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Community Food Initiatives: Grassroots Innovation in Practice

Penzkofer, Ava M. (2017) Community Food Initiatives: Grassroots Innovation in Practice. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

As community food initiatives have become more widespread and well-established, they have become increasingly recognised for their ability to generate innovative civil society responses to a range of local needs and societal challenges (not least those framed around sustainability and social justice). However, despite their potential for catalysing action at the grassroots, significant challenges are faced in overcoming limited resources and power; and in attempting to maintain internal stability whilst working towards generating long-term and transformative social change. This thesis advances understanding of the dynamics of grassroots innovation by examining how community food initiatives negotiate the landscape of opportunities and challenges they face, in order to work towards developing sustainable practices at the local level in line with societal-level aims and objectives. The thesis critically engages a communities of practice approach, drawing on understanding of social learning to develop a framework for analysing innovation as both negotiated within communities, and co-produced through connections as part of landscapes of practice. In-depth engagement with collaborative partners Grow Sheffield and Feeding Manchester and their broader networks, has enabled analysis at a range of scales, exploring the role that shared histories of learning and connections across the landscape play in the development of grassroots innovation. In the context of increasing resource scarcity, the thesis finds that the interconnected challenges of maintaining survival and creating long-term impact are central to framing of innovation and learning. Capacity for innovation is not confined to organisations, but is carried within and between communities of practice and is generated through interaction across the landscape. In the final stages of the research, findings were put into practice by bringing together key partners to facilitate shared learning between cities and catalyse practical action towards developing a stronger network of community food initiatives in Sheffield. By developing understanding of the dynamics of grassroots innovation, the findings of this thesis contribute to debates around the role that community based organisations can play in transitions to sustainability. The thesis argues against focus on outcomes, scaling up, diffusion, and narrow understandings of knowledge for sustainability; and challenges a binary view of internal versus external processes. Instead, it demonstrates the value of understanding community organisations as generators of capacity for innovation, co-producing sustainable practices as they work across boundaries in landscapes of practice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: community, food, grassroots innovation, communities of practice
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Geography (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.733617
Depositing User: Ava M. Penzkofer
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2018 10:23
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2018 09:51
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/19375

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