Melissa Benn
Melissa Benn

Melissa Benn

Hello! I’m curious and passionate about a lot of things; fighting the climate crisis, pivoting how we interact with our food, systems thinking & mapping, futurism, and why Belgian beer tastes so much better than any other beer.

I first became interested in the world of agriculture & food systems after high school, when I took a gap year before college to travel the US with Americorps NCCC. Through a friendship with what can only be described as a vegan punk, I discovered a passion that would take me through designing my own major at Duke, kicking my career off in international development, returning to school to get my MBA at Oxford, and pivoting into early-stage start-ups & AI. International development allowed me to travel around the world (including 8 African countries), meet incredibly inspiring people, and learn how to pick a parasite out of my big toe (hint: sterilize the needle first). It also brought me head-to-head with the power structures at play, and the realization that the industry operates within the confines of neocolonialism. Wrapping my head around a complete industry change, I took a pause to get my MBA from the University of Oxford.

Over the last ten years, I’ve worked within a variety of organizations: government contracting, a private foundation, consulting firms, nonprofits, and early-stage tech start-ups (currently I’m the Founding Head of Customer Success at Pioneer).

As a mission-driven individual, I’m on a path to discover as much as I can, think in the open, and expose myself to newness.

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If you’re interested in similar things, don’t hesitate to reach out by LinkedIn DM.

Recent writing

🥅 On Setting Personal Goals

🏥 Therapy as Urgent Care

📖 The 12 Books I Read in 6 Months of Unemployment

🤖 Lessons from Two Months in AI

🥩 Cultivated Meat and Vertical Farming: Navigating the Trough of Disillusionment

✍️ On Writing Out Loud

Selected external writing

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The Future of Food Systems: Food Waste & B4Waste

Skoll Centre · Apr 21, 2022

Why do we except huge amounts of food waste as "business as usual"? How could we disrupt this system to create a greener food system?

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Sustainability Pledges & Corporate Accountability

Skoll Centre · Dec 14, 2021

What do sustainability pledges in the corporate sector do poorly and what do they do well? Are they valuable, or a tool for greenwashing?

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The Case for Climate Optimism

Skoll Centre · Nov 2, 2021

What innovations are there to be excited by in a world that is being increasingly disrupted by climate change? Should we be hopeful?

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Digitizing the Agricultural Value Chain: 6 Lessons from the development of the Agrnoavti App

Marketlinks · Mar 11, 2021

How do you create an app for farmers in Georgia? How can future designers duplicate their success?

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Beyond Traditional Gender Lens Investing: An Intersectional Approach

FSFW · Apr 15, 2020

Is traditional gender lens investing doing enough to solve inequality? How can we go a step beyond?

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Looking for Equity after COVID-19? Prioritize African Women.

FSFW · Jan 26, 2020

How do we prioritize community interventions post pandemic? How do we adapt existing infrastructure in Malawi to provide gender-sensitive solutions?

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Inspiring Agricultural Innovation and Transformation

FSFW · Nov 25, 2019

What’s new & innovative in agricultural transformation in Malawi?

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Meet the 2018 Youth Agri-Prenuer Pitch Competition Winners

FSFW · Feb 25, 2019

Who won the 2018 Youth Agri-Preneur Pitch competitions in Malawi?

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Supporting Healthy Digital Platform Competition in the Georgian Agriculture Market

Marketlinks · Aug 18, 2018

How do you fund innovation and creation in Georgia without prematurely selecting a winner?

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Ag & Food Salons

During COVID, a group of 4 women dispersed throughout the food & ag world got together to start our own journal club where we shared news, articles, thought pieces, podcasts, and more of what inspired us in the big messy world of ag & food systems.

Early 2023 we started up again, expanding our membership to more amazing, interesting women. Check out our notes, reflections, and recommendations on our Ag & Food Salon page.

Thanks for reading!

— Melissa

Due to a quirk in how Notion links to pages, I’ve hidden this page down here. It’s the same links as above. A song I’m enjoying right now, for your troubles.

More writingsAg & Food Salons