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The co-benefits of engaging local people as community researchers to provide evidence for ‘bottom-up’ policymaking

Version 2 2024-04-11, 13:51
Version 1 2024-04-11, 09:33
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posted on 2024-04-11, 13:51 authored by Hannah Gardiner, Maria Roughton

Problematic power asymmetries in the food system are well documented (Blythman, 2005; Clapp, 2020, 2021; Nestle, 2013). Bottom-up forms of food governance, such as urban food policies, can ‘rescale’ control and power to local level, engaging civil society voices and exploring holistic solutions (Brand et al., 2019; Marsden and Morley, 2014; Moragues-Faus and Morgan, 2015). Nonetheless, such initiatives don’t necessarily result in good governance (Zerbian and de Luis Romero, 2021), and there can be disconnects between local authority and individual or household priorities (Blake, 2019).


So how can we shape new ecologies of public participation, enabling bottom up solutions to emerge and be realised? One proposal is engaging local people as community researchers to deliver research in their own communities (Pettinger et al., 2023). FoodSEqual is a UKRI funded project experimenting with this model; employing community food researchers (CFRs) in four Southern UK locations. Through investigating the CFRs experiences, we found the model itself can produce co-benefits useful for food systems transformation. These include that the CFRs build relationships within their communities and capacities to communicate with decision makers. These could be seen as ‘linking’, ‘bonding’ and ‘bridging’ forms of social capital, which contribute to community resilience (Aldrich and Meyer, 2015). It can also more broadly contribute to community cultural wealth (Yosso, 2005), as CFRs can increase their capacities to navigate institutions and resist the status quo, and increase their ‘aspirational capital’. However, the exact outcomes are contextual, depending on the organisations, individuals, and situations.

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