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Bassetti Foundation at the Responsible Innovation 2014 Conference

by Redazione FGB [1], 30 April 2014

The conference runs through the 21st and 22nd of May and is titled "Responsible Innovation: Values and Valorisation", and will be one of the largest conferences on responsible innovation this year.

Readers will know several of the Keynote Speakers [2] from previous posts. Jeroen Van den Hoven has a chapter in Owen, Bessant and Heintz's book (see the review here [3]) and Prof. dr. Tsjalling Swierstra has an article in the first issue of the Journal Of Responsible Innovation [4].

Our Foreign Correspondent Jonathan Hankins [5] has been accepted for the poster presentation panel at the forthcoming Responsible Innovation 2014 Conference [6] in the Hague.
Hankins will present a co-authored poster with long time Bassetti Foundation collaborator Cristina Grasseni [7]. The theme of the poster is food sovereignty and social sustainability through solidarity economy networks.

The full extended abstract:
Food sovereignty and social sustainability through solidarity economy networks: a case study of responsible innovation

Jonathan Hankins, Giannino Bassetti Foundation for Responsible Innovation and Cristina Grasseni, Utrecht University.

Faced by the environmental, financial, and social non-sustainability of current food provisioning practices, grassroots networks are rethinking the core elements of contemporary society: the market, the commons, and the role of the individual as citizen, consumer, and producer. From "political consumers" (Stolle et al. 2005) to "consumer-citizens" (Mol 2009) a rich scholarship has noted how the practice of provisioning is moving beyond mere "consumer choice" (Sassatelli 2006).

But we lack "rich" data about concrete examples of real-world, bottom-up, responsible-innovation attempts in this field. Building on our roles in the Bassetti Foundation for Responsible Innovation (Hankins 2012) and at Utrecht University (Grasseni 2014), we will present work-in-progress insights into solidarity economies as a form of active citizenship that re-orients responsible social innovation toward economic sovereignty and social sustainability. Based on a one-year project funded by the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research and previous research (Grasseni 2013), the poster will focus on provisioning activism - a phenomenon that is growing transnationally, often without coordination.

Solidarity economy is variously interpreted and appropriated: a comparative agenda for studying emerging grassroots economic practices in Europe and the USA was presented at the recent UNRISD conference on Limits and Potentials of Social and Solidarity Economies. As financial uncertainty and the environmental crisis fuel food and energy prices, grassroots networks attempt to reweave economic and social ties across Europe and North America. Citizens' networks are gaining visibility, organizing alternative food supply chains and green energy provision (Lyson 2004, Wright & Middendorf 2008). A number of groups are organizing themselves in attempts to replace supply-chain consumerism: bulk-buying collectives, food coops, urban community gardens, community-supported agriculture.

In Italy, TV and press recently reported that up to 7 million allegedly practice forms of collective purchase. According to a conservative estimate, at least 150,000 people participate in Solidarity Purchase Groups, shifting about 80 million Euro away from large distribution (Forno, Grasseni & Signori 2013). Solidarity Purchase Groups buy directly from farmers, privileging organic and local foods, and paying higher prices than large distribution chains. They do so in the name of solidarity: with the producers, amongst themselves, and with the environment.

There are no comparative figures for the US, however locally controlled networks are emerging such as members-owned workers' cooperatives. Initially limited to food, "provisioning activism" increasingly focuses on a wide palette of sectors: clothing, IT, renewable energy, green construction, recycling, mutual insurance, cooperative credit and local currency exchange, including ambitious plans to create "green" jobs for marginalized youth in postindustrial wastelands (Rose 2013, Cornwell et al. 2014; COLAB Mit 2010). In the process, they develop knowledge and knowhow that goes beyond production skills to involve logistics and accounting, commercial agreements, leadership and democratic decision-making, grant writing, civic associations, liaisons with public administrations, outreach to schools and the management of listserv and websites.

Several national networks have emerged, often without knowing about each other or sharing experiences, and are now beginning to connect transnationally. The research underway aims to document some of the many different approaches seen in the field, presenting a bottom-up writing of attempts to innovate in a socially responsible manner.

On the basis of ethnographic observation, the poster focuses on similarities and differences, limits and potentials of social and solidarity economies in Lombardy (Italy) and Massachusetts (USA): investment on food justice and youth empowerment, participatory guarantee systems, attempts at re-localizing entire food supply chains.

We argue that this particular form of responsible innovation can help widen our understanding of the concept of sovereignty in relation to provisioning, especially in the light of recent literature on "food sovereignty" and "food democracy". Food access and food justice is a recurrent theme for social contestation within solidarity economy circles. The poster will analyze the interplay of multiple anthropological issues in the way the concept of "sovereignty" is appropriated by food activists: including trust, representation, and collective ownership.


COLAB MIT. 2010. Sustainable Economic Democracy: Worker Cooperatives for the 21st Century [8] (by N. Luviene, A. Stitley, L. Hoyt). MIT Community Innovators Lab with support from the Barr Foundation.

Cornwell, J. and Graham, J. 2009. "Building community economies in Massachusetts: an emerging model of economic development?", in A. Ash (ed.) The social economy : international perspectives on economic solidarity. Zed Books, London.

Forno, F., Grasseni, C., and Signori, S. 2013. "Beyond Alternative Food Networks: An Agenda for Comparative Analysis of Italy's Solidarity Purchase Groups (SPG) and Districts of Solidarity Economy vis-à-vis US Community Economies". Paper presented at the UNRISD conference Potentials and Limits of Social and Solidarity Economies, Geneva, 6-8 May 2013. Available on line [9]

Grasseni, C. 2013. Beyond Alternative Food Networks: Italy's Solidarity Purchase Groups. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Grasseni, C. 2014 "Seeds of Trust. Alternative food networks in Italy", Journal of Political Ecology, 21: 178-192.

Hankins, J. 2012. A Handbook for Responsible Innovation. Bassetti Foundation Books.

Lyson, Thomas. 2004. Civic Agriculture: Reconnecting Farm, Food, and Community. Lebanon, NH: New England University Press.

Mol, Annemarie. 2009. "Good Taste. The embodied normativity of the consumer-citizen", Journal of Cultural Economy, vol.2 (3)

Rose, F. 2014. "Bringing Wealth Creation Closer to Low-Income Communities", Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Community Development Blog [10],

Stolle D, Hooge M and Micheletti M. 2005. Politics in the Supermarket: Political Consumerism as a Form of Political Participation. International Political Science Review 26(5), 245-269.

Sassatelli R. 2006. "Virtue, Responsibility and Consumer Choice. Framing Critical Consumerism". In: J. Brewer and F. Trentmann (eds) Consuming Cultures, Global Perspectives: Historical Trajectories, Transnational Exchanges. Oxford: Berg.

Wright, W. and Middendorf, G. (eds.) 2008. The Fight over Food: Producers, Consumers and Activists Challenge the Food System. Penn State College: Pennsylvania State University Press.


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Links in this document:

  1. 1] /schedabiografica/Redazione FGB
  2. 2] http://www.responsible-innovation.nl/keynote-speakers
  3. 3] /en/focus/2013/04/responsible_innovation_managin.html
  4. 4] /en/focus/2014/03/a_review_of_the_journal_of_res.html
  5. 5] /schedabiografica/Jonny%20Hankins
  6. 6] http://www.responsible-innovation.nl/
  7. 7] /en/pages/2007/11/cristina_grasseni.html
  8. 8] http://web.mit.edu/colab/pdf/papers/Sustainable_Economic_Democracy.pdf
  9. 9] http://www.unrisd.org/unrisd/website/document.nsf/(httpPublications)/2C9AC13AE549A8BBC1257B5F005DABDE?OpenDocument
  10. 10] http://www.bostonfed.org/commdev/c&b/2014/winter/bringing-wealth-creation-closer-to-low-income-communities.htm
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Responsible Innovation 2014 Conference
Articles by:  Redazione FGB
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