Special Issue "Community Self-Organisation, Sustainability, and Resilience in Food Systems"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2019.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Moya Kneafsey
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University, Priory Street, Coventry, West Midlands, CV1 5FB, UK
Interests: short food chains; local and community food initiatives; reforming food systems to deliver sustainable; resilient, and socially just development; rural tourism and culture economies; participatory research methods
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Mr. Mustafa Hasanov
E-Mail
Co-Guest Editor
University of Groningen
Interests: community self-organisation; civil society and collective action; local energy initiatives; community food initiatives; food sharing initiatives; community based-participatory research; Q methodology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue considers the role of community self-organisation in relation to new landscapes of food sustainability and resilience. Recent years have seen a flourishing of community-led initiatives aiming to create systems that deliver nourishing food whilst upholding principles such as care for planetary resources, fair livelihoods for producers, food rights for consumers, and compassion for animals. Community self-organisation suggests various types of mobilisation, across multiple scales and time horizons, involving a diversity of actors and, sometimes, interplay with local authorities. Yet, many critical questions remain, for example,

  • What do self-organising communities look like, what conditions are needed for them to flourish in different contexts, and what is self-organising after all?
  • What theoretical frameworks are appropriate for extending our understanding of how community self-organisation operates?
  • What is the outlook for community self-organisation in times of austerity and increased social tension? Are self-organising communities always socially inclusive, sustainable, and resilient?
  • What principles, concepts, and worldviews underpin community self-organisation in different contexts?
  • What is the role of new technologies in enabling and fostering community self-organisation?
  • What is the role of engaged scholarship (Van den Ven 2007), ‘scholar activism’ (Tornaghi and van Dyke), and particularly food scholars in relation to community self-organisation?
  • To what extent does—or can—community self-organisation contribute to large-scale transitions towards sustainable and resilient food systems?
  • How is community self-organisation different from existing state, market, and society-led mechanisms that assist the transition to resilient food systems?

We welcome papers addressing these and related questions in a range of landscapes, including urban, rural, post-industrial, post-colonial, colonial, historical, and contemporary. We also welcome papers that address how food interlocks with self-organisation in relation to other key resources such as water, land, energy, seeds, knowledge, data, and technology across institutions, sectors, scales, and borders.

Prof. Dr. Moya Kneafsey
Mr. Mustafa Hasanov
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1700 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • community
  • self-organisation
  • food systems
  • resources
  • participation

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
From Transition to Domains of Transformation: Getting to Sustainable and Just Food Systems through Agroecology
Sustainability 2019, 11(19), 5272; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11195272 - 25 Sep 2019
Abstract
The acceleration of ecological crises has driven a growing body of thinking on sustainability transitions. Agroecology is being promoted as an approach that can address multiple crises in the food system while addressing climate change and contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals. Beyond [...] Read more.
The acceleration of ecological crises has driven a growing body of thinking on sustainability transitions. Agroecology is being promoted as an approach that can address multiple crises in the food system while addressing climate change and contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals. Beyond the more technical definition as, “the ecology of food systems”, agroecology has a fundamentally political dimension. It is based on an aspiration towards autonomy or the agency of networks of producers and citizens to self-organize for sustainability and social justice. In this article, we use the multi-level perspective (MLP) to examine agroecology transformations. Although the MLP has been helpful in conceptualizing historic transitions, there is a need to better understand: (a) the role of and potential to self-organize in the context of power in the dominant regime, and (b) how to shift to bottom-up forms of governance—a weak point in the literature. Our review analyzes the enabling and disabling conditions that shape agroecology transformations and the ability of communities to self-organize. We develop the notion of ‘domains of transformation’ as overlapping and interconnected interfaces between agroecology and the incumbent dominant regime. We present six critical domains that are important in agroecological transformations: access to natural ecosystems; knowledge and culture; systems of exchange; networks; discourse; and gender and equity. The article focuses on the dynamics of power and governance, arguing that a shift from top down technocratic approaches to bottom up forms of governance based on community-self organization across these domains has the most potential for enabling transformation for sustainability and social justice. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Boundary Negotiations in a Self-Organized Grassroots-Led Food Network: The Case of REKO in Finland
Sustainability 2019, 11(15), 4137; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11154137 - 31 Jul 2019
Abstract
Self-organization is a term that is increasingly used to describe how engaged citizens come together to create sustainable food systems at the local community level. Yet, there is a lack of understanding of what this self-organizing activity actually means. While previous literature has [...] Read more.
Self-organization is a term that is increasingly used to describe how engaged citizens come together to create sustainable food systems at the local community level. Yet, there is a lack of understanding of what this self-organizing activity actually means. While previous literature has addressed self-organization as an outcome of building consensus and a collective intentionality shared by the members of a group, we focus on the complex social processes involved when people with a diverse set of interests and motivations interact in the food network. In this study, we analyze what kinds of boundary negotiations emerge when grassroots-led food networks scale up. Our embedded single case study focuses on a REKO (‘REjäl KOnsumtion’, meaning ‘fair consumption’ in English) network in Finland comprising distributed local food groups and three types of actors: consumers, producers, and local administrators. We examine a conflict that arose within the REKO network in May–June 2016 when a small group of actors demanded that all local groups should implement similar rules, principles, and ethical standards. Our findings illustrate how moral, geographic, market, and power boundaries emerge in a self-organized grassroots-led food network. We further explicate the challenges that may appear within a self-organized grassroots-led food network, as it grows in scale and scope. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Role of Culture in the Self-Organisation of Coastal Fishers Sustaining Coastal Landscapes: A Case Study in Estonia
Sustainability 2019, 11(14), 3951; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11143951 - 20 Jul 2019
Abstract
The cultural sustainability of coastal landscapes relies heavily on the community’s self-organisation in fish foodways. The theoretical framework concentrates on cultural sustainability, foodways, land–sea interactions, and community of practice. The data presented in this article were part of the SustainBaltic Integrated Coastal Zone [...] Read more.
The cultural sustainability of coastal landscapes relies heavily on the community’s self-organisation in fish foodways. The theoretical framework concentrates on cultural sustainability, foodways, land–sea interactions, and community of practice. The data presented in this article were part of the SustainBaltic Integrated Coastal Zone Management plan, consisting mainly of semi-structured and focus group interviews with stakeholders, supported by background information from various available sources. The results are outlined by descriptions of self-organisation, community matters, and food forming cultural sustainability of coastal landscapes. The self-organisation in community of practice among coastal fishers is slowly progressing by negotiating common resources and voicing concerns about ecological, economic, and social sustainability. Foodways, which comprise the indispensable ingredient for sustaining a way of life that has produced traditional coastal landscapes, are always evolving. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Community Self-Organizing and the Urban Food Commons in Berlin and New York
Sustainability 2019, 11(13), 3641; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11133641 - 02 Jul 2019
Abstract
Food sharing and food commons have both been raised as possible solutions to unsustainable and unjust urban food systems. This paper draws upon ethnographic research conducted in Berlin and New York to examine self-organizing in community food initiatives that are to varying degrees [...] Read more.
Food sharing and food commons have both been raised as possible solutions to unsustainable and unjust urban food systems. This paper draws upon ethnographic research conducted in Berlin and New York to examine self-organizing in community food initiatives that are to varying degrees creating urban food commons by opening up urban space and its fruits to community use, sharing, and governance. In New York, the organization 596 Acres has developed an interactive map of vacant land to help community members self-organize to gain access to, steward, and protect the “lots in their life” for urban growing. In Berlin, the organization foodsharing.de has developed an interactive web platform to decentralize and democratize the logistics of food rescue and redistribution through peer-to-peer gifting and community fridges. The paper examines the possibilities and limitations of socio-technical innovations as “tools for commoning,” for self-organizing imagination, access, care, and governance in urban food commons. The paper contributes to debates on the role of socio-technical innovation in urban food sharing and practices of self-organizing in urban food commons. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Exploring the Role of Community Self-Organisation in the Creation and Creative Dissolution of a Community Food Initiative
Sustainability 2019, 11(11), 3170; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11113170 - 05 Jun 2019
Abstract
Community food initiatives are gaining momentum. Across various geographical contexts, community food initiatives are self-organising, providing communities with inspiration, knowledge and the opportunity to work towards responsible and socially acceptable transformations in food systems. In this article, we explore how self-organisation manifests itself [...] Read more.
Community food initiatives are gaining momentum. Across various geographical contexts, community food initiatives are self-organising, providing communities with inspiration, knowledge and the opportunity to work towards responsible and socially acceptable transformations in food systems. In this article, we explore how self-organisation manifests itself in the daily activities and developments of community food initiatives. Through the conceptual lens of community self-organisation, we aim to provide a more detailed understanding of how community food initiatives contribute to broader and transformational shifts in food systems. Drawing on a multi-method approach, including community-based participatory research, interviews and observations, this article follows the creation and creative dissolution of the Free Café—a surplus food sharing initiative in Groningen, the Netherlands, which in the eye of the public remains unified, but from the volunteers’ perspectives split up into three different initiatives. The results suggest that community self-organisation accommodates differing motivations and experiences embedded in the everyday collective performances of community rationalities and aspirations. This article also points to the changing individual and collective perspectives, vulnerabilities and everyday politics within community food initiatives. This paper contributes to emerging debates on community self-organising within food systems and the potential of community initiatives to promote broader social realignments. Full article
Open AccessArticle
More than Just Food: Food Insecurity and Resilient Place Making through Community Self-Organising
Sustainability 2019, 11(10), 2942; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11102942 - 23 May 2019
Abstract
This research considers the relationship between neoliberalism, poverty and food insecurity and how this impacts on the ability of a community to self-organise and become resilient. Specifically, it examines shocks imposed by the implementation of austerity policy and neoliberal welfare reform and the [...] Read more.
This research considers the relationship between neoliberalism, poverty and food insecurity and how this impacts on the ability of a community to self-organise and become resilient. Specifically, it examines shocks imposed by the implementation of austerity policy and neoliberal welfare reform and the longer term individualisation that gives rise to greater vulnerability to such shocks and how community organisations encourage different levels of resilience in the face of this. Original findings from case study and qualitative analysis are twofold. Firstly, food insecurity effects are not only hunger and poor health experienced at the individual scale, but they also extend into places through the loss of social networks, erosion of community spaces, denigration of local foodscapes and collective de-skilling that limits the community resources needed for self-organising. Secondly, the ways in which food support is provided in communities has implications for how communities can regain the resources they need to be able to enact resilience in the face of trouble and difficulty. As such, the research demonstrates that self-organising is more than free-time activity; in these conditions, the capacity to self-organise is a vital community asset that is necessary for building resilience and social sustainability. As such, policy responses to poverty should take a multi-scale approach. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Collaborative Concession in Food Movement Networks: The Uneven Relations of Resource Mobilization
Sustainability 2019, 11(10), 2881; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11102881 - 21 May 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
How do food movements prioritize and work to accomplish their varied and often conflicting social change goals at the city scale? Our study investigates the Denver food movement with a mixed methods social network analysis to understand how organizations navigate differences in power [...] Read more.
How do food movements prioritize and work to accomplish their varied and often conflicting social change goals at the city scale? Our study investigates the Denver food movement with a mixed methods social network analysis to understand how organizations navigate differences in power and influence vis-à-vis resource exchange. We refer to this uneven process with the analytical concept of “collaborative concession”. The strategic resource mobilization of money, land, and labor operates through certain collaborative niches, which constitute the priorities of the movement. Among these are poverty alleviation and local food production, which are facilitated by powerful development, education, and health organizations. Therefore, food movement networks do not offer organizations equal opportunity to carry out their priorities. Concession suggests that organizations need to lose something to gain something. Paradoxically, collaboration can produce a resource gain. Our findings provide new insights into the uneven process by which food movement organizations—and city-wide food movements overall—mobilize. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Understanding Transience and Participation in University Student-Led Food Gardens
Sustainability 2019, 11(10), 2788; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11102788 - 15 May 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
In an increasingly mobile world, transience is becoming the norm. Sustainable community food initiatives, therefore, must organise to withstand high turnover of volunteers. Using a case study of the United Kingdom’s National Union of Students’ food growing scheme in universities, this paper aims [...] Read more.
In an increasingly mobile world, transience is becoming the norm. Sustainable community food initiatives, therefore, must organise to withstand high turnover of volunteers. Using a case study of the United Kingdom’s National Union of Students’ food growing scheme in universities, this paper aims to map the causes and effects of short-term, irregular, and low participation using a causal loop diagram to understand how to mitigate their negative impacts and improve participation. Data was gathered through interviews, workshops, photovoice, a fishbowl discussion, and a reflective diary. We found three amplifying feedback loops increasing short-term, irregular and low participation, their causes, and their impacts. These feedback loops were precariously buffered by a continuous in-flow of new potential participants each academic year. We also found that the stakeholders of these gardens conceptualised time akin to both temporary and permanent organisations, and these differing conceptualisations were a source of tension. Furthermore, although ‘organisational amnesia’ was a problem, the gardens were still learningful spaces. We recommend both upstream and downstream solutions are implemented to buffer the impacts of transience and suggest that university and students’ union staff could play a crucial and subtle supporting role. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Self-Organisation in Urban Community Gardens: Autogestion, Motivations, and the Role of Communication
Sustainability 2019, 11(9), 2659; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11092659 - 09 May 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Urban gardens are continuously negotiated, contested, and remade. One of the primary ways that these spaces are negotiated is through the ways that communities self-organise to manage them. Drawing on critical urban scholarship, this article explores the ways in which the dynamics of [...] Read more.
Urban gardens are continuously negotiated, contested, and remade. One of the primary ways that these spaces are negotiated is through the ways that communities self-organise to manage them. Drawing on critical urban scholarship, this article explores the ways in which the dynamics of self-organisation in urban gardens both shape and are shaped by the spatial development of the sites. Reflecting on two cycles of participatory video-making with urban gardeners in Seville, Spain, the article specifically examines how the motivations of the gardeners and the issue of communication influence the dynamic relationship between self-organisation and the spatial development of gardens. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Dealing with Undeniable Differences in Thessaloniki’s Solidarity Economy of Food
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2426; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082426 - 24 Apr 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
In the context of capitalist crisis, a re-emergence of reciprocal economic relationships has been praised by postcapitalist researchers. Self-organised solidarity food economies have indeed brought promise of democratic change. However, this article draws on two years of fieldwork in Thessaloniki to develop Iris [...] Read more.
In the context of capitalist crisis, a re-emergence of reciprocal economic relationships has been praised by postcapitalist researchers. Self-organised solidarity food economies have indeed brought promise of democratic change. However, this article draws on two years of fieldwork in Thessaloniki to develop Iris Young’s Politics of Difference in order to challenge the view of solidarity economy as wholly a process of collaboration. Thus, the article overturns prevalent myths regarding the cultural ineptitude of Greek actors. In doing so, it highlights the need for food movements to acknowledge the inevitable tensions that arise from structural inequalities. The article argues that overcoming these tensions requires challenging difference-blindness in grassroots democracy. It concludes that an acknowledgement of shifting structural inequalities, exaggerated by the economic crisis, must be incorporated into an initiative’s democratic processes alongside mechanisms for dealing with disharmony. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Fostering Community Values through Meal Sharing with Strangers
Sustainability 2019, 11(7), 2121; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11072121 - 10 Apr 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
This paper studies a Dutch meal sharing platform in order to understand what it means to engage in face-to-face sharing with strangers and what the performance of such transactions entails. I hypothesize that this meal sharing platform is a form of community self-organization, [...] Read more.
This paper studies a Dutch meal sharing platform in order to understand what it means to engage in face-to-face sharing with strangers and what the performance of such transactions entails. I hypothesize that this meal sharing platform is a form of community self-organization, aiming to replace the anonymity of the food system by the creation of community relations through sharing. I used semistructured interviews, participant observations, and autoethnography to investigate the social aspects involved in this type of sharing. Focusing on rules of engagement, trust, exchange, and commodification, I argue that while first encounters in stranger food sharing may be awkward, people enter the transaction from a perspective of trust. While sharing meals through this platform is a form of true sharing and no direct reciprocity is required, consumers see their appreciation for the meals as a way to reciprocate. In that sense, positive reviews consolidate the relations between cook and consumer. Money also plays an important role in the transaction, enabling it to take place as it clarifies roles and responsibilities and shows genuine interest. However, commodification also means that users are looking for value for money, while simultaneously they expect the price to reflect the initiative’s “noncommercialness”. I conclude that there is a clear social element in this particular type of meal sharing that distinguishes it from more mainstream economic transactions. Being based on real connections, this particular performance of sharing is a way to socialize the economy, and to tackle local community problems. Full article
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