SAFE supported citizens to develop and support local initiatives that self-organise to share learning and skills and trade goods. The idea behind the project was that by supporting self-organising social networks with digital infrastructure, we could increase participation in initiatives which enhance food quality, affordability and access in low income communities.
The key issues that define the purpose of SAFE can be summarised as:
- Increasing participation in self-organised governance to foster social coordination and combat social fragmentation (see examples of where this has worked elsewhere). Would this lead to people involved in their local food 'ecosystem' having a more coherent voice, enabling them to exert pressure and influence for change, ultimately contributing to achieving fairer, greener and more accessible cities?
- Improving social networking and sharing of knowledge and physical resources (e.g. expertise, tools, time, land) between different initiatives, creating a stronger urban food ecosystem
- Understanding how digital infrastructures can help address food equity and overcome the physical limitations of community initiatives by fostering social networks
- Appreciating that the development of systemic approaches requires people and communities to cohere without necessarily signing up to any overarching grand vision
With this in mind, action researchers participating in SAFE:
- Collectively created digital 'commons' in Sheffield and Greater Manchester as communications hubs to foster connections across all sector stakeholders
- Facilitated interdisciplinary peer-to-peer learning events within and between the partner cities (read more on the SAFE Blog)
- Took a whole system approach to food across each of the partner cities, encouraging links to be made between individuals, organisations and sectors
- Supported development of food strategy in each participating city, without being directly involved in the strategy
- Carried out an evaluation exercise to support the development of food networks across the partner cities and beyond by producing insights and a series of shared actions
An interim summary of what has been achieved appears in the Realising Just Cities UK report (September 2019). See pages 16-17 (previewed below).