or emotionally challenging for some employees. The authors stress that the practice of addressing one’s underlying mechanisms and the surrounding FSC should be engaged in voluntarily, as enforcement may lead to more emotional resistance to change.
Overall, the study showed that working intensely and therapeutically with senses and emotions on an individual and group level can have a significant impact on the surrounding FSC by bringing underlying mechanisms to awareness.