Conceptualizing transformative governance for food systems
governance for food systems
Hallie Eakin, Claudia Pahl-Wostl, Polly Ericksen, Ashwina Mahanti,
Lindsey Jones, Siri Eriksen, Caroline van Bers, Lutgart Lenaerts
Transformations, 6 October 2015, Stockholm. Patterns of transformations
• Goal: to identify pathways for transformation in governance towards
sustainable food systems that are resilient to shocks and surprises in
general, and to climate change in particular.
• Question: How do food systems transform into states that are considered
more resilient, more socially just and equitable, and more environmentally
sound? What role does governance play in this transformation?
• Premise: While there is significant interest and effort in transforming the
technologies, practices and activities of food systems, there has been less
attention to the necessary institutional components, configurations of
actors and networks of learning and exchange that precede, accompany
and/or follow such changes.
How has food governance
changed, and what does this
imply for food system
Transformations in governance affecting food systems in the
last 20-30 years:
• Shift in control from government to market resulting in neo-liberal
policies of free trade and the weakening of the nation state and
governmental regulation through globalization
• Increase in private rule-making/ industry-wide standards: process
certification (ISO), social and environmental certification (e.g.,
Marine Stewardship Council, fair-trade certification), etc. (Schilpzand
et al. 2010)
• Increase in consumer–led movements (e.g. push for local food and
farmers markets; organic movement; fair trade movement)
Changes that can contribute to or bring about
transformation in governance:
• Full recognition of the dynamic links among social, technological
and ecological subsystems that support food systems to enable
better governance. (Westley et al. 2011)
• Creating learning environments that support experimentation
• Environmental crises (e.g., droughts, or economic crises (e.g.
Changes in governance that can contribute to or bring about
• Introducing polycentric arrangements that enable multi-level
systems of governance that are more inclusive/ participative and
• Introducing an international instrument for food systems (like
IPCC, SDGs) that provides a global framework for action and
• Civil society is increasingly active in contributing to both local
and global social movements that have the potential to
1. What is a change and what is transformative? How do we know if a transformative
change in food systems has happened? Was it intentional? What kind of
transformative change is desirable and who should decide on the direction of change?
2. Transformations in governance implies a shift in the value system and this, of course,
is highly debatable. So what comes first: the new value system or co-production of
knowledge to promote particular kinds of values in the governance of food systems?
To what extent does a reframing of the objectives of food systems contribute to a
change in values?
3. To which extent can and should the direction of change be determined and serve as a
normative guiding target? (e.g. governance framework, characteristics of the food
system). Put another way, to what extent can transformation be engineered?
4. What is the role of crises/ disasters in opening up space for new ideas/innovation
which could lead to transformative change? What influence has the 2008 food (and
global financial) crisis had on transforming food systems?
5. Will and should transformative change of the food system be driven by transformation
in the production or in the consumption system?