Network of participatory multi-actor platforms
A key element of the VISIONARY methodology is the development of a network of participatory multi-actor platforms that will accompany and support the research work undertaken in each partner country.
We have described these platforms as Science-Policy-Interfaces (SPIs) and they bring together relevant food system actors (public and private sector) at local, regional, and national levels to:
- support the analysis and contextualisation of the agri-food systems under study;
- inform what is tested in the policy and value chain experiments and;
- help interpret the results of this experimentation for the design of new and innovative policy interventions and business models for adopting more climate-neutral and sustainable food production systems.
There are a total of 16 SPIs – two in each partner country. The effectiveness of the SPIs is enhanced with specific capacity-building activities for all participants, with a special focus on providing practical opportunities for young researchers to learn how to communicate effectively with industry and NGO stakeholders.
Our SPI case studies:
The Science-Policy-Interface (SPI) in South West England will focus on an analysis of the Food Hub managed by the Community Interest Company (CIC) Tamar Grow Local (TGL). The Food Hub has been in operation for nearly ten years and serves as a vehicle for connecting local suppliers in the Tamar Valley (Devon/Cornwall border) with local consumers. The Hub comprises an on-line retail site (using Open Food Network software) through which producers market their products (meat, vegetables, fruit, fish, juices) with weekly deliveries managed centrally by TGL staff who also provide wider business support to suppliers who require it. Whilst the Hub has proved itself to be an inspirational example of a short supply chain food system model, it’s success has largely depended on the altruism of TGL staff, trustees and a network of volunteers. The VISIONARY team will work with Food Hub stakeholders to understand what are the barriers to the Food Hub expanding and becoming economically resilient over the long term. Though primary and secondary research, we will seek to better understand the current blockers and what change is needed (in government policy, legislation, consumer habits, other) to help the Food Hub (and others like it) grow and flourish. The SPI will contain two types of individual: (1) ‘primary actors’ and (2) ‘secondary actors’. Primary actors are practitioners who are/could be directly involved in TGL Hub operational activities (e.g. staff, trustees, producers, customers, operational partners). Secondary actors are those who set policy/regulatory/funding frameworks which have an influence on TGL Hub activities or who might play a role in helping/leveraging TGL Hub activities in the future (e.g. Local Authorities, academics/technology providers, funding agencies/entities, business support organisations, Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs), Open Food Network etc). These secondary actors exist at a local level (i.e Cornwall/Devon) but they are also based at a regional and national level.
The SPI for the SolBun Cooperative (Fair Soil Coop) study case in Romania focuses on identifying the core characteristics of an economically sustainable small producers’ cooperative. In Romania, there are 3.6 million smallholder farms (or more precisely, agricultural households), managing some 45% of the total Utilized Agricultural Area. The aggregation of small producers into cooperatives is critical for accessing the market and reaching consumers. They have a very important role to play in local and regional food security (considering both rural and urban areas), but relatively few connect with modern food value chains despite the sustained demand of Romanian consumers for good quality local (including many traditional/artisan) products. Therefore, we aim to identify the requirements of joining a cooperative, the main economic and social benefits of the cooperatives upon their members, the consumers’ perceptions of this type of business model, compared with others, and also how cooperatives of small producers can become viable business models. We will engage with a diverse group of stakeholders: members of the SolBun Cooperative, the public authorities that coordinate and monitor the food chains at a local level (local municipality, National Veterinary, and Food Safety Authority, County Agricultural Directorate), the consumers of the cooperative, the voluntary sector organisations that promote and support agricultural cooperatives at a national level.
The Spanish Science-Policy-Interface (SPI) will be based on assessing how to approach cooperative dairy production to make it sustainable. One of the most relevant aspects being worked on in this regard is the reduction of the carbon footprint of milk production. However, given that the Spanish dairy sector is considered a vulnerable group that competes at low prices with a product that is a global commodity, it is essential to analyse the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of milk production in great depth. Thus, the aim is to provide knowledge on relevant aspects related to this end, ranging, for example, from animal feed management to CO2 compensation mechanisms, with a view to both social perception and the environmental approach and the necessary economic support mechanisms. This will be done through a cross-cutting dialogue with dairy farmers, dairy cooperatives, dairy market actors, policymakers, and representatives of academia and research.
The SPI for the Local Gastronomic Points (LGPs) study case in Romania focuses on assessing the long-term sustainability of the LGPs business model. Smallholder farms in Romania (or more precisely, agricultural households) are managing approximately 45% of the total Utilized Agricultural Area. They have a very important role to play in local and regional food security, but relatively few are connected with modern food value chains. The Local Gastronomic Points scheme is a business model based on adding value to products from agricultural households by establishing small-scale, family-type public food establishments. Therefore, we aim to identify the key characteristics of the business model, its socio-economic impact on the small producers’ well-being, the specific conditions need for upscaling the scheme in different regions, as well as the profile of the consumers and the consumers' perceptions of the business model. We will engage with a diverse group of stakeholders: the initiators of the Local Gastronomic Points scheme, the public authorities that coordinate and monitor the implementation of the scheme (National Veterinary and Food Safety Authority, National Agency of the Mountain Zone), the private associations involved in the scheme (Gastro Local Association), the Local Gastronomic Points, and the customers of the LGPs.