Research Topic

Diverse Economies and Food Democracy: Implications for Sustainability from an Interdisciplinary Perspective

About this Research Topic

In view of the multifaceted challenge of transforming towards inclusive and sustainable food systems, scholars have drawn attention to diverse economies of food, such as food coops, community-supported agriculture, urban community gardens, or fair trade. Diverse economies of food have been labeled in various ways. The notion of alternative agro-food networks (AFN) has gained the broadest appeal in this regard. However, this notion and similar ones have been criticized on a conceptual level, and the assumption that diverse economies of food may substantially contribute to the sustainable transformation of food systems has been questioned on theoretical, methodological, and political grounds. Although food democracy is recurrently mentioned in relation to diverse economies of food, a proper operationalization of this concept is largely missing, as well as robust quantifications of the sustainability implications of those. By focusing on food democracy as forms of joint decision-making by food producers, consumers, public authorities, and stakeholders, on various scales, diverse economies of food can be clarified conceptually and the environmental impacts quantified, as well as trade-offs and synergies assessed. This allows us to investigate more precisely the possible sustainability and transformative impacts of diverse economies of food.

This Research Topic welcomes papers that investigate how forms of democracy within and between food system organizations impact upon economic, social and ecological sustainability, and whether they may contribute to food system transformation towards sustainability, and in which ways. We thus invite submissions that :
● investigate the linkages between food democracy and sustainability on various scales and levels of organizational complexity in the Global South and North
● study social and economic effects as well as trade-offs and synergies regarding ecosystems, the environment, and natural resources
● analyze the contribution of food democracy to food system transformation, inter alia by using modeling approaches, or underrepresented theoretical frameworks
● identify and discuss political implications.

Papers from different disciplines ranging from sociology, political science, geography, anthropology and agronomy or psychology to cross-cutting fields such as sustainability and transformation research will be accepted. Empirically, we are interested in studies on, e.g., AFN, various forms of cooperatives, regional approaches to the democratization of food systems, or South-South, North-North and South-North fair trade.
Within the areas of interest to the call, we are especially inviting contributions that
● follow rigorous standards regarding quantitative or mixed methods research into economic, social and ecological impacts of food democracy
● are based on solid designs of comparative research
● analyze material and energy flows
● provide conceptual refinements of food democracy, including in-depth ethnographic and human geography research
● focus on the relation of food democracy to agroecology, food sovereignty, food justice, food citizenship and land reform
● offer theoretical contributions related to food democracy that widen the conventional scope of transformation research in view of Marxist, praxeological, ANT, New Materialist or assemblage accounts
● publish innovative and rigorous research into cooperatives
● provide systematic reviews on the topics of this call, e.g., offer reviews on the sustainability impacts of food democracy that include specified theories of change for identifying causal relationships between food democracy and outcome variables
● assess trade-offs and synergies between democratic food systems and the environment


Keywords: alternative agro-food networks, civic food networks, cooperatives, diverse food economies, organizational democracy, food democracy, food system, sustainability, transformation


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

In view of the multifaceted challenge of transforming towards inclusive and sustainable food systems, scholars have drawn attention to diverse economies of food, such as food coops, community-supported agriculture, urban community gardens, or fair trade. Diverse economies of food have been labeled in various ways. The notion of alternative agro-food networks (AFN) has gained the broadest appeal in this regard. However, this notion and similar ones have been criticized on a conceptual level, and the assumption that diverse economies of food may substantially contribute to the sustainable transformation of food systems has been questioned on theoretical, methodological, and political grounds. Although food democracy is recurrently mentioned in relation to diverse economies of food, a proper operationalization of this concept is largely missing, as well as robust quantifications of the sustainability implications of those. By focusing on food democracy as forms of joint decision-making by food producers, consumers, public authorities, and stakeholders, on various scales, diverse economies of food can be clarified conceptually and the environmental impacts quantified, as well as trade-offs and synergies assessed. This allows us to investigate more precisely the possible sustainability and transformative impacts of diverse economies of food.

This Research Topic welcomes papers that investigate how forms of democracy within and between food system organizations impact upon economic, social and ecological sustainability, and whether they may contribute to food system transformation towards sustainability, and in which ways. We thus invite submissions that :
● investigate the linkages between food democracy and sustainability on various scales and levels of organizational complexity in the Global South and North
● study social and economic effects as well as trade-offs and synergies regarding ecosystems, the environment, and natural resources
● analyze the contribution of food democracy to food system transformation, inter alia by using modeling approaches, or underrepresented theoretical frameworks
● identify and discuss political implications.

Papers from different disciplines ranging from sociology, political science, geography, anthropology and agronomy or psychology to cross-cutting fields such as sustainability and transformation research will be accepted. Empirically, we are interested in studies on, e.g., AFN, various forms of cooperatives, regional approaches to the democratization of food systems, or South-South, North-North and South-North fair trade.
Within the areas of interest to the call, we are especially inviting contributions that
● follow rigorous standards regarding quantitative or mixed methods research into economic, social and ecological impacts of food democracy
● are based on solid designs of comparative research
● analyze material and energy flows
● provide conceptual refinements of food democracy, including in-depth ethnographic and human geography research
● focus on the relation of food democracy to agroecology, food sovereignty, food justice, food citizenship and land reform
● offer theoretical contributions related to food democracy that widen the conventional scope of transformation research in view of Marxist, praxeological, ANT, New Materialist or assemblage accounts
● publish innovative and rigorous research into cooperatives
● provide systematic reviews on the topics of this call, e.g., offer reviews on the sustainability impacts of food democracy that include specified theories of change for identifying causal relationships between food democracy and outcome variables
● assess trade-offs and synergies between democratic food systems and the environment


Keywords: alternative agro-food networks, civic food networks, cooperatives, diverse food economies, organizational democracy, food democracy, food system, sustainability, transformation


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

07 April 2022 Abstract
06 August 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

07 April 2022 Abstract
06 August 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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