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The power within social-ecological transformations: a case study of Bristol's food system, UK
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 40 credits / 60 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Urban civil society and community groups are experimenting with new ways to provide food that could reduce global dependence on industrial agriculture and make the food system more resilient in a time of change. Changing the way cities provide food is conceptualized as a social-ecological transformation because it requires a fundamental shift in the way cities connect to close-by and far away ecologies, but also a rebalancing of power relations in urban food provision. The literature identifies specific individuals or groups, so-called ‘agents of change’, as critical for igniting processes of social-ecological transformation but are seen as less important when processes and norms and rules formalise.

The aim of this thesis is to investigate whether this assumption on agents of change holds in the context of urban food provision. Bristol was selected as a critical incident case as it has progressed far in such a transformation and is institutionalising its trajectory in urban politics and civil society. Interviews with agents of change were gathered to determine who these people are and what they do when on the surface ‘power’ seems more or less equal.

The results from this study demonstrate that:

1) Institutionalisation can empower the community and its networks to become agents of change

2) The ability to transform is not an exclusive property of leaders, but is embodied by ordinary people

3) There are different types of agents of change that manifest their ability to transform resources and relations through networks.

4) Conflicts between the food movement and authorities are not to put food on the agenda, but rather to make sure community-led development is prioritised and allocated resources.

Given the right resources the food movement can support sustainable resource management and spaces for citizen planning and grassroots democracy, which could help rebalance power in the food system. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , 69 p.
Keyword [en]
social-ecological transformation, power, agency, agents of change, networks, food movement, social movements, grassroots democracy
National Category
Environmental Sciences Social Anthropology Economic Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-131670OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-131670DiVA: diva2:941531
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2016-06-22 Created: 2016-06-22 Last updated: 2016-06-22Bibliographically approved

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