From 2015 to 2019, Nourishing Communities: Sustainable Local Food Systems Research Group has explored the workings, meanings, and impacts of various food initiatives in the social economy and informal economy. Although economically engaged, these groups prioritize social and environmental goals over profit generation. They also tend to use informal methods such as barter, unpaid work, and self-provisioning. It is clear that their efforts both support and challenge market economics and that their impacts are both tangible and conceptual.
These six infographic pages represent an attempt to synthesize and illustrate the initiatives’ values, human resources, efforts towards social, environmental, and economic impacts, and barriers. Although the infographics may appear primarily descriptive with their multitude of examples, the ways in which the pages are organized is meant to be of benefit to those trying to articulate the role and value of social economy of food initiatives.
And once you’re finished with the infographics (below) take a look at the prose version of this meta-study in Canadian Food Studies Vol 6 No. 3 (2019):
Social economy of food initiatives that are nourishing communities through “power-with” practices Mary Anne Martin, Irena Knezevic, Patricia Ballamingie
- Values: Many of the values expressed by these initiatives demonstrate the use of economy to (re)forge connections and meet fundamental needs, both human and environmental. These values stand in contrast to neoliberal emphases on individualization and the detachment of economics from care. Putting such values into practice involves the vulnerability that comes with prioritizing others’ needs and persevering with inadequate or insecure material, human, and political resources.
- People resources: Pursuing social and environmental goals more vigorously than pursuing profit generation often leaves initiatives with a limited ability to pay decent (or any) wages. Instead, initiatives rely on a range of human labour sources and, therefore, on considerable resourcefulness, partnerships, and sacrifice.
- Towards social impacts: By resituating people within interpersonal, community, historical, cultural, and environmental contexts and systems, the initiatives work to counter the neoliberal logics that largely constrain people to roles of individual consumers or workers. This re-situation relies on values that help to build relationships within and outside the groups with which people are affiliated.
- Towards environmental impacts: In their work to protect and revitalize ecosystems, initiatives demonstrate an extension beyond concern for human interests and for the present moment. Instead they broaden their purview to include a range of species, natural resources, and generations.
- Towards economic impacts: Although social economy initiatives prioritize social and environmental goals over profit generation, their economic contributions are still significant. These add to the economic vitality of communities, shield government from various public expenses, and support small and local businesses. At the same time, they extend definitions of value beyond the monetary, and definitions of economic activity beyond the flow of money.
- Barriers: The small-scale nature of many initiatives as well as their subordination of a profit motive can make them vulnerable to a variety of barriers. For example, their work is challenged by government policies (both past and present) and a lack of resources. In addition, working within a dominant context that values independence, individualism, profit, hierarchies, and the erasure of stories, they face the challenge of promoting collaborative, grassroots, local ways of working and thinking.
The initiatives that actively participated as research partners on this project include:
- Algoma Highlands Wild Blueberry Farm & Winery
- Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS)
- Aroland Youth Blueberry Initiative
- Arthur Shupe Wild Foods
- Black Duck Wild Rice
- Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op
- DIG (Durham Integrated Growers for a Sustainable Community)
- FarmWorks Investment Co-operative Limited (FarmWorks)
- Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming
- Hidden Harvest
- Nipigon Blueberry Blast
- Seed Saving
- Willow Springs Creative Centre