Grassroots social innovations and food localisation: the Local Food programme in England

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James Kirwan discusses the issues of social innovation and localisation in relation to work carried out by the CCRI team looking at the Local Food Programme in England

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  • The starting point for this presentation is ‘innovation’ and in particular grassroots social innovation. We have become interested in this idea as a way of better understanding the social contributions of local food networks/food localisation.Specifically, it has been very helpful to our ongoing evaluation of the Big Lottery funded LF programme, which I will use here to help illustrate the benefits of recognising innovation in this way.
  • One final quote that perhaps sums up what is meant by social innovations…
  • Grassroots social innovations and food localisation: the Local Food programme in England

    1. 1. Grassroots social innovations and foodlocalisation: the Local Food programme in England James Kirwan, Brian Ilbery, Damian Maye CCRI Rural Policy Conference, Gloucester Pastoral or Past-Caring? New Directions In Rural Policy 27th September 2012
    2. 2. Outline• Context• Local Food programme• Grassroots social innovation• Discussion• Conclusions 2
    3. 3. Context• Evaluation of the Big Lottery funded Local Food programme.• Giving voice to local food networks (LFNs).• Moving beyond technocratic responses.• Encompassing the social contribution of LFNs.• Developing community capacity through grassroots social innovations. 3
    4. 4. Local Food programme• £60 million programme.• Launched in 2007.• Distributes funds to more than 500 food related projects, ranging from small grants of £2000 up to £500,000 (‘Beacon’ projects).• Aim: to make locally grown food accessible and affordable to local communities. 4
    5. 5. Local Food programme - themes1. To enable communities to manage land sustainably for growing food locally.2. To enable communities to build knowledge and understanding and to celebrate the cultural diversity of food.3. To stimulate local economic activity and the development of community enterprises concerned with growing, processing and marketing local food.4. To create opportunities for learning and the development of skills through volunteering, training and job creation.5. To promote awareness and understanding of the links between local food and healthy lifestyles. 5
    6. 6. Social Innovation• Historically can be traced back to Max Weber.• Socio-technical regimes.• Distinctiveness of ‘social’ innovations. – ‘Innovation does not occur in the medium of technical artefact but at the level of social practice’. – Interaction is at the centre of any social innovation.• Social innovations are effectively ‘acts of change’. 6
    7. 7. Grassroots Social Innovation• Innovations associated with economic innovations and, in particular, technical efficiency.• “Networks of activists and organisations generating novel bottom-up solutions” Seyfang and Smith (2007, p. 585).• Two key goals: – To satisfy the needs of those people or communities who may in some way be disadvantaged. – An ideological commitment to develop alternatives to the mainstream hegemonic regime.• Developing the capacities of communities to respond to locally identified problems. 7
    8. 8. The five dimensions of social innovation (adapted from Moulaert et al. (2005) and Adams and Hess (2008) 2. Changes to social1. The satisfaction of relations through 3. Increasing socio- human needs process political capability and access to resources Grassroots social innovations as a means of developing community capacity4. Asset building at 5. The community as an individual and a social agent community level 8
    9. 9. 1. The satisfaction of human needs• Three main types of output: – Land – People – Events 9
    10. 10. 2. Changes to social relations through process• Increased levels of participation at both community and personal levels.• Social interaction, with food functioning as a ‘social communicator’.• Immaterial social benefits brought about through social process. 10
    11. 11. 3. Increasing levels of socio-political capability and access to resources• Food may provide the pretext for projects, but their aims encompass more than simply food.• ‘Using local food as an object to foster local community development’.• Empowering local people to take some kind of ownership of a project through developing their capacity and skills base. 11
    12. 12. 4. Asset building at an individual and community level• Organisational capacity building and formalising an asset base at a community level.• Asset building at a personal level – Longer term outcomes/legacy of education and learning about food. – Work with schools has introduced new generation to food. 12
    13. 13. 5. The community as social agent• The importance of embedding projects within their communities.• In the absence of community support and engagement, it will be impossible for projects to develop the capacity of those involved and to instigate change.• The importance of place to initiate community buy-in and cross sectoral activity. 13
    14. 14. Discussion• Conceptualising LFNs as grassroots social innovations extends understanding of their wider impacts.• Enabled a reinterpretation of what is meant by the terms ‘accessible’ and ‘affordable’.• Food as the pretext and vector for developing community capacity. 14
    15. 15. DiscussionSocial innovations as “new forms of civic involvement,participation and democratisation... contributing to anempowerment of disadvantaged groups and leading tobetter citizen involvement which may, in turn, lead to a satisfaction of hitherto unsatisfied human needs”. Neumeier (2011, p. 53) 15
    16. 16. Conclusion• Local foods’ true value may be best assessed at the level of social practice and not in terms of material benefits. While the LF programme is undoubtedly about bringing small, often neglected pieces of land into production and increasing physical access to affordable food, local food is also very much seen as a vehicle for community cohesion, regeneration, healthy eating, educational enhancement and integrating disadvantaged groups into mainstream society and economy. 16
    17. 17. Thank you for your attention 17

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