Urban food sharing – which includes collective or shared practices around growing, preparing, eating and redistributing food – is experiencing a technologically-fuelled renaissance, but little is known about the collective scale, scope and impact of these systems. Identifying if, and how, these activities are contributing to more sustainable food systems poses a challenge for food sharers, researchers, and policy makers. Given the lack of agreement over assessment metrics and tools, SHARECITY will focus on the co-design of an on-line assessment tool with those who share food, those who facilitate the sharing of food, and those charged with its regulation.
The first step towards the development of this assessment tool was to identify how the food sharing initiatives themselves communicate their goals and impacts. This was done through a textual and visual analysis of the websites of 38 food sharing initiatives who use ICT to mediate sharing activities, the results of which can be viewed in our Briefing Note#3: Communicating goals and impacts of food sharing in online spaces
Our research found that in many cases a key goal for food sharing initiatives revolves around social justice and community inclusion or cohesion, but few statements or measures of such impacts are provided. Measuring these collective, relational and affective dimensions of sharing, such as generosity, community, or self-esteem, is far from easy, and it begs the question of whether it is possible, and perhaps more importantly, appropriate to apply measures or metrics in these cases? If it is, how should appropriate metrics be identified? And if it is not, then how are such qualities to be recognised in decisions around supporting more sustainable food systems? These questions for the basis for the next phase of the SHARECITY research project.
While examining the self-proclaimed goals and impacts of food sharing initiatives does not itself provide a means to establish the entire range of sustainability impacts of ICT-mediated food sharing – what we might call a sustainability ‘sharescore’ – it is an important starting point. More ethnographic work is needed to delineate how impacts are assessed and communicated beyond these online profiles and to explore how such messages are received by various constituencies. The effectiveness of these communication strategies is being further explored by SHARECITY through a period of co-design with a number of food sharing initiatives, and we will work with food sharers to think through and ultimately develop appropriate and accessible means of demonstrating their impacts and ultimately their sustainability worth.
SHARECITY is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement No. 646883). SHARECITY is also an affiliated project of the Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production Knowledge Action Network (SSCP KAN) of Future Earth. Further details of the SSCP KAN can be found here: http://www.futureearth.org/future-earth-sscp
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