Workshop – Subversions from the Informal and Social Economy

Project at-a-glance

The research explores variations on food initiatives, projects, etc. that operate within the social or informal economy. We’re looking to understand the role of these activities in food security and community development, and to identify how they can benefit marginalized communities, including low-income groups, Aboriginal people, youth and women. We’re also exploring how social economy initiatives can provide important environmental stewardship services.

By ‘social and informal economy’, we’re talking about a range of activities that are on the margins, loosely organized, and sometimes not even recognized as economic activities. Within the food sector, such informal, undervalued activities include self-provisioning, barter, food sharing, unpaid labour, environmental remediation and rehabilitation.

Capturing Outcomes

Specifically, the research asks whether and how a social economy of food can/does:

  1. increase prosperity for marginalized groups;
  2. build adaptive capacity to increase community resilience;
  3. bridge divides between elite consumers of alternative food products and more marginalized groups;
  4. increase social capital; and,
  5. foster social innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic diversification.

We have presented case studies of 12 of these food initiatives/projects via webinar. We are also pulling out themes from the cases, and will use the webinars to reflect on four in particular:

  1. Regeneration, revitalization and reconciliation [primary purpose – Sharing  foodways and/or re-introducing traditional practices]
  2. Relocation of value [primary purpose – offering an alternative practice that challenges accepted values], e.g.
  • therapeutic benefits to gardening / horticulture and food programming
  • seed saving to promote regionally appropriate biodiversity and sovereignty
  • Strategic / responsible community investment to encourage sustainable food production and distribution
  • teaches importance of sustainable agriculture practices, biodiversity, food chain, food prep, urban agriculture
  1. Collaboration [primary purpose sharing—knowledge transfer or networking—to maximize impacts]
  2. Community food security [primary purpose collective provision of basic needs]

Workshop (Friday, March 24, 2017)

At the workshop, with the webinars as a common starting point, we won’t have to spend a lot of time on the ‘what’, and will be more able to get right into exploring the proxies that these food-based projects, initiatives and organizations can use to effectively capture, measure and communicate outcomes in these five areas—outcomes that indicate social return on investment, collective impact, and/or increased community capital.

The plan is for a brief intro/recap of the case studies, with the rest of the morning spent getting everyone’s heads into thinking about how to think about evaluation, indicators, metrics, ways of measuring and reporting that are useful and relevant for social and informal economy projects [esp. food-related]…

We’ve been thinking and talking about this in many different ways, so we want to come together and hash out what way

  • makes the most sense, to the most people
  • allows us to do useful comparative work,
  • allows us to identify commonalities and gaps
  • allows us to communicate outcomes in a way that would be
    • intuitive to those without a food systems background
    • useful to other social/informal food initiatives
    • useful to influence policy / funders