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Imagining transformative futures: participatory foresight for food systems change
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre. Wageningen University, Netherlands.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6441-374X
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Number of Authors: 52018 (English)In: Ecology & society, ISSN 1708-3087, E-ISSN 1708-3087, Vol. 23, no 2, article id 16Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Transformations inherently involve systems change and because of the political nature of change, are subject to contestation. A potentially effective strategy to further transformative change that builds on interdisciplinary, multiactor, and multiscalepractices and values is the use of foresight. Foresight covers a wide range of methods to systematically investigate the future. Foresight exercises offer collaborative spaces and have the potential to conceptualize and even initiate transformative change. But there is no clear understanding of the possibilities and limitations of foresight in this regard. This explorative paper builds on foresight and sociology and interrogates the role of foresight in transformative change, building on four cases. These cases are embedded in different contexts and characterized by different organizational approaches and constellations of actors. Nevertheless, they share the common goal of transformative food systems change. By reflecting on the processes that play a role in foresight workshops, we analyze what created conditions for transformative change in these four empirical cases. We have operationalized these conditions by distinguishing layers in the structuring processes that influence the impact of the foresight process. Based on this analysis, we conclude that there are three roles, ranging from modest to more ambitious, that foresight can play in transformative change: preconceptualization of change; offering an avenue for the creation of new actor networks; and creation of concrete strategies with a high chance of implementation. Furthermore, contributing to future design of foresight processes for transformative change, we offer some crucial points to consider before designing foresight processes. These include the role of leading change makers (including researchers), the risk of co-option by more regime-driven actors, and the ability to attract stakeholders to participate.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 23, no 2, article id 16
Keywords [en]
food systems, foresight, participatory processes, structuring processes, transformative change
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences Biological Sciences Social and Economic Geography
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-158183DOI: 10.5751/ES-10054-230216ISI: 000437397400020OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-158183DiVA, id: diva2:1234125
Available from: 2018-07-23 Created: 2018-07-23 Last updated: 2018-12-20Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Shaping sustainable food systems: Local participation in addressing global challenges
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Shaping sustainable food systems: Local participation in addressing global challenges
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The current unsustainable trajectory of food systems puts the social and ecological processes and functions on which human flourishing depends at risk. This last decade has seen, on one hand, continued insistence on transformative action and on the other, uncertainty and instability with respect to traditional, established institutions, such as the state. As a response, new configurations of actors are aiming to participate in food system governance. New governance arrangements that increasingly lean on civic actors are considered as windows of opportunity, but their possible pitfalls have received less attention. This thesis seeks to understand and explain how the participation of new actors in the food system contributes to transformative change towards sustainable food systems. In order to achieve this, this thesis develops and applies a novel interdisciplinary approach, which combines: a food systems perspective, theories concerning food system governance, transformation, participation and the creation of transformative futures.

The four papers each investigate essential elements for transformative change towards sustainable food systems. Each paper represents different empirical cases, but the papers’ theories build on each other. Paper I starts by setting out a transdisciplinary understanding of food systems in terms of structure and dynamics beyond existing frameworks, built on co-design through a science-policy dialogue. It unpacks the idea of sustainable food systems across four elements: nutrition and diet, economic impacts, environmental impacts, and social equity. Paper II explores food systems change, through the case of food banks in Europe; civil initiatives that address food poverty by handing out surplus food parcels. By comparing initiatives from the Netherlands, Italy and Ireland, their transformative impact on food systems is reviewed. Paper III goes on to interrogate the role of participation in change processes. It does this through an assessment of the extent to which participation is properly executed in policy processes that aim to democratise and ‘open-up’ the making of an Urban Food Strategy. It does so by comparing the case of Eindhoven, the Netherlands and Exeter, United Kingdom. Finally, paper IV is focused on how imagined futures affect participatory change processes. It focuses on the use of future-oriented participatory methods, foresight, and their implications for transformative change. The paper contributes to the field of foresight by formulating several levels of ambition for transformative change associated with foresight processes, and a number of different roles for the researcher to take in processes of change. 

The papers establish a new understanding of food systems, followed by insights into food systems change, the role of participation in change processes, and how imagined futures affect this participation. Together, they demonstrate the benefits of buildingon food system knowledges from, from different spheres – i.e. public, private and civil as well as across different scientific research disciplines. The thesis concludes that a concrete, actionable understanding of how participatory processes focused on present and future food systems, contribute to transformative change in food systems.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, 2018. p. 55
Keywords
food systems, sustainability, food governance, transformative change, participatory processes, participation, civil society, niche level, food policy, urban food, urban agriculture, food poverty, imagined futures, foresight
National Category
Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-160713 (URN)978-91-7797-478-9 (ISBN)978-91-7797-479-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-11-15, Vivi Täckholmsalen (Q-salen), NPQ-Huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Manuscript.

Available from: 2018-10-23 Created: 2018-10-02 Last updated: 2019-01-15Bibliographically approved

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