DIGGING DEEPER: Bringing a Systems Approach to Food Systems: Food System Governance
Following on my columns on scale (fall 2012) and feedback loops (spring 2013), I want to turn to another systems concept that is difficult and sometimes risky, but one that has to be embraced if we are to reach our goal of sustainable, resilient food systems. The concept is governance, which in general is understood as "managing, steering and guiding of public affairs by governing procedures and institutions in a democratic manner" (Pisano, Berger, Endl, & Sedlacko, 2011, p. 3). Governance has resonance in many different settings, but two are of particular interest: the first is the relevance and efficacy of organizational structures that we encounter and work with in attempting to change policy; the second is the governance of supply chains, which is so critical to any chain's success.
I'm echoing some of the ideas in a recent article by the Nourishing Communities research group out of Ontario, Canada (Blay-Palmer et al., 2013). I'm also impressed with the sophisticated thinking going on around governance and sustain¬able development, the objective of which is to achieve simultaneously the population' s economic well-being, environmental protection, and social equity (Pisano et al., 2011). The idea is that governments and other institutions have to be open and capable of "steering societal development along more sustainable lines" (Meadowcroft quoted in Pisano et al., 2011, p. 4). This is no small task because most democratic institutions are fixated on economic growth and not on the common good as represented in sustainability and social justice (Bosselmann, Engel, & Taylor, 2008). Of course governance exists at all levels — global, national, regional, local, and corporate — and tends to be challenging because comprehensive approaches to both sustainability and development require an integration across many sectors, stakeholders, and levels of politics (Pisano et al., 2011). Flexibility is another prerequisite. All the social and environ-mental "actors" are in motion all the time — so plans and strategies that aren't collaborative and adaptive will not hit the mark.....
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