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Oct 30, 2023

Systems mapping in sustainable food and agriculture: practices & challenges

This event is organised by the University of Exeter Business School and the Environment and Sustainability Institute, Penryn Campus.
Systems mapping in sustainable food and agriculture: practices & challenges
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This free, hybrid workshop by Prof Domenico Dentoni, will take place in the Trevithick Room at the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI), University of Exeter, Penryn Campus. Please register for the in-person or zoom ticket. Registration ends on 29 October.


Across Europe and beyond, agricultural systems face a conundrum at the land-food-water-energy nexus. Issues of climate adaptation and mitigation, food insecurity and rural poverty clash with each other, making them difficult to address in political, economic and social terms. Confronted by these issues, and supported by a European Horizon project (ENFASYS) in 2022-2026, our team is experimenting the use of systems mapping to foster policy, business and societal dialogues that help address these issues across local, national and European scales. Systems mapping – broadly speaking, the use visuals such as diagrams or sketches of sets of relationships – is a way to visualize and collectively reflect on how networks of actors relate to complex problems. Widely applied and in social, ecological and engineering studies, we still know quite little about its potential in supporting these dialogues. We consider dialogues to be effective when actors discuss purposive ways to disrupt existing patterns that perpetuate these issues, and to alter the networks in ways that make these disruptions happen.


Within this big picture, in this presentation – prepared with Diana Borniotto (Université catholique de Louvain) and Marija Roglic (Montpellier Business School), also involved in the ENFASYS project – we propose to discuss three points. First, we will provide an example from rural France, in Hauts-de-France, on the struggles related to the territorial implementation of European policies for biodiversity protection. We will zoom into the technical, knowledge, financial, cultural and power dynamics that reproduce struggles in relation to how actors are configured across local, national and European scales. Second, we will discuss our systems mapping practices within this case: how we bring actors together, how we co-create the maps, how we interpret them together and how we plan to bring their message from the local to the European scale to influence policies and business development. Third, we illustrate the challenges that we are face as action researchers in inviting and engaging with local actors during the map building, but also in interpreting and using these maps as tools for business development and policy influence after they are built.

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