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Innovating from the Past (Nigel Curry)


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Nigel Curry's presentation at the CCRI seminar Series of 16 January 2014 looking at Innovation and the source of previous knowledges and practices as a basis for this, including results from ESRC funded Grey and Pleasant Land project and EU FP7 funded SOLINSA project.

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Innovating from the Past (Nigel Curry)

  1. 1. INNOVATING FROM THE PAST Nigel Curry 16.1.2014 “We’re trying to create an integrated approach to food. It would have perhaps been like that 50 or 60 years ago when people were much more aware of where their food came from: their back garden, their allotments or from local farmers. So we’re not innovative in that sense, but we are innovative in trying to do this again now” (Brighton and Hove 2013)
  2. 2. Structure • Innovation and Policy • Technical, economic and social innovation • Innovation theory • Innovating from the past: Empirical evidence • Learning from the past
  3. 3. Innovation and its importance in European food policy • Innovation is a central tenet in European policy • EUROPE 2020 Strategy: innovation is indispensable for food security and sustainable agriculture • European Innovation Partnership (EIP) from 2014, "aims to foster a competitive and sustainable agriculture and forestry that 'achieves more for less' and works in harmony with the environment" (European Commission, 2012, page 4). • Its relevance to food is central as the Common Agricultural Policy continues to claim the largest policy budget share within the European Union • Echoed in UK reports
  4. 4. The paradox of innovation and the CAP • Much research shows that huge amounts of public support in agriculture stifle innovation. • Income from subsidies independent of efficiency and effectiveness reduces impetus to innovate. • So, we spend a lot of European funds on one public policy (CAP) that has the direct effect of thwarting another policy – Innovation.
  5. 5. What is innovation? Technical and economic • Many definitions, but: the conversion of ideas, practices and/or knowledge into benefits. • Can be new or old ideas, fleeting (Concorde, C5, space) or cumulative • Can be producer (linear) or consumer-led (non-linear) • Technical and economic innovation dominate literature and policy, but these tend to ignore social context. ‘Grassroots’ innovation can be socially or community led too, considering localness, ethics and equity
  6. 6. Social innovation • Social innovation is of increasing interest and commonly observed in local food innovation as a social movement • No agreed universal definition and context dependent, but: changes in social practice to bring about positive net social improvement. • Attitude changes lead to behaviour changes and new social movements • Invariably acknowledges social networks, localness and resilience • Built around skills and knowledge
  7. 7. Innovation theory • Innovation is about transition: transition is temporal and non-linear. • One theory set concentrates on new innovations as they unfold (novelties, futures) • Another examines path dependency • Less common is consideration is innovation from ‘ex-practice’ and ‘forgotten’ practice (Shove, 2010). • Innovation may be iterative: it plays with the past as a foundation.
  8. 8. Empirical 1 - Localism In relation to local food: evidence from two projects: SOLINSA (BHFP) (current local food innovation) and Grey and Pleasant Land (GPL)? (reflecting on the past especially the depression and the Second War) •BHFP: contemporary innovation: local food in shops, restaurants and state catering. Non-monetary exchange, local food production •GPL: local food (lack of transport) and distinctive (fish on coast). Much non-monetary exchange “My uncle Alec kept three chickens in the back yard and they would produce at least one egg a day. When there was more than one he would give the extra away to someone who was ill”.
  9. 9. Empirical 2 - access to land •  BHFP – more direct access to the soil to make food part of people’s lives as social innovation (allotments, urban grazing, 200 local food growing groups) • GPL – back gardens, local allotments, many people had an agricultural heritage.
  10. 10. Empirical 3 – all parts of the food chain • BHFP – from food production to local food processing and consumption • GPL - “We used to preserve lots of things in Kilner jars …. a messy job. And eggs, we always used to put eggs ‘down’ in water glasses, they were called, in big stone jars. We had them to use later on – at least for a few weeks”. “We would wrap up apples in newspapers and put them in boxes in the loft and they would last a long time, especially a good cooking apple would last until the next season so you’d have them all the year round”.
  11. 11. Empirical 4 – production • BHFP – Urban open space production, urban sheep grazing, public orchards – community cohesion - innovation was discussed in social terms: “If you are going to plant a tree, in a public space, why can’t it be a fruit tree?” • GPL – very similar ‘sharing’ of produce produced in public allotments and exchanges from one garden to another.
  12. 12. Conclusions: learning from the past • Innovating from the past is not just indiscriminate nostalgia. Its relevance is threefold • Adopting: “getting back to our roots” a sense of belonging and community commitment BHFP: “Yes, it is interesting. In many ways it is about rekindling our forgotten past”
  13. 13. Adapting: “We do learn a lot from the past but there is a keenness for the ‘new’ food movement not to be seen to be Luddite. Certainly, the learning and the values of the new movements are different now than they were then.” Avoiding: “In the War, we used to have to queue for things. If you were in the town one day and somebody said “oh they’ve got tomatoes up at the fruit stall”, well, everybody made such a dash, you know, to get in the queue for a few tomatoes, but where they came from I can’t remember”