Innovativeness of the Food Networks
The FOOdIVERSE project is looking for solutions that can make the food system more diverse and sustainable. Such innovations can arise at the local level, where more and more people are interested in creating short food supply chains. One of the goals of our project was to invite them to cooperate. We use the Living Lab approach, which is an increasingly important approach to creating innovations involving many different actors. The creation of Living Labs was preceded by case studies that helped us assess the innovative potential of Food Networks. These studies confirmed that they have the ability to generate new solutions for the food system. We have gained confidence that they are good bases for creating Living Labs.
Case studies were conducted in five countries: Poland, Norway, Germany, UK and Italy. We analyzed three Food Networks in each country. The research sample included various types of initiatives: Food Councils, Food Cooperatives, associations of various actors in food chains, Community Supported Agriculture initiatives.
There were formal and informal organizations among the examined Food Networks. Regardless of their legal status, Food Networks have a rather loose structure. Their characteristic feature is the participatory way of making decisions. This does not prevent effective project management. This means that Food Networks have the ability to carry out an innovative process in line with the Living Lab approach.
Food Networks bring together different actors of the food system. Therefore, they automatically meet the basic assumption of the Living Lab methodology. Diverse members hold different points of view on the problems of the food system. They also have diverse competences and qualifications, which is conducive to creating new solutions. Food Networks also have the potential to involve new actors in the innovative process.
Generating innovation is usually not an explicit goal of Food Networks. However, they are innovators, and their novelty is manifested in the fact that they empower various actors in the food chain. Citizens gain the ability to make decisions about its operation, which is not possible in mainstream ways of obtaining food.
Food Networks operate on a local scale, which limits the range of innovations they implement. However, they have the ability to create copies of themselves, i.e. similar organizations in other places. They disseminate the solutions they create by inspiring other organizations to do the same. This mechanism can be used to disseminate new solutions developed by FOOdIVERSE Living Labs.