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Designing Resilient Urban Food Systems

Format: Workshops, RSD5, Topic: Health & Well-being

Facilitators: Zachary Kaiser, Stephanie White, Kurt Richter, Michigan State University

In this highly participatory, interactive dialogue session, we invite attendees to explore emergent urban food exchange and provisioning systems as they occur in much of the global south. From the outside looking in, and to the casual observer, these food exchange systems often look chaotic, opportunistic, and inefficient. However, the qualities and relationships that comprise emergent and decentralized food systems might be used to retool western food systems to be more sustainable and inclusive.

The purpose of our proposed dialogue is three-fold:

  1. To use resilience theory to frame emergent urban food exchange systems, and discuss how doing so potentially leads to new courses of action with respect to developing policy and practice.
  2. To examine findings from two summers of action research in four markets in Lilongwe, Malawi.
  3. To elicit feedback and input from dialogue attendees on possible courses of research on emergent urban food systems.

Using data gathered during two years of intensive two-week studies by students from MSU and Lilongwe University, this dialogue will leverage the various backgrounds and expertise of participants to identify new opportunities for research and intervention for this research program. Instead of privileging their roles as ‘experts’ in the conversation, the facilitators will foster a lively and participatory dialogue that values the various backgrounds and diverse expertise of all the attendees.

The dialogue will address various topics, including, but not limited to:

  • So-called ‘developing’ nations and inclusive, diverse visions of ‘development’
  • How design and policy interventions can shape future visions of what ‘development’ looks like that are not specifically western, and the assumptions underlying ‘modernization’
  • The complex relationships between policy, action, and stakeholders who are in the thick of it, trying to feed a hungry populous, and who look to western agricultural technologies and models of development (e.g., monocropping and centralization of wealth and food resources)
  • Critical pedagogy, appropriate technology, and human-scale design
  • Food security and Food safety
  • Cultural/regional specificity in design of food systems innovations




Citation Data

Author(s): Zachary Kaiser, Stephanie White, and Kurt Richter
Title: Designing Resilient Urban Food Systems
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
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Symposium Dates:
First published: 27 September 2016
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