Prosumers and Social Innovation in Alternative Food Networks: Community-Based Initiatives and Circular Economies
Food production, distribution and consumption are “laboratories” for experimentation in social innovation. These innovations blur the lines between production and consumption, foster the participation of marginalized actors, and encourage social change with potential to overcome pre-existing, exclusionary socio-economic arrangements. The literature on alternative agri-food networks, value chains and sustainable production systems often overlook or minimize the consumers’ role. Yet, the emergence and transformation of alternative food networks represent opportunities for rethinking the mundane economy and its alternative forms of valuation. Recent research explores the rise of prosumers (producer + consumer) as a new type of actor whose role is not limited to the purchase and consumption of goods and services, but rather is a creative and autonomous subject that, individually and collectively, creates new meanings, forms of exchange and even strategies of resistance. Prosumers try to re-shape global and local value chains by re-embedding economic exchanges, re-socializing technological arrangements or by promoting alternative production-consumption paradigms.
In this session, we explore and theorize prosumers and social innovation by inviting papers that can address a number of outstanding questions: what are their disruptive capacities? How are alliances between marginalized groups encouraging more sustainable production and consumption? Who are the actors in these innovations and what are the conditions that enable them to emerge? What effects do we see in broader agri-food systems and in their work practices? What are the main risks and opportunities of the 'digitalization' or ‘technologization’ of alternative food networks? How do social innovations and prosumers co-produce each other?