When else do you get a chance to lay in the middle of one of Copenhagen’s busiest streets?
Car free Sunday is an initiative put on by Copenhagen Municipality to bring life to the streets in place of car traffic – read more here (in Danish). This year it was well coordinated to take place the same day as the Copenhagen Half Marathon and after the race, some major roads remained closed to car traffic to allow people to enjoy the urban space.
Chalking the streets was a great and interactive activity to enjoy on car free streets.
Dronning Lousie’ s Bro, home to the world’s busiest bike lane, was taken over by citizens who had the chance to be urban chalk artists for the day. Though the bridge was still open for bicycle traffic, it was too crowded at some points and cyclists had to dismount and walk their bikes.
Chalk crayons were provided and citizens of all ages took to the streets creating art.
We really enjoyed walking and making art in the middle of one of the city’s main streets – although you had to be careful to not sit in chalk and get your black pants colored like I did !
This weekend I went to Nyhavn and got 4 kilos of apples fresh off the ship from Fejø !
Fejø is a small island in Denmark known for its fruit production and is an place that is close to my heart. I spent 3 weeks volunteering at the Healing Garden, working and getting to know people from around the world, who are some of the most lovely people I have ever met.
Every Fall a tall ship sails from Fejø to Copenhagen carrying apples, pairs, plums as well as products honey and juice to sell in the harbor.
It is a cozy fall event that draws a big crowd. One of the great benefits is that you get to taste all of the different varieties of apples before you decide which ones to take home with you. I love this tradition that supports a local and direct food system !
Becasuse we had baking in mind, we got a mix of sweet apples (Sunshine) and some bitter sweet apples (Discovery). I will share the recipe for the apple crisp in the future.
In the meantime I am enjoying apples as a midday snack 🙂
This post will serve as a conclusion to this series on sustainable transition theories and approaches – see other posts in this series here, here, and here. In this post I will, present again a definition of sustainability, reflect on the various theories presented throughout the series and will conclude about their implications for sustainability.
What is sustainability, sustainable development, and sustainable transition ?
Sustainability can be defined as the intersection of activities that favor social, environmental, and economic outcomes. In other words, these elements are referred to as the 3 P’s: people, planet, and profit. We think about sustainable systems as something that can continue for the long term with out depleting resources. In an iconic report from 1987, UN Commissioner Brundtland defined sustainable development as an action plan that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future.” A transition in society is one that changes an existing system to provide a societal change. There can be a distinction made about the difference between innovation and transition. Innovation can be defined as the update or optimization of an existing system, however, sustainable transition takes it a step further to revolutionize or over through an existing system to create a new more sustainable norm.
This series has covered the following concepts and theories: Multilevel Perspective (MLP), Strategic Niche Management (SNM), Transition Management (TM), and Arenas of Development (AoD). The remainder of this post will recap what the different theories have in common and where they differ, as well as their contributions to sustainable design.
MLP + SNM
Within MLP, landscapes and regimes are perceived as stable. However I uncovered in the first theoretical post of this series, that the regime is made up of actors and therefore its stability is politicized and in reality can be quite fragile. In this case the network of actors attempts to conceal its self as a structure. MLP claims that sustainable transition is the outcome of the dynamics and interactions between the different structural levels. In the case of the food systems regime, it was uncovered that the regime is actually linked with a range of other regimes such as transport, energy, and water. Because these regimes are also vulnerable to the landscape pressure of climate change, it is vital to transition to a sustainable model within each of these regimes. SNM affords small scale visions and provides them the strategy and methodology allowing them to be upscaled.
As mentioned earlier, sustainability is the interplay between people, planet, and profit and therefore a sustainable food system model must stratify each of these elements. The MLP theory falls short of taking considerations of people into account, especially with the claim that individuals are not relevant to impact landscape level changes; they are only represented in the meso-level selection environment. Through SNM individuals have provided with the opportunity to selecting radical products as an alternative to the status quo and mainstream. In regards to the environmental consideration of MLP, it does consider environmental characteristics as part of the landscape pressure. In this way it is related to sustainability, and through SNM, strategies are provided to how to develop and introduce innovations to the market that will allow society to adapt to this pressure. SNM can be greatly related to economics, particularly regarding government shielding through tax breaks and subsidies. It can be argued though – is this really a sustainable model ? The goal of SNM is that at the niche level these innovations can get economic support, but then once they are upscaled and adopted into mainstream societal practices, they will be so engrained in everyday life that even without the support they will still survive.
TM aims at facilitating and enacting change and visionary processes over a long term period. The transition team is selected from the regime level of MLP and a group of frontrunner innovative actors are gathered to collaborate. This approach is quite utopian because it depends on a range of actors from different, potentially competing, organizations to reach a consensus and work together. TM can be compared to SNM in that it facilitates and fosters an incubation space for ideas and visions. There are transition experiments that are very similar to niches. They both have the primary goal of upscaling sustainable innovation.
A primary critique of the sustainability of TM is there is not strategy for how to deal with social conflicts or disagreements within the arena itself. This method will not be sustainable if actors cannot work together. Regarding environmental sustainability, TM is very effective at providing a method for developing radical and utopian ideals for the future. While this process is valuable for creating visions and helping them take off, it may be difficult to achieve such a vision over a long term incremental transition. Economic sustainability is not addressed within this concept, which might also be a drawback. With long-term change processes, there is often a large budget required for systemic level changes. Typically funds can come from donations or governments but within the TM theory and method, there is no description for how to gain such funds.
AoD is an actor and conflict driven strategy that aims at finding unconfigured spaces (junctions) and mediating their development through navigation of conflicts and strategic actor involvement. With this in mind, it is significant to point out AoD comes in where MLP falls short; within development, inclusion/exclusion of actors or actor constellations can be done as to strategically destabilize or restabilize regime dynamics. This theory contributes that within sustainable transitions, all outcomes are determined by actor networks and their interactions.
The concept of junction development can be quite socially sustainable in regards to increase urban livability and quality of life. However, it is important to consider the possibility of gentrification when thinking about and working with junctions. In regards to environmental sustainability, junctions can also offer positive contributions through the possibility of adding green spaces to cities thus increasing biodiversity and helping to lower carbon emissions, for example. Junction solutions aim at providing multifunctional solutions which can improve localization and thus local economy. However, economic optimization or cost efficiency may not a top priority of junction and arena development.
In conclusion, the transition theories described in this series have provided me with great insight into the realm of sustainable transitions and also allowed me to be reflective on their application, feasibility, as well as advantages and disadvantages. The application to the case of organic and local food systems transition provided me with tools to thoroughly analyze and understand the relevant ideas, networks, and other elements that comprise this complex concept. My understanding of the transition has greatly increased and my research and study have provided me with tools practical tools to apply to future projects in my career as a sustainable designer.
Within the organic food production and consumption transition around Copenhagen and Denmark, a new project has joined the movement: ØsterGRO, an organic rooftop farm in Østerbro, Copenhagen. This post will discuss the concepts of junctions, mediators, and navigation within the theory of Arena of Development (AoD) and apply it to the case of ØsterGRO. A particular attention will be paid to actors and actor constellations and potential conflicts in the arena. The theory is taken from two texts by sustainable transition researchers: Harbor bathing and the urban transition of water in Copenhagen: junctions, mediators, and urban navigations by Jensen, Hoffman, Lauridsen, & Fratini, as well as Creating Copenhagen’s Metro – on the role of protected spaces in arenas of development by Pineda and Jørgensen. After this presentation and application, the advantages and disadvantages of the theory will be discussed.
An arena of development is created “when a new discourse, claim, material arrangement, and set of institutions are established through a careful configuration of boundaries with other existing arenas.” In this case, the arena is an urban design plan to bring climate adaptation to a neighborhood in Østerbro in Copenhagen.
Before analyzing ØsterGRO, it is necessary to provide context to the greater project that the roof top farm is a part of. The Klimakvarter is a neighborhood area in Skt. Kjelds Kvarter in Østerbro in Copenhagen, that has been funded and dedicated to developing urban design that will promote climate adaptation, and is set to become Copenhagen’s first climate resilient neighborhood.
a rendering of the planned urban design of a square in the climate adaptation neighborhood of Copenhagen.
To align the case to the AoD theory, the Klimakvarter is a junction. A junction is an under configured space that does not optimize socio and material relationships and is a site where the urban fabric has come unstable. Here urban fabric is defined as urban fabric is conceptualized as: “the complex interplay among interdependent yet partly autonomous socio-material assemblages characterized by ambiguous and sometimes conflict-ridden relationships and interdependencies.” This instability has been caused by changes in climate that result in destructive weather patterns.
This neighborhood’s redesigns are made with a special focus on dealing with cloud bursts, an issue that is becoming increasingly prevalent in Copenhagen. Below see video footage from a cloudburst in 2011, which visualizes the issue these weather patterns create.
The Klimakvarter project aims to add ‘blue and green elements’ to the urban space in order to make the city resilient to higher rain and sea levels, warmer weather, and other climate change threats, while at the same time adding to livability and quality of life for residents.
The plan for the Klimakvarter, including a description of its projects, can be found here.
Mediator and Navigation: ØsterGRO
The rooftop farm ØsterGRO is a project within the Klimakvarter. To align it with the AoD theory, it is then a mediator because it is an initiative acting to produce a change in the conflict of the junction. Jensen, Hoffman, Lauridsen and Fratini define a mediator as “a local project or intervention that proves instrumental in positioning itself as a key node in a broader series of reconfigurations among the socio-material assemblages pertaining to one or several sociotechnical systems.” The farm sets to reconfigure a portion of the neighborhood in multiple ways: physically through a transformed rooftop and socially through an engaged community.
The concept of navigation can be defined as “the activities by which urban actors try to reconfigure new stable boundaries and relationships among socio-material assemblages that have been drawn into a ‘hot situation’ at a particular junction.” The founders and project managers of ØsterGRO are three young landscape architects whose navigation of the development process can be divided into two phases: the preparation phase and the action phase.
During the preparation phase the young innovative developers conceptualized the idea, proposed it to the Klimakvarter and its decision-making committee, gained funding, found a space, and began the initial design process. These activities were all about interacting, scripting, and enrolling relevant human and non-human actors to the project. These actors and actor constellations will be presented in greater detail in the following section. A situational element that was necessary to finding during this phase was finding a site for the project. The founders secured the site on the rooftop of an old auto auction house. The building’s structure was reinforced to hold cars on the roof, therefore it was also a perfect fit for a roof top farm with large amounts of heavy soil, water, and plants. During this phase there is knowledge required of the developers such as project proposal and management, landscape design, as well as knowledge of farming and its physical requirements.
In the action phase the project managers began the work of developing the physical space. While the founders had the vision and design skills, they lacked farming knowledge and skills. For that reason, they sought help from farmers around the Copenhagen area to teach them and help in the beginning of the action phase. The following steps included gaining members, creating community, and growing and harvesting food and plants. After the initial portion of the action phase, the project began to grow and expand. This process lead to the an increase product range, such as the addition of a chicken coop and honey bees, as well as outreach to the extended community of Copenhagen through school activities and public tours, and additionally a newly opened public restaurant. During the action phase additional knowledge was required, some of it tacit which could only be learned through experience. This can include actor and conflict navigation. These conflicts can be caused by discrepancies and differences, as well as lacking of knowledge from particular actors. This will be discussed deeper in the following section.
organic urban food production in ACTION !
Actors and Conflicts
The AoD theory utilizes the Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and therefore the actors within the arena must be identified before further analysis can continue. It is important to note that when creating the arena of development, actor inclusion and exclusion is highly relevant and this consideration will have a significant impact on the final outcome of the arena. The AoD theory also acknowledges that the outcome of the development process is impacted by external elements such as environment, technology, spaces and built elements, and infrastructure. These elements are important to acknowledge when analyzing both the actor constellations and conflicts of the case.
The basic concept of the ØsterGRO project is that the farm produces food for a small co-operative made up by members of the local community. These members pay a sum at the beginning of the growing season and then receive a bag of food produced by the farm each week of the harvest season. These members are invited to help with the tasks of the farm on a recreational level. As mentioned above the project also reaches to the greater urban community of Copenhagen.
The actors in the case of ØsterGRO include:
the Klimakvarter, and consequently the backers and supporters of the Klimakvarter project
the three landscape architects who conceptualized and founded ØsterGRO
the paying members of the initiative
other members of the local community and Copenhageners
supportive and knowledge sharing Danish farmers
supporters both in the press, media, and organic supporting organizations
the urban fabric including the site
the environment including the daily weather and temperatures, as well as cloudbursts
a picture of me taken during a visit to ØsterGRO during the Eat your City conference in September 2014.
The inclusion and exclusion of these actors is highly relevant because it impacts the outcome of the development of this project and arena. In this case Klimakvarter and its supporters were relevant in the preparation phase of the project, however they have been excluded from the action phase so that the control and development is up to the project managers independent from the input and opinions of their financial supporters. Within the organic and local food regime there are different actor constellations. An actor constellation is the arrangement or grouping of actors. Within this regime there can be different constellations such as: production, distribution, consumption, regulation, general supporting bodies. The impact of non-humans in each of these constellations is also relevant to note.
It is possible for various conflicts to arise, both social and situational. Examples of social conflicts that may occur could be between local residents and the project managers, between the team of project managers themselves, between members of the cooperative or between members and the project managers. These conflicts could arise out of social strains or socio material strains, and thus should be solved in a manner that aligns with the nature of the issue.
It is also interesting to think about situational conflicts, which could be either environmental, economic or spatial. A highly relevant conflict is the projects spatiality with the main issue at the moment is that the demand has outgrown the sites capacity. This issue could be solved by expanding the project to other areas, and perhaps creating a VesterGRO, NørreGRO, or roof top farms in any of the other neighborhoods of Copenhagen. This process of development would require many relevant subjects to sustainable design such as project management, organizational understanding, as well as upscaling of a niche within a transition movement. This conflict and solution mainly impacts the project managers of the ØsterGRO initiative as well as members of the local community who wish to become members or the cooperative or get involved in other ways. The municipality would also be required to get involved setting regulations for this project expansion to take off.
Reflection on Theory
The flexibility concept of junctions is advantageous to its application and usage. While typically junction is defined as a physical site, this description can be stretch so that the concept can also be applied to non-physical spaces as well. For example, hypothetically the concept could be stretched and applied to an unconfigured thought process of consumers. If consumers only think about economic incentive when purchasing food, their thought process would be unconfigured if the price of conventional and organic products were the same. In this case, a mediator could be applied in the form of informative material in the shop to inform consumers of the many sustainable benefits of organic food, as well as the harms in conventional food production and consumption. This mediator could influence and enroll consumers into the organic food consumption transition.
There are also a few disadvantages to the navigational aspect of the mediators and junctions concepts. While the theory places significance in the navigation of junctions and conflicts, it does not offer insight as to how they should be navigated. Enrollment is mentioned as a step of navigation, however this is an elaborate and complex process that requires thoughtful and thorough evaluation and fulfillment. How this should be handled is left to the mediator without much guidance from the theory.
To conclude, the Arena of Development theory along with junctions, mediators, and navigation is relevant to apply to urban transitions and did provide me with an interesting frame to analyze the case of ØsterGRO in the Klimakvarter.
To find out more information, and to hear about events or activities at ØsterGRO, follow them on Facebook !
Baykal, A. (2013). Copenhagen Climate Resistant Neighborhood. Copenhagen Municpality, The Technical and Environmental Administration, Copenhagen.
Jensen, J. S., Hoffman, B., Lauridsen, E. H., & Fratini, C. F. (2015). Harbour bathing and the urban transition of water in Copenhagen: junctions, mediators, and urban navigations. Environment and Planning, 47, 1-17.
Pineda, A. F., & Jørgensen, U. (2015). Creating Copenhagen’s Metro – on the role of protected spaces in arenas of development.
Solhund, S. (2011, July 02). Skybrud i København (2011). Retrieved April 20, 2015, from Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tINAEETaZnE
Tredje Natur (accessed 2015). Projekter. Retrieved April 22, 2015, from Klimakvarter: http://www.klimakvarter.dk/byrum/
This post in the series on Sustainable Transition, will focus on the concept of Transition Management, and use it as a tool to analyze the Danish organic food movement and KBHFF. Simultaneously, I will present Loorbach’s theoretical concepts of Transition Management, along with how they would be applied in a hypothetical transition arena I created as if I was a consultant hired to analyze their transition process. My analysis of the case and application of the theory is based on research and some suppositions because in reality, this approach has not been applied to this transition. Finally I will reflect upon the theory and the analysis.
Presentation of Theory and Case
The transition from conventional to organic food production is emerging from a niche market to being a solid contributor to the regime of the Danish food sector. While in 2013, organic food products only accounted for 8% of the food sold in Danish supermarkets, the government has an ambitious goal to have over 60% of food consumed from public kitchens in schools for example to be organic by 2020. Additionally, the mainstream Coop supermarket, Irma, aims to boost its organic products to 50% of its wares in the next 10 years. This year the store aims to add 250 organic products to its shelves. These are examples of elements that could lie within a Transition Management process. Now the theory will be introduced and then applied to the case.
In many Western European countries and governments, governance takes the role of coordinating policies that will satisfy a wide range of actors. To successfully achieve consensus, a balance is needed between the state, the market, and society. An important point to note is that “top down planning and market dynamics only account for part of societal change; network dynamics and reflexive behavior account for other parts.”
Transition Management is an approach that takes network dynamics into consideration, attempts to address complex problems, and works towards developing long term solutions. It is a collaborative approach where different network actors join forces in order to develop a vision and plan for sustainable transitions on a societal scale. This approach focuses on front-runners, has an objective of radical innovation, and is selective about participation.
Transition Management is a cyclical approach with transition happening across distinct phases: Strategic, Tactical, Operational, and Reflective.
The transition cycle is visualized here and the phases and concepts are elaborated below.
Arena set up: The strategic phase sets up the transition arena – the setting where transition can be framed and initiated. Strategic activities include setting the long term goals of the transition. The transition arena is the theme that has already been discussed at length in this series: the transition from conventional to organic food production, distribution, and consumption in Denmark.
Team set up: This phase includes the process of gathering the transition team, which is made up of a range of relevant actors. This process enacts the selective participation mentioned above. The transition team must be strategically selected to accomplish a common goal, and the players who are included and excluded must be considered, and this decisions impact on the ultimate goal must be evaluated.
The transition team should be comprised of 10-15 front runners in this field. Based on my research I can propose that the transition team should consist of individuals from the following organizations, institutions, and businesses:
founding or board members of KBHFF as well as some of the community members from this organization
founding or board members as well as some of the community members from of ØsterGRO (a local organic roof top farm co-operative)
Staff and active volunteers from KBH Madhus (an organization working towards promoting organic food consumption as well as cooking education and awareness in schools and other public institutions)
A representative from the corporation Coop, a large supermarket conglomeration, could potentially be included in the transition team as well. This could be a risk because Coop is such a large organization and the majority of their products are not local or organic, they could be seen as a competitor. However, I believe it is relevant to include such a strong player in the Danish food distribution field because they have the possibility to make a large scale impact. Coop is already making strides towards supporting organic food in their stores, as mentioned earlier in their chain of Irma supermarkets. The Coop Sweden has recently released a video that demonstrates their support for the organic food movement.
Challenge framed: The transition team is together responsible for framing the transition challenge, and this process is about “creating a shared understanding of the underlying problems in the transition challenge.” The industrailzation and global scale manufacturing of highly processed foods has created many sustainabiity challenges. Some potential challenges that could be framed are:
Environmental: pesticides and other chemicals getting into the food and water supply, animal abuse on factory farms and the consequent CO2 emissions from this large scale production, rain forest degradation for meat production, ‘food miles’ or the distance food travels from its production source to its consumption site and its consequent C02 emissions
Social: many highly processed foods are high in sugar, which in large amounts is not healthy, also foods high in sugar often lead to over consumption due to chemicals reaction in the brain from sugar consumption (see my post about the sugar consumption documentary Fed Up here), processed food also can lead to food waste due to the consumer’s disconnection with its production and its perception as easily accessible and ‘cheap’
Economic: processed/conventionally produced food is cheaper than organic counter parts – because many people are motivated primarily by cost and economic incentive, these foods are consumed more
Vision created: Once the transition challenge has ben framed, a vision must be created. Vision creation is common step in any management process, and it is imperative that the transition team co-creates this vision, and put aside their “institutional perspectives.” The vision tells a narrative of an ideal future and serves as a axis for strategies and actions to spin off of. The overall vision of my conception of Danish organic and local food transition is:
While this vision is quite broad, specifics will be played out in the following phases. Many benefits of this vision can be read about here. Once the transition vision has been created, the tactical phase can begin.
Layout pathways: It is during this phase that the transition agenda forms. The tactical phase takes a middle range timeframe, not long and not short, and it acts to connect the transition vision with more concrete solutions to achieve the vision. To achieve this, transition pathways are developed. These pathways are descriptions of possible directions to take to reach the stated vision, and while they contain goals and action points, they are not specifically detailed or fixed.
Potential pathways for my specific case include:
Production: support farmers
Distribution: increase stocks and variety of products in super markets
Consumption: increase consumption in public eateries, adjust costs to be economically attractive, provide information to consumers and increase awareness about sustainable benefits, as well as negative ramifications of conventional agriculture
Governmental support and regulation
Elaborate pathways: These pathways help the transition team “define, prioritize, and elaborate” their plans and then create some “action ideas” to take in the near future.  The creation and elaboration of pathways allows the team to recognize possible “drivers and barriers” that exist in their frame. A possible methodology for elaborating pathways is to ‘back cast’, which is starting with the vision and then creating the pathway backwards from there. This method provides a possibility for thinking outside of the box and breaking away from the bounds of the current reality, by starting with a focus on future actions.
The elaboration of the laid out pathways in this case could be as follows:
Production: subsidize farmers, reduce taxes
Distribution: Special section in all Coop super markets (find a store here) with all local and organic products, regular sales on these items
Consumption: increase awareness through schools, events, demonstrations, media, government requirements of minimum local and organic food served in public kitchens such as schools and universities, hospitals, government canteens, etc…, activate stakeholders to continue, expand and start new user driven initiatives such as the successful KBHFF and ØsterGRO, less taxes on these products in super markets
Government support and regulation: these pathways have been mentioned above with tax reductions, subsidies, and regulations for requirement of organic food in public kitchens
Experiments and Spin offs: Based on the laid out and elaborated pathways, short term actions are planned, which take the form of experiments or spin offs. Transitions experiments are “initiatives to explore and learn about the shifts in structures, cultures, and practices as depicted in the transition pathways.” Spin offs are “less radical or explorative nature but are equally helpful in pushing the transition agenda forward.” These initiatives are means to explore new ways to satisfy society and its demands. With experimentation, it is often required to take a period of a few years to gain support.
Examples of experiments or spin offs in my case include:
initiatives such as KBHFF, ØsterGRO, and the work done at KBH Madhuset
special events and public demonstrations, cooking classes, farm visits, and free samples to spark user interests
Consolidation of the transition agenda: Up until this point, the steps described all contribute to creating the transition agenda, which “provides direction for the long term and inspires actions for the short term.” The transition agenda is a tool for maintaining the focus yet expanding initiatives and attracting supporters.
Engaging and Anchoring: This phase is about engaging parties outside of the protected transition arena. It is about maintaining the driving forces that supported the transition arena “by continuing to make space for emerging paradigms and practices, while exploring new roles and relationships.” This can be accomplished by bringing attention to the cause through events, publicity, and seeking support from businesses, organizations, governing bodies, and other individuals.
Engagement and anchoring that goes beyond the pathways and experiments described above may include:
engage more distribution of organic products at large and small scale establishments such as kiosks, movie theaters, or corporate canteens.
encourage existing conventional farmers to convert all or some of their work to organic
reach out to restaurants to further partnerships with farmers and direct sales of products to increase distribution and consumption in this area as well
Monitoring and Evaluation: Once the transition begins to transfer outside of the arena, it is necessary to monitor its progress, particularly the response to experiments and other initiatives. This allows transition actors to observe, react, and adjust their approaches. Reflection allows the learning process to continue and expand and the coordinators can learn and attempt new ways to engage and attract others to the transition.
My Reflection on the Transition Management approach
A challenge the Danish organic food transition could encounter if taking a ST Management approach is the transition team members having difficulty leaving their individual institutional perspectives behind. For example, Coop and KBHFF are technically competing in the market place. It may be difficult, but actors must put their exterior motives aside and focus on supporting all initiatives that address transition challenge, even if it may support market competitors.
I would suggest the transition team too coordinate greater initiatives to educate the public on the advantages of organic food production and consumption. It is often less economically appealing to purchase organic, therefore it is relevant to play up the environmental, social, and personal benefits of this transition. In the article about the organic market in Denmark, it is stated that a majority of consumers purchase organic for its environmental and health benefits. If these aspects are highlighted, as well as the disadvantages in these areas of conventional food production and consumption, the public and market can thus gain traction towards the organic transition.
I would also suggest that KBHFF organize more public promotional events, such as preparing and selling food at festivals or farmers markets. This could increase awareness of the initiative and gain members. Another way could also be to organize tours to their supplier’s farms so that members can visualize the process of food production and the organization’s actions, as well as see the benefits of their participation and thus create more passion in individuals to help spread the causes’ message even further.
Transition Management aims to transition systems towards sustainability by rerouting ongoing transitions in changes in cultures, structures, and practices. This is pushing for a general change in landscape, through smaller scale initiatives, such as KBHFF and other initiatives mentioned in this post and last. The experimentation phase of Transition Management is similar to SNM as it provides similar opportunities for a protected environment for an activity or initiative to gain support.
To conclude, Transition Management is an effective theory for analyzing a transition. Its step by step approach is also effective for applying it as a method for creating a vision and commencing an organized transition process. As conveyed in this post, it helped me to understand that while food distributors are competing in the market, they may share a common vision for promoting sustainable local and organic food production. Transition Management shows how these organizations have the potential to collaborate and work together to define this vision and make progress towards realizing it, despite their market competition.
 (Roorda, Frantzeskaki, Loorbach, van Steenbergen, & Wittmayer, 2012)
 (Roorda, Frantzeskaki, Loorbach, van Steenbergen, & Wittmayer, 2012)
Det økologiske marked. (n.d.). Retrieved April 5, 2015, from Landbrug & Fødevarer: http://www.lf.dk/viden_om/oekologi/markedet.aspx
Loorbach, D. (2010). Transition Managment for Sustainable Development: A Perspective, Complexity-Based Governance Framework. Governance: An Inernational Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions, 23 (1), 161-183.
Roorda, C., Frantzeskaki, N., Loorbach, D., van Steenbergen, F., & Wittmayer, J. (2012). Transition Managmement in Urban Context – guidance manual, collaborative evaluation version. Erasmus University Rotterdam. Rotterdam: Drift.
Skouboe, L. (2015, January 9). Økologisk Lansforening. Retrieved April 5, 2015, from Okologi.dk: http://www.okologi.dk/aktuelt/nyheder/2015/jan/irma-boejer-sin-oeko-vision-i-neon.aspx
here is a descriptive video (in Danish) describing the regular process of food distribution facilitated by Københavns Fødevarefælleskab– this initiative and its actions will be discussed throughout this post and series.
The transition I have decided to focus on in this blog series is local and organic food production, distribution, and consumption. The initiative I have selected to discuss in this post is Copenhagen’s Food Collective (KBHFF – Københavns Fødevarefælleskab). This post will discuss the Multilevel Perspective (MLP) and Strategic Niche Management (SNM) theories. MLP will be understood through the lense of F.W. Geel’s presentation of the theory in the text The Dynamics of Soctio-technical Systems: A Multi-level Analysis of the Transition Pathway from Horse-Drawn Carriages to Automobiles (1860-1930). The MLP theory will be presented and applied to my chosen transition. Both its distinction between three levels of societal function as well as the interplay between these levels will be discussed. Additionally SNM will be explained and applied to understand howKBHFF, the niche sustainable transition initiative, could utilize its concepts to upscale and fit into the mainstream level of societal functions. SNM will be understood through the lense of Schot, Hoogma, and Elzen in their text Strategies for Shifting Technological Systems – The case of the automobile system and Smith and Raven in their text What is a protective space? Reconsidering niches in transitions to sustainability. This post will conclude with a presentation and discussion of the limitations of both the MLP and SNM theories.
Presentation of the local and organic food transition through a Multilevel Perspective
MLP structurally divides society into three different levels: socio technical landscapes, socio technical regimes, and niches. Each of these distinctions are products of three specific elements:
the systems required for fulfilling societal functions – for example governmental bodies or infrastructural systems
social groups and their corresponding practices which support the existing systems
the rules and regulations that support such social practices and systems
A visual representation of the different levels and their relations can be visualized below.
First I will present the regime – the middle (meso) level in this perspective. The regime can be viewed as the sector that is supported by systems and social practices that carries our societal functions such as transportation, energy, or food systems. The regime is considered the selection environment, where a market is present allowing society to direct their consumption towards a certain provider of a societal function. According to Geels, “regimes account for the stability of existing socio-technical systems.” The stability and resistance to change at the regime level is attributed to lock-in of current rules, regulations, social norms, and systems that perpetuate their existence.
The food system regime is quite complex and can be divided into multiple sub regimes such as production, distribution, and consumption. Currently there are many social norms that keep conventional food systems in place such as existing infrastructure of global production and distribution networks, rules and regulations that foster or inhibit alternative methods to be used in food production, as well as the social value of economic incentive thus influencing many people to buy the cheapest products possible. The existing food system regime is also related to other regimes such as transport, energy, and water, and is thus linked to the stability and norms of these regimes as well. By theory regimes are stable, however later in this post I will discuss how this claim might now be as concrete as expected.
The Danish organic label for food products. It symbolizes requirements for growing, harvesting, and production of goods. In 1987, Denmark became the first country in the world to pass legislation on organic production and sales regulations. This form of regulation is categorized within the regime level of the MLP.
Next I will present the landscape perspective, which creates the macro level of this view on society and transitions. Geels defines landscape as reference to “wider exogenous environment that affects sociotechnical development.” Individual actors cannot change this level of influence. The landscape level of this perspective relates to the context of how the existing system has been constructed. In the case of food production, distribution, and consumption there are some existing landscape pressures which are effecting the regime in the level below, such as:
industrialization of food production, and the farming of animals and crops
globalization including global trade within the food sector and economic competition in the market
urbanization and the removal of food production from the everday life of most urban dwellers
technological development of chemical (pesticides, herbasides, insecticides) and farming practices.
climate change and the growning need for adaptation.
These elements and activities influence societal function on a large scale and have an impact on many regimes, including but not limited to food production, distribution, and consumption.
The micro-level in the MLP is the niche level – a bed for radical innovations. At this level, new and radical innovations exist at a small scale and are in some way protected from external factors such as market competition. This concept will be described in greater detail in a following section about Strategic Niche Management.
Now that I have presented the standing food system regime and landscape pressures impacting it, I will present the historical development of the organic food niche in Denmark. This niche and its relevant initiatives are pushing to influence a sustainable transition from conventional food systems to local and organic food systems.
As researched and documented by the organization Organic Denmark, Danish farmers began experimenting with (returning to) organic produce cultivation in the mid 1970’s. This interest in organic, pesticide free agriculture could have been sparked by the landscape pressure of a food supply contaminated with chemicals and the harmful result on the environment, as described by Rachel Carson in her book ‘Silent Spring’. With this shift in context, began with niches. In Denmark, this technological niche was developed by intrigued farmers who wish to begin cultivating organic produce again.
In 1981-82, a small number of Danish farmers, who had begun producing organic food, formed an association and began selling their products in supermarkets. This can been seen as a process, which according to Schot, Hoogma, and Elzen, is one of the methods for Strategic Niche Management: experimentation. This experimentation lead to the market development and the first organic carrots came on the market shortly there after. Although from this period up to 1993 there was a very low demand for organic products, and not all of the produced items could be sold.
However in 1993-94, the Danish supermarket, Super Brugsen, in the Coop supermarket corporation, launched a campaign to market and discount organic products thus creating a demand boom, and starting a trend among other super markets. This can be described as a regime activity because it occurs in the food distribution sector to influence social practices. Despite a period of success, over the following years, interest in and consumption of organic product grew. In 1999, growth of organic market in Denmark stagnated, and it wasn’t until 2005 that the market began to thrive again. This can again be attributed to the existing norms, rules and systems represented by the regime and landscape at the time.
In the past decade, “the organic market share has increased from 3.5% in 2009 to 8% in 2013, and Organic Denmark expects that the organic market share will continue to increase. In 2013, the “organic turnover for Danish catering operations is approaching DKK 1 billion. Organic sales have grown from around DKK 456 million in 2009 to around DKK 918 million in 2012, doubling in three years.”
Stategic Niche Management applied to the organic food system transition and KBHFF
Strategic Niche Management is a theory that employs adding strategy to develop and upscale the transition and create a positive sustainable impact. The Danish government has and continues to employ strategies to support the Danish organic movement. According to Schot, Hoogma, and Elzen, this can be seen as a form of strategic niche management under the regulator governmental shielding approach. This strategy impacts the selection environment and supports organic consumption from market completion. The Danish government applies various strategies towards support the organic movement, such as:
giving over €3.3 million to sales promotion of organic products on the domestic market
working to “simplify the control requirements…for supermarkets to use organic raw material”
encouraging public kitchens to increase organic materials usage, and supporting various public organizations with purchasing organic products fx. school canteens and hospitals
facilitating educational workshops and activities for the public around the production and consumption of organic products
Currently in Copenhagen, there is a user driven form of strategic niche management of the organic movement in Denmark: the Copenhagen Food Collective (KBHFF). This is a member organized, run, and owned initiative that purchases raw food products from organic or biodynamic farms in Denmark. The collective purchases the products in bulk orders directly from farmers and then divides it into individual locations, and from there individual bags for members to purchase for 100 DKK every week. This initiative can be considered a niche because it is a radical concept that is protect from external market competition because it involved members and offers them an additional function besides food distribution: community. Members are all customers, employees, and shareholders of the organization and it is this self run, voluntary set up that allows the organization to offer high quality organic products at an affordable price – allowing all an opportunity to buy organic.
an visual representation of 1 weeks worth of fresh product from the collective – all that delicious, sustainable, organic, and local produces for only 100 DKK !
Applying Smith and Raven’s concept of stretch and transform is a relevant method to suggest to KBHFF, or similar initiatives, to upscale in order to impact the organic and local food system in the regime. Because such a member driven local initiative is quite radical, stretch and transform is recommended as it aims to “undermine incumbent regimes and transmit niche-derived institutional reforms into re-structured regimes.” For example the concept of KBHFF could be upscaled through the stretch and transform method in elementary schools. The institutional organization could set up partnerships with local organic farms where students could weekly collect fresh produce from the farms and deliver it to their schools canteen to be prepared for their lunch. This idea goes beyond the boundaries of existing social practices both within the food sector and the education sector, however it could empower the transition as it attempts to re-structure mainstream regime environments.
Critique of Theory
MLP is an analytical tool for generating an overall understanding of societal levels and the opportunities for, restrictions on, and possibilities of sustainable transitions. The landscape, regime, and niche structural levels allow transition actors to understand the dynamics between these levels, society, and the transition at hand. However, there are some limitations to this structuralization as well. It can be unclear as to defining distinctions between landscape and regime level, which can impact how a transition should be approached. Also, society and sustainable transitions are not linear processes and thus it can be counter intuitive to categories them into such a linear and structural formation as is done in MLP.
Additionally it can be criticized that MLP does not provide a geographical boundary. What can be at the niche level in one place, for example organic food systems in a small organic farming village, may still be at the niche level on a national or international scale. Another critique of the MLP comes in a the regime level with the claim that regimes are stable. However, because regimes are made up of actors and are influence by landscape pressures, there is the possibility for human instability in the form of actions or decision making processes. With the being said, it is important to realize that regimes might not be as stable as it is lead to be believed.
Finally, while Strategic Niche Management provides a framework for upscaling radical innovations from the micro niche level up to a greater scale, a critique is that this strategy does not limit the content of niches to sustainable innovations. It is possible that this strategy could be applied to an unsustainable technology that could ultimately cause more harm that good. Additionally SNM is theoretically defined to apply solely to technological innovations. However, it can be seen from my presentation of KBHFF that this strategy can also be applied to social innovations.
In conclusion, the interaction between processes at different levels of the MLP is the key element that brings transitions, and they dynamic between such levels can provide insight into understanding transition processes.
(2015). Organic Action Plan for Denmark. The Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries of Denmark, Copenhagen.
Annauno. KBHFF Uge 41. Annauno.dk. Copenhagen.
Fødevarestyrelsen. Danish Ø.
Geels, F. W. (2005). The Dynamics of Transitions in Socio-technical Systems: A Multi-level Analysis of the Transition Pathway from Horse-drawn Carriages to Automobiles (1860-1930). Tecnology Analysis & Strategic Management, 17 (4), 445-476.
Hansen, J. M., Fosgrau, M. S., & Hansen, R. A. (Writers). (2014). Frivilig i fødevarefælleskab [Motion Picture].
This post marks the first post in a new series related to Sustainable Transition. This semester I am taking a course on Sustainable Transition and will be documenting my learnings from the course in a series of posts.
“The starting point for transitions research is a recognition that many environmental problems, such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, resource depletion (clean water, oil, forests, fish stocks), are formidable societal challenges, whose solution requires deep structural changes in key areas of human activity, including our transport, energy, agrifood, housing, manufacturing, leisure and other systems. Furthermore we recognise that the crucial challenge for sustainable development is the fact that existing systems tend to be very difficult to ‘dislodge’ because they are stabilized by various lock-in processes that lead to path dependent developments and ‘entrapment’.” From the Mission Statement and Research Agenda for the Sustainability Transitions Research Network.
My expectations for the course are that I will develop in the following areas:
Learn Sustainable Transition Theory. Categories of lessons:
Mediators and Junctions
the main issues that prevent sustainable transition
the main elements that promote sustainable transition
How does a phenomena reproduce and thus become mainstream ?
Firming a personal standpoint in local and global societies position in sustainability, sustainable development, and sustainable transition.
The following posts in this series will discuss and reflect on the course subjects and relate them to a sustainable transition initiative local to Copenhagen.
I have two possible cases in mind and am still deciding where I should focus. The potential cases are:
KBHFF – a local food collective in Copenhagen that supports regional organic and biodynamic farmers by creating a market made up of collective members who purchase seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables every week. The collective is member driven and demonstrates sustainability in each pillar of sustainable development: ecological, social, economic, as well as cultural. I am personally a member of this organization.
Byhaven 2200 – a permaculture garden in the middle of a public park in Nørrebro. Again, this initiative is completely member driven and also supports the 4 pillars of sustainable development. I am not yet a member of this organization but I have a high interest in joining – just need to find the time !!! This project could be a good opportunity to start 🙂