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The Power to Convene: Making Sense of the Power of Food Movement Organizations in Governance Processes in the Global North

Journal Title Agriculture and Human Values
Published Date August 31, 2021
Research Type
Authors Jill Clark


Dominant food systems, based on industrial methods and corporate control, are in a state of flux. To enable the transition towards more sustainable and just food systems, food movements are claiming new roles in governance. These movements, and the initiatives they spearhead, are associated with a range of labels (e.g., food sovereignty, food justice, and community food security) and use a variety of strategies to enact change. In this paper, we use the concept of relational fields to conduct a post-hoc analysis of nine cases, examining how social movement organizations and other actors actively create new deliberative governance spaces. We argue that successes are related to the “power to convene,” a process-oriented approach that increases movements’ capacity to mobilize; leverage different types of power; and integrate, coordinate, and build a systems-oriented vision. The power to convene and create deliberative spaces is demonstrated in a variety of contexts and often results in outcomes that further movement aims, including policy change and repositioning food movement actors vis-à-vis others in the field. Our findings suggest that success is not only measured as policy outcomes, but as an advantageous repositioning of social movement actors that enables them to be part of governance processes beyond simple policy advocacy.

Clark, JK., Lowitt, K., Levkoe, CZ, & Andree, P. (2021). The power to convene: Making sense of the power of food movement organizations in governance processes in the Global North. Agriculture and Human Values, 38: 175-191.