Communication. Mapping agro-food consumption groups in the city of Barcelona

Cover of Espelt, R., Peña-López, I., Losantos, P., Rodríguez, E., Martín, T. & Pons, F. (2015). “Mapping agro-food consumption groups in the city of Barcelona”

My colleague Ricard Espelt is these days at the XXVI European Society for Rural Sociology Congress, in Aberdeen, Scotland. The motto of this year’s edition of the congress is Places of possibility? Rural societies in a neoliberal world and this is just what Ricard is presenting on behalf of a small team he put up to analyse and map agro-food consumption groups in the city of Barcelona.

The communication he just presented, Mapping agro-food consumption groups in the city of Barcelona, is but a part of a major research project that Ricard is doing and that I have the luck to be a part of. Following can be found the abstract, slides and downloads of our communication, signed together by Ricard Espelt, Pere Losantos, Enrique Rodríguez, Toni Martín, Francesc Pons and myself. Mind that it is only a short paper and, thus, only a small part of the information produced is available. Comments (and/or requests) will definitely be welcome.

Abstract

“Consumption groups” (or “consumption cooperatives”) is one of the types of short circuits of food consumption. They are organized to create an alternative to the dominant model, the agro-food big chain. Breaking the barriers between consumers and producers, this model of organization strengthens the possibility of stimulating social and economic local development.

In this article, we show how consumption groups take advantage of the traditional cooperative move-ment rooted in the XIXth century, and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the context of Barcelona.

We analyse how the Social and Solidary Economy (SSE) measurement indicators are achieved by agro-food consumption groups, the nature of the networks made up by consumers and producers and the rele-vance of ICTs to maintain the business activity. Using geolocalized data and social network analysis we highlight the significance of local economical connec-tions among the actors involved.

Even though consumption groups stimulate local business and correlate with SSE indicators, they are not represented in the design of public policies. This article wants to draw a different point of view in the promotion of alternative food futures as emerging social and economic actors, and the public policies to promote them.

Slides

Dowloads

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Short paper:
Espelt, R., Peña-López, I., Losantos, P., Rodríguez, E., Martín, T. & Pons, F. (2015). “Mapping agro-food consumption groups in the city of Barcelona”. In Places of possibility? Rural societies in a neoliberal world. Proceedings of the XXVI ESRS Congress, Aberdeen, Scotland, 2015. Aberdeen: The James Hutton Institute

logo of PPTX file
Slides:
Espelt, R., Peña-López, I., Losantos, P., Rodríguez, E., Martín, T. & Pons, F. (2015). “Mapping agro-food consumption groups in the city of Barcelona”. In Places of possibility? Rural societies in a neoliberal world. Proceedings of the XXVI ESRS Congress, Aberdeen, Scotland, 2015. Aberdeen: The James Hutton Institute

Emancipation and the failure of the Sustainable Development Goals

Cover of the Open Working Group Proposal for Sustainable Development Goals

Tim Unwin has written a terrific critical article on the Sustainable Development Goals (PDF) entitled ICTs and the failure of the Sustainable Development Goals. As can be inferred from its title, the main criticism — which I fully share — is about the almost total oblivion in what relates to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), and some other issues concerning the design itself of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), how poverty is defined (and how development and the Economy are defined too), how the United Nations System works.

I want to borrow Tim Unwin’s title to go a little bit further on his analysis. In my opinion, the problem is not (only) a total disdain for ICTs and all their potential in enabling, articulating, fostering or multiplying any other initiative against poverty or for sustainable development. The problem, I believe, is that this disdain for ICTs is just a symptom of the real, direst problem: a total disdain for emancipation.

There is only one goal out of 17 that deals, in general, about peace, freedom, rights and the government:

Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

When one drills down to the 12 targets and sub-goals, some of them are clearly what one would expect to see under the general goal. Some of them are mixed. And some others make one rethink about the previous ones. Indeed, an accurate reading of Goal 16 and its 12 targets and sub-goals raises a shadow of suspicion: is it about people that Goal 16 is talking about, or is it talking about maintaining things in order so that everything (the economy, trade) runs smoothly?

Paranoid?

  • Sub-goal 16.a reads Strengthen relevant national institutions […] to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime. That is, strengthening institutions is not a matter of peace, equality, progress… but to combat terrorism, which is what richest countries care about: their own safetey.
  • Sub-goal 16.b reads Promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development. That is, the problem with discrimination is… development. Sustainable development. It is true: it is known that inequality damages economic growth. But one would expect that the direct goal would be inequality itself, and that the indirect one would be growth. Not the other way round.

After that, as it was said before, one becomes suspicious about some well phrased goals that, under a new paranoid light, can be read with different meanings. Such as target 16.3, which speaks of the rule of law: is it really to achieve justice for all, or is the rule of law good in itself at the national and international levels (which is were trade happens)?

Now, on a more serious note, I think there are at least three big omissions in the way the Sustainable Development Goals are stated that are compatible with a vision that

  1. The Sustainable Development Goals are especially about economic development, and not about individual and social development.
  2. The Sustainable Development Goals are especially about institutional development, and not about personal emancipation.

And these three issues that are omitted in the SDGs are, again in my opinion, closely related with the potential that ICTs can deploy if thoroughly applied. I’d dare say even more: if ICTs have any role in development, I believe that it is in the three following issues. It is not surprising, thus, that ICTs and our three issues are all missing in the 16 Sustainable Development Goals. Issues are:

  • Freedom, civil rights, citizen rights, political freedoms, freedom rights… many names for the very same concept. Freedom — or free — is mostly missing in the SDGs. It is only explicitly referred in target 16.10, and mixed up with public access to information… in accordance with national legislation. Well, according to Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2015, 54% of the countries surveyed were partly free or not free… in accordance with their respective national legislations. Freedom is simply not a seriously taken issue in the SDGs.
  • Empowerment is a step beyond freedom. If freedom is about the lack of constraints to think or do one’s own will, empowerment is about strengthening the capability to think or do that will of one’s own. Not only can you do whatever you want within the system, but you will be helped to. Again, empowerment, or capabilities, are widely mentioned in the formalities of the declaration, but are limited to gender and inequalities. This is quite a bit, for sure, but it is not enough. There is no way that development can be sustainable if it is not endogenous, and there is no way for endogenous development without empowerment. In my opinion, empowerment is paramount to development. Only one step below governance.
  • Governance, democracy, political participation, deliberation, co-decision. If freedom is do one’s own will, and empowerment is doing it with multiplied strength, governance is way above that: it is not thought and action within the system, but over the system. Governance is shaping the system to one’s needs (or the collective needs, more appropriately), instead of shaping one-self to the system. This is why it is so important… and so surprisingly missing from the SDGs. Yes, decision-making is in there, but always as a way to have a certain influence on institutions. But no words on changing institutions, on transforming them, substituting them by other ones, or even getting rid of them.

And, as I see it, increased freedom, empowerment and governance are the biggest potential outcomes of ICTs for development. When Tim Unwin says he misses ICTs in the Sustainable Development Goals, not only I agree, but wonder whether the SDGs are also missing what I believe are the main reasons to apply ICTs for sustainable development, for instance: ICTs applied to Health increase one’s own degree of freedom; ICTs applied to Education improve one’s capabilities and empowerment to achieve higher goals; ICTs applied to Politics can lead to better governance.

I, for one, believe that people behind the writing and wording of the Sustainable Development Goals are neither stupid, nor ignorant. A thorough reading of the SDGs is inspiring and every statement is perfectly grounded on evidence.

But.

It’s the approach. It’s industrial. It belongs, in my opinion, to the Industrial Age. It does not, I think, take into account the digital revolution and, more important, the many social revolutions that we have witnessed in recent years. And no, I am not (only) talking about the Arab Spring, or the 15M Spanish Indignados Movement. It’s about the revisiting of the commons and the digital commons; about free software and open educational resources and free hardware and open science and free knowledge; about e-government and open data and open government; about liquid democracy and hybrid democracy and e-participation; about personal learning environments and cMOOCs and communities of learning and communities of practice; about innovation hubs and co-working spaces and open innovation and social innovation and open social innovation; and peer-to-peer whatever and dis-intermediation wherever. Almost nothing about this is in the Sustainable Development Goals, which are to last current until 2030. We are not only ignoring the last 15 years of development, but making them last 15 years more. All in all, the Sustainable Development Goals do not seem to belong to the Information Age.

School as a social innovation hub

Notes from the workshop School as a social innovation hub, from the conference Education Today, organized by the Fundació Jaume Bofill, and held in Barcelona, in February 20, 2014.

School as a social innovation hub
Chairs: Eugeni Garcia, PhD in Economics of the Public Sector and expert in education and public management

Poverty is a vicious circle that reproduces inequalities: there is unequal access to most opportunities (e.g. education), there is unequal appropriation of these opportunities, and, thus, coming generations reproduce their status as they unequally benefit from those opportunities. How can the educational system break this vicious circle?

The value chain of education:

  1. The student. At this stage, the family is the actor with a leading role.
  2. Conditions of educability. Besides families too, public policies have a strong role here; the social third sector too, especially in the care and socio-educational fields.
  3. Processes of teaching/learning, second opportunities: the school is of course the one with the leading role at this stage, but also public policies.
  4. Educational success (or failure).

But how do we actually break this vicious circle of poverty and exclusion?

Anna Escobedo, professor at the Department of Sociology and Analysis of Organizations at the University of Barcelona.

What is the role of families. How are these families? How the change of families affect children and their educability?

The context in Spain is that the expenditure in families (or support to families) and education is below the average, and almost 50% of what other leading countries are spending in these areas.

The actual model of the family is two workers and two carers. Less children but more wanted. More negotiating and less authoritarian. Social polarization: couples are made up by people with similar educational levels.

There is a genuine concern or commitment with increasing the implication of the parents in education, in quality time, in dedicating more time to it. And ICTs are also having a significant impact in the education of children and the role of families. The relationship with the teaching staff has also changed.

So, more implication with education but total immersion in the job market is implying a huge difficulty to conciliate professional and family lives. Complementary services led by parent associations within the schools are proving to be a cornerstone for this conciliation: circa 70% of children use this kind of services.

Families — parents and children — should take more part in the making of decisions in the school.

Joan Badia, professor of secondary education and expert in innovation, teacher training and academic planning in higher education.

Schools should acknowledge that it has not all the answers to all problems and situations.

On the other hand, schools should realize too that many issues that do not strictly belong to the field of action of the school (e.g. the situation in the family), do actually have an impact on the activity led by the school. So, the belief that some issues “do not affect” the schools is plain wrong.

Of course, this acknowledgement and realization can only be achieved through a high degree of autonomy from schools, so that they can design their own strategies and actions.

There is a strong need to reinforce strategies that enable second chances.

Marta Caramés, leader of the Paidós Project at Càrites.

Paidós Project aims at providing support to families so they can break the vicious circle of poverty by enabling networks of families. It provides day-centres where families and children can spend time, be given advice on several topics related to education in general and on poverty in particular.

Most of the people benefiting form this project are people that almost the whole day are occupied on sustaining their daily lives: where will I sleep, what will I need. Thus, children do not have a “peaceful” environment where to grow healthy and be properly educated and be cared by.

If families do not understand that education is an investment, then education automatically becomes undersupplied. We have to make it possible that families can invest (time, resources) in their children’s education. To do this, we have to help them in their basic needs, so they can free time now devoted to these basic needs and spend it on their children’s education.

Discussion

Joan Badia: municipalities should have a major role in the planning of education, more decentralization should be enabled. There are three conditions for learning (from Ken Robinson): diversity, everyone learns differently; curiosity, learning driven by interest; creativity, provide spaces for creation. Different ways for learning within a context: service-learning, multistakeholder partnerships, etc. There is a gap between research and training: education in Spain seems to be lacking a liaison between the outcomes of research and their (non) introduction in training plans.

Anna Escobedo: parents associations and school councils should have deeper links and work closer. Participation and voting should go hand-in-hand. And we should not only focus on what is wrong, but on what is going well too, so it can inspire others.

New book published: Community action in the net

Book cover for Acción comunitaria en la Red

Some months ago, professor in Social Pedagogy Xavier Úcar approached Francesc Balagué and I and told us he was very worried: after many years working in the field of community action, the Internet had come and changed every definition we had on what a community was, and changed every definition we had on what interaction (or action) was too. He had just found out that community action might be lagging behind the pace of times. And he invited us to write a book on the new communities and how did they interact on the net, so that he and his colleagues could use it to catch up with new scenario after the digital revolution.

An appealing invitation as it was, we had grounded reasons not to accept it: one of us is a pedagogue specialised in instructional technology and the other one an economist specialised in the impact of ICTs and development. Thus, we knew almost nothing about community action, and only had a chaotic approach to new expressions of communities working together in the most different types of ways and goals. That is precisely the point, stated professor Úcar.

Hence the heterodoxy of the inner structure of the book that has just seen the light. Acción comunitaria en la red (Community action in the net) is neither a book on community action nor a book with very clear ideas. It is, but, a book that invites the reader to think, to elaborate their own conclusions, and to find out which and whether these conclusions can be applied and how to their own personal or professional cases.

The full book has been written by 15 authors and presents 8 case studies that depict and analyse how a specific community used the Internet and its different tools and platforms to share information, communicate amongst them, organize themselves and coordinate actions in order to achieve their particular goals. The structure of the chapters analysing the cases was totally free, but some relevant questions had to be answered somehow:

  • What were the history, motivations, goals of the community?
  • What led the community to use the Internet? How was the community articulated digitally? what provided the Internet that could not be found offline?
  • How was the process of adoption of digital technologies, what tools and why?
  • What happened to the sense of membership, identity, participation?
  • What was the role of the mediator, facilitator, leader and how does it compare with an offline leadership?
  • Is self-regulation possible? How was conflict handled?
  • How is digital knowledge, experiences and learning “brought back” to the offline daily life and put into practice?

The cases are preceded by two introductory chapters, a first one on the social web and virtual participation, and a second on digital skills, as we thought some common background would help the reader to better understand some digital practices (and jargon). The book closes with what we, both authors, learnt during the preparation of the book and from reading other people’s chapters. This concluding chapter can be used too as a guideline for the preceding cases.

Table of contents

From the official page of the book Acción comunitaria en la red at Editorial Graó.

  1. Introduction, Francesc Balagué, Ismael Peña-López.
  2. What is the Web 2.0? New forms of participation and interaction. Francesc Balagué.
  3. Brief introduction to digital skills. Ismael Peña-López.
  4. APTIC. A social networking site for relativos of boys and girls with chronic diseases and conditions. Manuel Armayones, Beni Gómez Zúñiga, Eulàlia Hernández, Noemí Guillamón.
  5. School building: new communities. Berta Baquer, Beatriu Busquets.
  6. Social networking sites in education. Gregorio Toribio.
  7. Networked creation and the Wikipedia community. Enric Senabre Hidalgo.
  8. Social networking sites in the Administration: the Compartim programme on collaborative work. Jesús Martínez Marín
  9. Local politics, organizations and community. Ricard Espelt
  10. Towards cyberactivism from social movements. Núria Alonso, Jordi Bonet.
  11. Mobile phones, virtual communities and cybercafes: technologicla uses of international immigrants. Isidro Maya Jariego
  12. Concluding remarks. Ismael Peña-López, Francesc Balagué

Acknowledgements

There is a lot of people to be thankful to for making the book possible.

The first one is Xavier Úcar. I have only seldom been granted such a degree of total confidence and trust, not only in my work but in myself as a professional. He was supportive and provided guidance to two ignorants in the field. He totally gave us a blank cheque and one of my deepest fears during the whole process was — and still is — to have been able to pay him back with a quality book. I really hope it has been so.

The authors of the case studies were just great. Some of us did not know each other and I can count up to three people which I still have to meet personally (i.e. offline). They also trusted in us and gave away a valuable knowledge and work that money won’t pay. Many of them won’t even make much use of adding a line on their CVs for having written a book chapter. I guess this is part of this sense of new communities that the whole book is talking about.

My gratitude (but also apologies) to Antoni Garcia Porta and Sara Cardona at Editorial Graó. I am fully aware that we made them suffer: we succeeded in transferring some of our chaotic lives to them when they had not asked to. Being an editor today must be both a thrilling and a difficult challenge. We all gave away time in the making of the book but the published they represent invested money too, and that is something that we quickly forget these days.

Last, but absolutely not least, it has been a real pleasure working with Francesc. I think we only met once during the whole process: when Xavier invited us to coordinate the book. Francesc then packed and went around the world for 14 months. Luckily he took his laptop and would connect every now and then. Our e-mail archive and Google Documents can testify that almost everything is possible if there is the will to do it.

And it was fun too. Oh, yes it was!

Computers or vaccines? Technology, social networking sites and new citizenship

I was invited to present a keynote during the VII General Assembly of the Spanish Red Cross, on 26 March 2011. I was asked to talk about what should nonprofits do in view of the proliferation of social networking sites, online participation, cyber-activism and so.

In such cases, I generally try to avoid the usual showcase of “best practices” and go instead to what causes made possible those “best practices”. It’s a tougher option, as it often implies a trade-off from the “wow factor” towards the “what-is-this-guy-talking-about factor”. On the positive side, I pursue the trade-off from the “let’s-copy-these-actions” towards “I-know-why-they-worked-and-I-understand-how-to-design-them-myself”.

On the other hand, the representatives of the Spanish Red Cross were choosing their President and the members of the boards of directors of different regional levels. That was a very strong reason to shift towards more strategic issues instead of strictly practical and punctual applications of social media and nonprofit technology.

Thus, the structure of my presentation was explaining:

  1. What caused the transition from an Industrial Society to an Information Society;
  2. how people were leveraging their access to information and communication technologies for activism and self-organization;
  3. what was being the impact like for institutions, especially those that represented people’s interests: governments, political parties and non-governmental organizations.

In a nutshell, the main message was that the Internet, cellphones, social networking sites, etc. are not a matter of how you inform your stakeholders, how you communicate with your volunteers or how you convince your donors, but a dire change of the game-board that requires serious strategic reflections and decisions in the very short term. Evidence shows that many institutions will either go through a deep process of transformation or will simply disappear, and NGOs are included in the set.

[click here to enlarge]

More information and downloads

Posters a the International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development — ICTD2010

I am presenting two posters at the International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD2010).

The posters are, actually, the usual poster and the corresponding academic paper explaining what the poster is picturing. Below can be found the two papers and the two posters for anyone to download. The posters are a set of 8 slides in A3 size plus a first slide that maps how to build the puzzle so it all ends up with the actual A0-size poster.

Peña-López, I. (2010). Towards a comprehensive model of the digital economy. Poster for the International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development – ICTD2010. Egham: UNESCO Chair in ICT4D.
Peña-López, I. (2010). Policy-making for digital development: the role of the government. Poster for the International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development – ICTD2010. Egham: UNESCO Chair in ICT4D.

Information and Communication Technologies and Development (2010)

About Me

    I am Ismael Peña-López.

    I am professor at the School of Law and Political Science of the Open University of Catalonia, and researcher at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute and the eLearn Center of that university. Since november 2013 I am on a partial leave to join Open Evidence as a senior researcher and analyst. I am also the director of the Open Innovation project at Fundació Jaume Bofill.