Thesis Opportunities: Social Economies of food, agriculture, and nature in Gelderland.

Social economy is 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.  They operate in different sectors of the economy, and provide a number of important goods and services – that range from food to social services and care. The social economy is also an important part of the solidarity economy, a term used to describe diverse economic practices that seek to strengthen local economies and communities and create alternatives as a form of resistance to the social, economic, and environmental injustices associated with capitalism, colonialism, racism, and neoliberalism. The cities of Ede, Arnhem, and Nijmegen are home to a growing number of social economy initiatives, especially in the areas of agriculture, food, and nature (e.g. ecosystems services, green infrastructure). Here they play a vital, yet often unrecognized role. With these three thesis topics –  on (WP1) mapping, (WP2) diverse economies analysis, and (WP3) assessment –  we hope to change that.

Start date: January or February 2019

Qualifications:           

  • You are able to conduct qualitative research in Dutch.
  • You are able to engage diverse stakeholders in participatory and collaborative research
  • You can use basic excel and mapping tools (WP1)
  • You have an interest in diverse economies and social innovation (WP2).
  • You have some experience in assessment and evaluation (WP3)
  • 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 and Jan Hassink (PRI) jan.hassink@wur.nl

  1. Mapping social economy in food-health valley

What/ Where is the social economy in food-health valley?

This MSc thesis will seek to inventory and categorize social enterprises in the greater Ede, Arnhem, and Nijmegen region. Through online research and field research you will construct a database and map of social economy initiatives in the agriculture, food and nature domains providing social services. You will work closely with a MSc student specializing in diverse economies to develop a typology for categorizing these initiatives in terms of their organizational model, funding, sector and services,  etc. The data you collect is important for measuring the size and scope of the social economy. And ultimately for making the social economy visible to itself, the general public and policymakers. You will organize several stakeholder events in each city to reflect on the reflect on your data, and also what is missing. You will use your research practice to strengthen existing social economy networks in the region by bringing stakeholders together. Your MSc thesis will thus also reflect on the role of mapping as a method for making networks visible.

  1. Diverse economies of social economy in food-health valley

What are the diverse economies of the social economy?

This MSc thesis will work closely with the Mapping the social economy thesis to adapt the diverse economies framework (Gibson-Graham 2008) to create a typology of social economy initiatives and practices. You will draw upon  the database and map created by MsC 1 to select case studies from several different sectors (e.g. food, agriculture, nature care, etc.) and analyse them for their diverse economic practices and business and funding models. You will examine the social and institutional relationships and policies that shape these practices – e.g. health policy, access to land from the city. And identify emerging social innovations and best practices to share within this network social economy initiatives.

  1. Co-designing Impact and Assessment tools for social economy initiatives in food-health valley

What are the impacts of the social economy, and how can we measure them?

Social economy initiatives have important goals. But how do they know they are achieving them? What metrics and indicators are meaningful? And what types of evaluation tools are actually useful and usable ? And how can they best communicate their impact (to funders, policy makers, and participants)? You will answer these questions, in collaboration with social economy initiatives working in different sectors of the region. Together you will co-design impact and assessment tools that are tailored to the unique needs of social economy initiatives yet also replicable and can be implemented by the initiatives. You will organize communities of practice around evaluation that are rooted in the concrete needs and practices of different sectors.

Further Reading:

Amin, A. (Ed.). (2013). The social economy: International perspectives on economic solidarity. Zed Books.

Gibson-Graham, J. K. (2008). Diverse economies: performative practices for other worlds’. Progress in Human Geography32(5), 613-632.

Gibson-Graham, J. K., Cameron, J., & Healy, S. (2013). Take back the economy: An ethical guide for transforming our communities. University of Minnesota Press.

Loh, P., & Agyeman, J. (2018). Urban food sharing and the emerging Boston food solidarity economy. Geoforum.

Miller, E. (2010). Solidarity Economy. In Eds. E. Kawano, T. Masterson, and J. Teller-Ellsberg. Solidarity Economy I: Building Alternatives for People and Planet. Amherst, MA: Center for Popular Economics. 2010