Building resilience in Urban Food Systems. The challenge of scaling-up alternative food distribution networks. An exploration through comparative case-study analysis.
This dissertation focuses on the governance of alternative food networks (AFNs). The aim is to identify, conceptualize and empirically investigate the critical governance tensions conditioning the genesis and the life-course of alternative food initiatives. To this purpose this dissertation develops a Hybrid Governance Approach (HGA) which identifies three types of governance tensions - i.e. organizational, resource and institutional - and analyses the interrelations among them in different case-studies of local food initiatives in the Brussels-Capital Region. An international case study - Toronto - is investigated to learn from similarities and differences in the ways local food networks experience and address governance tensions in the two city-regions’ food policy trajectories.
The empirical findings of this dissertation help to unravel the contradictions and dilemmas that AFNs face in their dynamic reproduction. The need to cope with their own spatial-material growth, to secure necessary material-operational resources - among which arable land to feed (alternative) food systems - as well as the necessity to deal with often contradictory multi-level socio-institutional environments are among the key factors of governance tension in AFNs. The analysis is also attentive to the outcomes of the governance tensions in the life-course of local food initiatives and thus to the promising organizational strategies, self-reflexive and co-learning dynamics put into place by AFNs to cope with the experienced tensions or to channel them into sustainable directions.