Amplifying actions for food system transformation: insights from the Stockholm region

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Food is essential to people and is one of the main ways in which people are connected to the world’s ecosystems. However, food systems often cause ecosystem degradation and produce ill-health, which has generated increasing calls to transform food systems to be more sustainable. The Swedish food system is currently undergoing substantial change. A varied set of local actors have created alternative sustainability initiatives that enact new ways of doing, thinking, and organizing. These actors can increase the transformative impact of their initiatives through multiple actions and a variety of amplification processes. We analyzed the actions adopted by 29 food initiatives active in the Stockholm region using information available online. We conducted 11 interviews to better understand the amplification processes of speeding up (i.e., accelerating impact), scaling up (i.e., influencing higher institutional levels), and scaling deep (i.e., changing values and mind-sets). Our results indicated that the initiatives mainly seek to stabilize and grow their impact while changing the awareness, values, and mind-sets of people concerning the food they consume (scaling deep). However, these approaches raise new questions about whether these actions subvert or reinforce current unsustainable and inequitable system dynamics. We suggest there are distinct steps that local and regional governments could take to support these local actors via collaborations with coordinated forms of initiatives, and fostering changes at the municipality level, but these steps require ongoing, adaptive approaches given the highly complex nature of transformative change and the risks of reinforcing current system dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)2379-2395
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 11.2022

Bibliographical note

Open access funding provided by Stockholm University. This research was supported by volkswagen foundation and niedersächsische ministerium für wissenschaft und kultur (Grant A112269), svenska forskningsrådet formas (Grant 2019-02026 and 2020-00019, 2017-01326, 2017-01326) and stiftung deutsche wirtschaft.

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© 2022, The Author(s).
Part of a collection: Sustainability Transitions, Management, and Governance