Transformative potential from the ground up: sustainable innovation journeys, soft change and alignment of interests in urban food initiatives

Maye, Damian ORCID: 0000-0002-4459-6630, Swagemakers, Paul, Wiskerke, Johannes S.C., Moschitz, Heidrun, Kirwan, James ORCID: 0000-0002-4626-9940 and Jahrl, Ingrid (2022) Transformative potential from the ground up: sustainable innovation journeys, soft change and alignment of interests in urban food initiatives. European Urban and Regional Studies, 29 (2). pp. 222-237. doi:10.1177/09697764211028887

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This paper utilises the ‘sustainable innovation journeys’ concept to trace how people organise and design urban food initiatives and influence city-region food policy. We evaluate whether designs succeed or fail and monitor the exchange of ideas that take place between stakeholders. Tracing these interactions reveals the transformative potential of innovative projects, particularly if the food system changes they bring to the fore are aligned with policy interests. Three case studies provide on-the-ground insights to assess how SMEs at the micro-level induce or not sustainability shifts. The case studies are businesses in the city-regions of Rotterdam, The Netherlands (urban farm and circular food economy); Vigo, Spain (food, forest and multifunctional land use); and Zürich, Switzerland (organic food and short supply chains). Each initiative was studied in-depth over a two-year period, with follow-up analysis for a further four years to monitor change over time (2013-2018). The cases promote the adoption of micro-level innovation practices: locally designed transition pathways that bring the benefits of change to the city-region (i.e. from the micro-level initiative to meso-level policy). The analysis highlights the importance of ‘soft change’, which can be something as simple as visiting an inspiring urban food initiative and meeting with stakeholders to generate mutual understanding, from where interests align to influence food chain practices and policy. Soft changes act as ‘seeds of transition’ for a shift towards more sustainable urban food systems but we observe too potentially negative impacts due to lack of alignment at the micro (initiative) or meso (city-region) level.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Urban food initiatives; Sustainable innovation journeys; Alignment of interests; Soft change; Transformative potential
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human geography. Human ecology. Anthropogeography
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > Countryside and Community Research Institute
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Ella Rowe
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2021 10:51
Last Modified: 12 May 2023 14:30

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