Thesis Opportunities “Circular economy for agri-food systems”

Thesis Opportunities “Circular economy for agri-food systems”

The following thesis opportunities are co-supervised by Dr. Vivian Valencia (Farming Systems Ecology) and Dr. Oona Morrow (Rural Sociology Group)

The circular economy is a hot topic these days, with innovations coming from the grassroots, public, and private sector. But the governance of the circular economy is lagging behind, and we lack a systemic and regional view that bridges the gap between innovation and policy, rural and urban, and the social, economic, and environmental. Taking a systems view can help us to identify where policy interventions would make the most impact, by for example focusing on producers instead of consumer waste streams. We advertise three interlinked projects on the circular economy, that will feed into a multi-stage four year project.

Our approach to the circular economy that takes a food systems perspective to map all of the flows, benefits, and burdens of our current agri-food and waste system in the Amsterdam city-region, as well as the governance structures and policy levers that keep this system in place, and have the potential to change it. Importantly, our approach proposes to capture not only environmental and economic impacts, but also social impacts in the AMA city-region, including for example quality of life, social inclusion, food security, and transitions potential.

We take a geographic, sectoral, and sustainability perspective on circularity, to ensure that not only are materials reused – but that they find their highest and best use in the local food economy. For example, surplus food is redistributed to people rather than bio-digesters, organic waste is composted or converted to animal feed rather being burned for home heating or converted to jet fuel. These re-generative loops are depicted in the diagram below by Feedback Global.  

feedback global

Furthermore, we take seriously the role of urban design in reproducing or disrupting our current agri-food-waste system through the (re)design of green space, logistics, waste, and waste water infrastructure. Approaching urban design and infrastructure as vital components of agri-food systems offers opportunities for crafting shorter and more regenerative loops at every stage in the agri-food system, including the “end of pipe” recovery of nutrients.

If you wish to pursue this as a thesis opportunity you will receive supervision in the development of a research proposal on the governance of the circular economy.  The following topics are possible:

  1. Mapping Circular Economy Innovations in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area

We seek a motivated student to conduct a scoping study and stakeholder mapping of circular food innovations in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. We take a broad view of circularity, to include traditional and emerging innovations, and social, economic, and environmental impacts.

2. Governing the Circular Economy

We week a motivated student to conduct a scoping study, media analysis, and literature review on the governance of circular urban and regional governance for the circular economy practices that are being tested and developed in city-regions across the globe, while focusing in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. We seek to learn from inspiring examples, best practices, as well as failures.

3. Methods for Visioning the Circular Economy in Place

You will research visioning and futuring methods that are well suited for stimulating creative out of the box thinking on the governance of the circular economy, develop a workshop design, and test your methods. There are already many existing participatory methodologies for visioning the future and co-creating transformation pathways for the future. Which may work best when it comes to transitioning to a circular economy?

Questions: contact oona.morrow@wur.nl

 

 

Internship or Thesis Opportunity: Allotment and Community Gardens in Warsaw and Berlin

 

person wearing black lace up sneakers standing on green grass with fallen leaves

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

Are you interested in the politics and governance of community and allotment gardening ? How these gardens can become more inclusive? And what lessons gardeners in Berlin and Warsaw can exchange?

The research project “Integration von Kleingärten und Gemeinschaftsgärten in Warschau und Berlin” seeks a German speaking research assistant.

We are looking for a person with:

– German language (spoken and written).

– Research interest in the topic of urban gardening;

– Training and experience with qualitative research methods

– Knowledge about Berlin allotment and community gardens’ and/or administrative situation and structure;

 
Project duration December 2019 – March 2021
  • November/December 2019 – Kick off. Interviewing gardeners, the city administration, city dwellers and other persons related to the topic – in Berlin (December and January)
  • May 2020 – Focus Groups in Warsaw and Berlin, a visit of Berliners to Warsaw
  • September 2020 – VISIS workshops on challenges and opportunities of this integration.
  • March 2021 – final meeting in Warsaw

The rest of the time is for research, reading, meeting with the project team, writing and meetings in gardens (action research).

The project is a cooperation with Humboldt University and Łódź University in Poland. With funding from the Deutsch Polnische Wissenschaft Stiftung.

Deadline: Please send expressions of interest to oona.morrow@wur.nl  by October 14

RSO supervisor: Oona Morrow oona.morrow@wur.nl

Field Research supervisors: Agnieszka Dragon and Anna Dańkowska

Thesis Opportunity: Generating Buzz, Making Futures: Enthusiasm and Investment at Food Events

Food events such as Food Tank and Seeds and Chips are becoming important venues for steering the food innovation and food policy agenda. We are interested in gaining a better understanding of the types of innovations, policy agendas, and politics that are articulated and silenced in these spaces.  We seek one or two Msc students who will conduct a stakeholder mapping, event ethnography, and media analysis of these organizations and their events. This research will shed light on the uneasy relationship between finance, innovation, and politics in the food sector, and the role of enthusiasm and celebrity as modes of communication and policy making for more or less just and sustainable food futures.

green pineapple fruit with brown framed sunglasses beside yellow surface

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Qualifications:           

  • You have some training in qualitative methods and critical social theory
  • You are an interested in celebrity and food politics
  • You are willing to develop new methodologies to analyse digital media and events
  • You are registered for one of the following MSc programmes: MID, MCS, MLP, MFT, or MOA
  • You have completed at least 2 RSO courses (or relevant social science courses)

Questions? Please get in touch!

Supervisors: Oona Morrow (RSO) oona.morrow@wur.nl & Prof. Mike Goodman, University of Reading

Thesis Opportunity: The TEDification of Food Activism

Increasingly TED talks are becoming trusted sources for food politics and policy making, and an important medium for food activists to communicate through. Yet, there are also limits to what can be communicated in a TED talk and how. These limitations affect the types of knowledge and activist performances that are deemed suitable. We would like to understand what TED talks are doing to and for food politics, by conducting a comprehensive analysis of recent TED talks on the theme of FOOD. We are interested in the celebrity, bodily, and visual performances that compose these talks. The effects of these talks on public opinion and policy. And the limitations and possibilities of TED talks as a mode of food activism.

Ted-Talk

Qualifications:           

  • You have some training in qualitative methods and critical social theory
  • You are an interested in digital media and food activism
  • You are willing to develop new methodologies and tools for analysing digital media
  • You are registered for one of the following MSc programmes: MID, MCS, MLP, MFT, or MOA
  • You have completed at least 2 RSO courses (or relevant social science courses)

Questions? Please get in touch!

Supervisors: Oona Morrow (RSO) oona.morrow@wur.nl & Prof. Mike Goodman, University of Reading

Collaborating towards Berlin Food Policy: Exploring civic-state collaboration in current urban food governance in Berlin – The Case of the Berlin Food Strategy

dinah thesis coverDinah Hoffman, MSc student Communication, Health and Life Sciences
Specialization: Health and Society, Wageningen University

Below please find the abstract of the MSc thesis Collaborating towards Berlin Food Policy: Exploring civic-state collaboration in current urban food governance in Berlin – The Case of the Berlin Food Strategy

The full thesis can be downloaded from the WUR-Library by clicking on the hyperlink

 

Urban food policy is an area that joins actors from civil society, academia, the local state and the market. To accomplish sustainable changes of local food systems these actors work together in governance arrangements. Two prominent instruments that are used in urban food governance where these actors collaborate are the food policy council and the urban food strategy. Both can be initiated through top-down or bottom-up processes or a combination of both with the relationship of local government and civil society having an impact on the success of the initiatives. One of the cities where civil society and local government engage in collaborative food governance is the city-state of Berlin, the biggest city in Germany, surrounded by the agricultural region of Brandenburg. Drawing on data from 11 interviews and 40 documents, this thesis describes and examines the nature of the relationship and governance arrangement of the two main actors in current Berlin food governance. The collaborative governance framework, a categorization of civic-state relationships found in urban food governance and the concepts of integrated food policy and institutionalization were used to guide the analysis. The objective of this thesis is to understand how civic-state collaboration in urban food governance looks like in Berlin, what impact the local context has on the development of the governance arrangement and what strengths and challenges involved stakeholders perceive. The two main stakeholders were found to be the civic food policy council Ernährungsrat Berlin and the Berlin Senate Administration for Consumer Protection. It was found that the Ernährungsrat Berlin’s food policy activity brought forward a relationship where they are striving for independence but are linked to the government through a secondary agency, being the aforementioned administrative department. Although not embedded in municipal institutions, which has been identified as crucial for a food policy councils’ success, the Ernährungsrat Berlin proved to be an agile and resilient structure able to successfully be an independent advocate for civil society and a valued advisor to the government. Their collaboration resulted in the development of a Berlin Food Strategy. In this thesis I investigate the process of developing this strategy as a form of collaborative governance. Regarding their governance arrangement around the Berlin Food Strategy, the involvement of the Green Party in the current coalition was found to have had a big impact on the position the Ernährungsrat Berlin but also food policy was able to occupy on the urban agenda. This research identified a number of strengths and challenges of the governance arrangement including a strong interdependence, a strong and long history of civic action, the presence of political food champions in the coalition and the administration, the limiting structure and functioning of the Senate administrations and the limited inclusiveness and representatives of the Ernährungsrat Berlin.

Key words: urban food governance, urban food policy, food policy council, urban food strategy, collaborative governance, Berlin food strategy, Ernährungsrat Berlin, Senate of Berlin

Internship Opportunity at Greendish

This is an internship for Dutch speaking students who can make a five month commitment.

Over Greendish

Greendish heeft sinds haar oprichting in 2011 professionals uit de food service industrie geholpen in hun transitie naar gezonde en duurzame menu’s en werkwijzen die goed zijn voor de mens, het bedrijf en onze aarde.

 

In de food service industrie zien we veel onwetendheid en misverstanden over duurzaamheid en gezond eten; het zou bijvoorbeeld duur, moeilijk en niet lekker zijn. Door de dreiging van klimaatverandering en de stijgende behoefte aan voedsel, kunnen we deze misverstanden niet langer negeren. Als verantwoordelijke professionals, moeten we het heft in eigen handen nemen om de transitie te starten die nodig is voor de toekomst van de sector en van onze planeet. Wij geloven dat juist deze sector-pioniers uiteindelijk boven de rest uit zullen stijgen en over de hele linie het meest succesvol zullen zijn.

 

Met ons ambitieuze team van voedingsdeskundigen, chefs en gedragswetenschappers werken wij er hard aan te zorgen dat gezond- en duurzaam eten makkelijk, lekker en overal toegankelijk is voor iedereen.

 

Het project ‘Restaurants van Morgen’

“Gezond voor de consument, duurzaam voor de samenleving en kostenbesparend voor de horecaondernemer! Dat is wat Greendish en Natuur & Milieu met Restaurants van Morgen willen bereiken.”

 

Over het project

Restaurants van Morgen (afgekort RvM) is een project waarin Greendish samenwerkt met de organisatie Natuur & Milieu. Binnen het project begeleiden we 23 restaurants in de Regio Foodvalley (gemeenten Ede, Nijkerk, Rhenen, Veenendaal en Wageningen) naar een duurzamere toekomst. Het project bestaat uit drie fases: de nulmeting (T0), de begeleiding, en de T1 meting. De nulmeting is afgelopen jaar uitgevoerd. Hierin gingen we bij alle restaurants langs en hielden we een interview met de chefs/eigenaren. Verder onderzochten we onderwerpen zoals de samenstelling van de menukaart, waste en inkoop. Ook de top-5 populairste hoofdgerechten werd volledig doorgemeten. De restaurants zijn inmiddels op de hoogte gebracht van de resultaten. Momenteel zijn wij bezig met de tweede fase van het onderzoek, de begeleiding. Voor deze begeleiding zijn er twee trajecten opgezet, light begeleiding (LB) en intensieve begeleiding (IB). De intensieve begeleiding wordt gegeven aan acht daarvoor uitgekozen restaurants. Voor hen wordt samen met ons een plan op maat gemaakt. De rest van de restaurants krijg light begeleiding, waarmee we op een wat algemener niveau informatie met de restaurants zullen delen over verschillende onderwerpen rondom duurzaamheid. Na afronding van de begeleidingsfase zal er een tweede meting worden uitgevoerd, de T1 meting. Dit is waar jij potentieel je steentje zult gaan bijdragen!

 

Wat zul je zoal gaan doen?

De meetmethoden voor de T1 metingen hebben we inmiddels ontwikkeld. Jouw bijdrage aan de T1 meting zal onder andere bestaan uit:

  • Het inplannen van afspraken
  • Langsgaan op locaties met Greendish medewerkers
  • Interviews houden of aantekeningen nemen (kwalitatief onderzoek)
  • Wegingen doen van gerechten in de restaurants, vergelijkbaar aan de T0 meting (kwantitatief onderzoek)
  • Het effect laten zien van de interventie op hoeveelheden, bereiding, inkoopbeleid en meer
  • Analyse van de resultaten en het verschil tussen T0 en T1
  • De resultaten visualiseren aan de hand van een presentatie
  • Adviezen samenstellen voor restaurants

 

Overige werkzaamheden

Werken bij Greendish is erg divers, en in overleg kunnen er dus zomaar andere leuke taken bijkomen waarmee jij een inkijk krijgt in de dagelijkse werkzaamheden van onze stichting!

 

Wat verwachten wij van jou?

Greendish bestaat uit een klein team, waar we onderling leuk met elkaar omgaan. Zo lunchen we gezamenlijk en organiseren we maandelijks een borrel of andere activiteit. We zijn open en informeel en bieden veel ruimte voor eigen inbreng. Zowel het werken in teamverband als zelfstandig kunnen werken is belangrijk. Een stage bij Greendish is uitdagend maar leerzaam en op het grensgebied tussen Wetenschap en praktijk.

 

Wil je impact maken en bijdrage aan verandering in de samenleving waarbij miljoenen eetmomenten van consumenten onderweg op stations, luchthavens, in restaurants en tijdens de lunch op kantoor gezonder en duurzamer worden, dan bij je bij ons aan het juiste adres!
Meld je aan via https://greendish.org/nl/internship-position-nl/

 

Contactpersoon: rose.korte@greendish.org

 

Cultivating Food Sovereignty: Understanding the diverse economies of sago in Luwu Utara, Indonesia

title pg ulilMuhammad Ulil Ahsan, MSc Student Development and Rural Innovation, Wageningen University

 

Below the abstract of the MSc-thesis “Cultivating Food Sovereignty: Understanding the diverse economies of sago in Luwu Utara, Indonesia“.

 

The full thesis can be downloaded from the WUR-Library by clicking on the hyperlink

 

Indonesia has taken up food sovereignty in the constitutional document Food Act number 18/2018 that animates the food policy and program implementation in Indonesia. However, it remains largely rhetorical since the food program implementation has undermined the local food system in many places. This study explores the implementation of food sovereignty in Luwu Utara that is predicated with productionist paradigm, where self-sufficiency is the main goal and transnational corporation are involved in the process of enactment. The implementation put pressure on the local food system in Luwu Utara, particularly in relation to sago. The sago food system encompasses complex issues ranging from the relationship between people in the system to their relation with sago. The diverse economy framework is applied to unravel the diverse forms of economies that lie within the sago food system, and to legitimate the value of food sovereignty existing in Luwu Utara. Diverse economies of sago in Luwu Utara are dominated by non-capitalist practices that can challenge the dominant discourse of capitalist economy as food sovereignty against for. The different forms of food sovereignty at different scales necessitates reflection on food sovereignty implementation. Cultivating food sovereignty requires reflexivity, creating the basis of food sovereignty and building recognition are the strategies to develop a multi-scalar sovereignty. Administering multi-scalar sovereignty is a challenge that must be overcome in the development of a democratic food system in Indonesia.

Keywords: Food sovereignty, diverse economies, sago, Luwu Utara

#VEGAN: A critical analysis of the discourses around food, identity and responsibility from vegan Instagram influencers – MSc Thesis by Adele Wilson

title pg

Adele Wilson, MSc Student Health & Society, Wageningen University 

Below the abstract of the MSc-thesis “#VEGAN: A critical analysis of the discourses around food, identity and responsibility from vegan Instagram influencers“.

 

The full thesis can be downloaded from the WUR-Library by clicking on the hyperlink

In the UK we need to reduce the amount of meat we produce and consume in order to prevent climate disaster and poor public health. Vegan Instagram influences have been key figures in providing society with knowledge on why and how people should live meat free. The discourses provided to us by these ‘influencers’ about, food, health, ethics and environmental concerns are extremely powerful as they shape our everyday food thoughts and practices. However, there has been relatively little academic research into the knowledge produced by these online food influencers. Therefore, this study aimed to identify some of the contemporary discourses around veganism on Instragram. Particular attention was paid to how these discourses framed the responsibility for animal welfare, human health, and environmental concerns. The research analysed the profiled of 6 vegan instagram influencers; @chakabars, @earthlinged, @deliciouslyella, @rachelama, @kingcook and @crueltyfreeclairey. The data was analysed using a Foucauldian style discourse analysis. Two main themes were identified. The first was ‘hard veganism’ that focused on the moral justifications for veganism. It was found discourse focused on the justifications for veganism was critical of the livestock industry and unevenly burdened individuals with the responsibility for preventing climate disaster, protecting animals and preserving human health through by consuming a vegan diet (e.g. Christopher, Bartkowski, Haverda, 2018). Therefore, veganism was associated with practicing one’s moral beliefs and acting in a utilitarian way to societal constraints we live in. The second theme was ‘soft veganism’ that referred to images and talk on food. ‘Soft veganism’ framed the food industry positively for providing people with many vegan food options and making veganism ‘easy’. Vegan food was also used to construct vegan subgroups that were aimed at challenging stereotypical views on veganism as an elite white practice (Harper, 2012) and breaking down barriers that prevented some people from engaging with a vegan lifestyle. Therefore, this research found that Instagram is a space where multiple vegan identities are constructed with varying levels of political involvement and philosophical engagement. This research concludes that Instagram may be a useful tool for influencing people to reduce their meat consumption, as it allows people to select knowledge on how to practice veganism that best suits their identity, beliefs and lifestyle.

A year in the life of an Assistant Professor at RSO

At the one year anniversary of starting my position as Assistant Professor in Food Sociology, I thought I should get around to writing a blog and reflecting on this wild year of getting to know RSO, WUR, and the Netherlands.

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Oona Morrow; Photo taken by Jantine Messing, in Devon 2018

At the end of February last year I boarded a plane with my partner and our cat bound for Amsterdam. We were excited, but also had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. A few weeks later I began teaching Origin Food, a required course in the MFT Gastronomy specialization. And Dirk Roep and my patient students put up with me as I bumbled my way through EU food policies on GI protection, and lectured in a brand new course. We visited local cheese makers and gastronomic ventures, and my students helped me wrap my head around the many ways one could enjoy the humble cheese sandwich – with mustard, ketchup, or just plain (my personal favourite is now with Appel Stroop). Somehow we all survived, and now I am happy to be supervising some of these students on their thesis research on the diverse economies of Sago in Indonesia and food tourism and shellfish livelihoods in Portugal.

I gave guest lectures here and there, one as part of a seminar on co-creation at CSPS. And afterwards my colleague Anke approached me to discuss how we could incorporate co-creation more intentionally into our research practices. We decided to try out an approach that I had learned from the community economies research network in the CSPS Foodscapes cluster. The cluster now meets monthly to read papers, workshop research in progress, and offers a convivial environment for reflection, support, and co-creation. It has been such a great place for me to connect with colleagues from across the CSPS section who are interested in critical food studies, foodscapes, diverse food economies, and urban agriculture. Whenever I’m stressed or lost I can always count on this group for an outside perspective or a good laugh. We also organize the Critical Food Studies Speaker series. Several of us are also organizing a session on Cultivating Hope while Getting into Trouble with Community Food Initiatives at the RGS-IBG Conference in London this coming August.

Then in what feels like the blink of an eye, I found myself in the picturesque seaside and rolling hills of Devon, UK. Where I stayed with three other instructors and supervised a group international development students completing their first field work assignment, as part of Elisabet Rasch’s Field Research practical. I remembered how to drive, even on the wrong side, and visited students living with host families and researching everyday life in small towns, villages, and hamlets up and down the coast. I went on some gorgeous hikes and walks, and visited Cardiff for a workshop that Ana Moragues Faus organized on the role of cities in delivering food security and sustainability outcomes. I also spent some time hiding out in my bed/office finishing data analysis and preparing a conference paper for SCORAI. On my walks and drives through the region I couldn’t help feeling home sick, in this little piece of island that so resembled the coastal villages and mill towns I knew from my life in New England – and even with the same place names. Many people who settled New England emigrated from the South of England. The field research experience made a huge impact on my students, who researched everything from the trauma of hoof and mouth disease, to the Brexit feelings of farmers,  to the livelihood strategies of fishermen, to the meaning and experience of sustainability in a Transition Town. I enjoyed watching them move out of their comfort zone and connect with strange new humans, while further developing their research skills.

I also found time to write a few papers, including an article entitled Sharing Food and Risk in Berlin’s Urban Food Commons, for a special issue of Geoforum on urban food sharing economies. The paper brings together current thinking on food commons and urban commons to examine the challenges of managing public fridges in Berlin as commons. The research that the paper is based on was completed with foodsharing.de as part of the ERC Horizon 2020 funded SHARECITY project, led by PI Anna Davies. The special issue is edited by Anna Davies and David Evans and profiles many of the ethnographic findings from the SHARECITY project, as well as research on solidarity food economies, foraging, and food waste presented in an AAG session in Boston that we organized on food sharing. I encourage you to check it out, and many of the papers are open-access.

Over the summer and fall I began supervising a growing cohort of thesis students who were developing research proposals on everything from food policy in Berlin, to urban agriculture in Almere, to vegan instagram influencers in the UK. While they all had me in common as a supervisor, they also shared an interest in understanding agri-food practices from a critical sociological perspective. So, we committed ourselves to organizing as a cohort, sharing tips and resources along the way, enjoying thesis potlucks, and meeting up to celebrate important milestones like finishing proposals, going off to the field, and writing. The 2019 “Foodies” cohort and thesis ring is going strong, and I look forward to continuing the tradition with the next batch of thesis students.

Fast forward some months, in which I even managed to take vacation, and I began teaching the MFT Gastronomy course Food Culture and Custom. This is a course that has been thoughtfully designed and redesigned by RSO’s resident Teacher of the Year Dr. Jessica Duncan. The course covers similar topics and theoretical frameworks to those I had taught in the MLA Gastronomy program at Boston University, so I was pleasantly in my comfort zone. But I also got to dig into some fascinating new material on ethics, moral philosophy, and cultured meat with Professor Cor van der Weele. Jessica has gone to great lengths to make the course extremely well structured and as interactive as possible, so although we all work really hard – we also have a lot of fun. However, all of these interactive components take a lot of extra time and coordination, so I was very happy to have support from my two excellent teaching assistants – Adele Wilson and Jesse van de Sande. Thank you both!

During my time here, one constant sources of inspiration and belonging has been the Centre for Space, Place, and Society – and especially the CSPS Foodscapes cluster. When I go to a CSPS event or teach in the CSPS Social Theory Phd Seminar I feel that I’ve found my people at WUR. So when Martijn Duineveld suggested that we apply for the CSPS Scientific Director position together as a team – I thought, that sounds great! We’re looking forward to working together to organize an engaging and inclusive CSPS. See you at the next CSPS event and the CSPS Annual Day.

The days and months have flown by. But here I am again, drinking raw milk with my gastronomy students, preparing my lectures, and feeling much more at ease in my new role than this time last year.  I’ve contributed to a few funding bids. And together with Anke de Vrieze and Chizu Sato I was recenty awarded WASS excellence funds to organize a workshop with artists and academics on Arts-Based Methods and Diverse Economies. I have also been granted funds for a research visit to Hamburg University’s Center for Advanced study on the Futures of Sustainability, where I will be Visiting Professor next fall. But, what I’m most excited about right now – besides teaching Origin Food again (with a super engaged group of MFT Gastronomy students), is working together with our CSPS foodscapes colleague Hilje van de Horst to co-supervise my first PhD student Thirza Andriessen. Thirza has been awarded the prestigious and highly competitive WASS PhD fellowship for her research on dignity in alternative forms of food aid. We are so thrilled to be able to work together on this important project and support the development of a budding social scientist at WUR.

 

 

 

 

 

Thesis Opportunities: Diverse economies of food, agriculture, and nature in Galicia, Spain

In the field of diverse economies, researchers have paid particular attention to diverse forms of economic organisation and exchange that make up our food system, disrupting dominant development narratives that privilege capital, markets, wages, private property and mainstream financing (Gibson-Graham, 2006). Examples in the literature are multifunctional agriculture (Renting et al., 2009), communal land use (Soto, 2014; Caballero, 2015), ecosystem service provisioning (Bolund and Hunhammar, 1999; Braat and De Groot, 2012), and sharing food or skills to reduce waste, or foster greater food security (Davies et al., 2017). These manifestations of diverse economies are often captured and explained through the theoretical lens of the social economy, an umbrella term used to describe a variety of third sector, cooperative, voluntary, non-profit, and social enterprise initiatives that put social and environmental well-being before profit.

Problem definition / hypothesis 

In Galicia, a ‘green’ region in the northwest corner of Spain, industrialisation and urbanisation mainly takes part in the coastal area. The mountainous interior consists of forests and pastures for beef and dairy cattle, creating a strong divide between the urban and the rural, and their development pathways. Primary production, with relatively low added value, remains important to Galicia’s economic production. The daily fabric of life, in rural but also in industrial-urban environments, is anchored in what can be termed the social economy. Whilst formal collaborative and/or cooperative approaches to market access or income generation are often lacking, the question pops up – whether and how these everyday practices (can) build upon existing social economy dynamics. This research seeks to understand, how communities in these places negotiate social, economic, and environmental concerns by practicing diverse economies in urban and rural areas, and how these practices can contribute to realizing social economies

Communal forestry and mountain farming

Empirical studies in Galicia on the diverse economies of food, agriculture, and nature (i.e. the local resource base, e.g. ecosystems services, green infrastructure, or more theoretically: ecological capital) will contribute to the (yet often) unrecognised role of the social economy in bringing about economic development in relation to provisioning of ecosystem services and/or green infrastructure.

Depending on the preferences of individual students for empirical research subjects, and a possibly simultaneous implementation of MSc thesis projects,  research subjects can consist of communal (agro) forestry (in urban and/or rural contexts), mountain farming (in more remote rural areas), or a combination of these.

Research topics include but are not limited to:

  • Mapping diverse economies of food, agriculture, and nature: initiatives and projects (focus: forestry and farm activities), community and/or household configurations, collaboration (different aggregation levels), payments and income strategies (private and public goods), availability of regional policy support schemes, support structures for similar initiatives elsewhere
  • Developing strategies to enhance local business opportunities (forestry and farming activities, food and other ecosystem service provisioning in relation to e.g. gastronomy and tourism), identify and describe heterogeneity in best practices, report bottlenecks in relation to place-based development (taking into account spatial relationships)

Planning of an MSc thesis research project

The overall goal of these MSc thesis projects are to a) advance our understanding of the diverse and social economies in rural, peri-urban and urban areas, and b) identify and promote policies, governance models and practices that foster this type of social innovation, with the aim to also enhance more mainstream economic production: contribute to creating value added, market access, and additional farm income for primary producers.

An assignment will be drawn up together with the student: an initial research plan in advance to leaving to Galicia for the field research, and a more definitive plan at arrival, in collaboration with local stakeholders.

Research requires a stay of 3 months or longer at the University of Vigo / in Galicia.

Start date: Spring or Summer 2019

Qualifications:

  • You have training in qualitative methods and are able to conduct qualitative research in Spanish or Galician (Thesis is written in English)
  • You have an interest in engaging diverse stakeholders in participatory and collaborative research
  • You have one or more of the following skills and/or interests: able to use basic excel and mapping tools; interest in diverse economies and social innovation and/or spatial relationships; experience with assessment and evaluation
  • You are registered for one of the following MSc programmes: MID, MCS, MLP, MFT, or MOA
  • You have completed at least 2 RSO courses (or other relevant social science courses)
  • Questions? Please get in touch!

Supervisors: RSO Oona Morrow oona.morrow@wur.nl & GEN Paul Swagemakers paul.swagemakers@uvigo.es (University of Vigo, Galicia, Spain)

Works cited & further reading:

Bolund, P., Hunhammar, S., 1999. Ecosystem services in urban areas. Ecological Economics 29, 293–301

Braat, L.C., De Groot, R., 2012. The ecosystem services agenda: bridging the worlds of natural science and economics, conservation and development, and public and private policy. Ecosystem Services, 1, 4–15.

Caballero, G.,2015. Community-based forest management institutions in the Galician communal forests: a new institutional approach. Forest Policy and Economics 50, 347–356

Davies, A.R., Edwards, F., Marovelli, B., Morrow, O., Rut, M., Weymes, M., 2017. Making visible: Interrogating the performance of food sharing across 100 urban areas. Geoforum 86, 136-149

Gibson-Graham, J.K., 2006. A Postcapitalist Politics. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis

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