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Adaptive Capacity in Local Food Systems: Exploring the potential of place-based food partnerships.

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posted on 2024-04-11, 09:35 authored by Callum EtchesCallum Etches

Food governance in the UK is going through a period of substantial upheaval (Lever et al. 2019; Couldson & Sonnino 2019). Traditional processes of top-down state and corporate-led decision making are being challenged by new polycentric governance architectures where non-conventional partnerships between traditional and non-traditional actors are influencing, guiding, steering, and controlling the practices, policies and institutions that determine the dynamics of local food systems (Moragues-Faus 2020; Candel 2014; Ostrom 2010). By adopting a multi-site, comparative case study approach, this paper explores how these emerging governance partnerships are contributing to, or detracting from, the capacity of local food systems to face environmental, economic, and social challenges.


Empirically, this paper adopts a socio-ecological Networked Action Situations (ASs) approach (Kimmich et al. 2023) to explore the work of 55 UK based cross-sector, place-based food partnerships. Covering a period between 2019 and 2024, it documents over 1200 actions taken within these collaborative governance spaces and assesses them analytically through an adaptive capacity framework (Carlisle & Gruby 2017; Pahl-Wostl 2009).

Initial findings point to the effectiveness of food partnerships in facilitating cross-sector collaborative action and cross-scale learning and deliberation, improving the adaptive capacity of local and regional food systems. However, the findings also point to ongoing challenges in the ability of food partnerships to navigate conflict within the food system. While there is evidence that they can prove an effective mechanism for navigating micro- level food system conflict, they are hampered by an inability to resolve macro-level disjunction.

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