From Civic Food Networks to Civic Food Platforms: Collaboration, Trust and Empowerment in the New Food Economy

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Stefano SPILLARE, University of Bologna, Italy
Roberta PALTRINIERI, University of Bologna, Italy
Lucia MARCIANTE, University of Bologna, Department Sociology and business law, Italy
Umberto MEZZACAPO, University of Bologna, Italy
The aim of this research is to investigate social and relational dynamics at the base of the emerging New Food Economy (NFE). This is defined herein as the result of the increasing collaboration among citizen-consumers and producers, in order to perform more sustainable, healthy and right ways to produce and consume food.
This explorative research faces a wide range of different Italian case studies, selected among the new collaborative forms of production/consumption and exchange of food, including digital platforms in which the role of ICT is prominent. The analysis indeed considers also the "enabling" role of the ICT in the development of alternative food supply chain and food exchange networks, providing a comparative analysis about traditional and digital Civic Food Networks (CFNs).
The discussion thus introduces new concepts, such as Civic Food Platforms (CFP), and examine in depth some of the basilar dynamics of the NFE itself, such as the trust building processes at the base of the collaborative capacity over time and its ability to improve individual and collective empowerment. In doing so, authors attempt to highlight in which extent, or under which conditions, grass-roots food movements are able to improve their own innovation capabilities.
The results seem to suggest an increasing ability of these networks to carry their socio-economic experimentation out from the niche, also thanks to the ICT. However, this concerns a change in the trust building processes, affecting participation and voluntary collaboration within the CFNs. Meanwhile, the peer-to-peer exchange of food mediated by CFPs, seems to fail its objectives because of a lack of trust among citizen-consumers.