Professor Joost Dessein: Friends of RSO video series

In this video, we interview Professor Joost Dessein, Department of Agricultural Economics at Ghent University, and President of the European Society for Rural Sociology.

Joost reflects on the innovativeness of the RSO Group, our passionate dedication, and our academic skills that allow us to stay at the cutting edge. He points to the role of members of RSO, notably Professor Bettina Bock, for their leadership in Rural Sociology across Europe.

He shares a story of meeting Professor Jan Douwe van der Ploeg after he came across his work.

In terms of the future of rural sociology, he anticipates the emergence of new themes given the dynamism ahead.

Thank you to Joost for taking the time to share these memories and thank you to Yanick Bakker for her editing skills.

Professor Peter Oosterveer: Friends of RSO video series

Professor Peter Oosterveer, from the Environmental Policy Group, first became aware of the Sociology Group as a student in the 1970s. When he came back to work at the Environmental Policy Group, he maintained strong collaborations with the group through research and education.

In this interview, he mentioned the way in which RSO has stayed ahead of the debates over the last 30 years. He also reflects on the influence of Bruno Benvenuti as a teacher, but also for his critical look at more macro developments (e.g. technologies) and how farmers deal with these. Peter highlights the value of the RSO Group’s focus on rural development, especially at a time when much attention is turning towards a globalizing, and urbanizing world.

For the future of rural sociology, he notes the importance of continuing to understand the way rural regions are changing in relation to other regions.

Thank you to Peter for taking the time to share these memories and to Yanick Bakker for her editing skills.

Professor Gianluca Brunori: Friends of RSO video series

In this second interview in the Friends of RSO video Series, we speak with Gianluca Brunori, Professor of Food Policy at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment, at Pisa University. In our interview, he reflects on the central role the RSO group has had on his career. He notes the impact of the group, based in part on the methodological approaches and a strong, critical view: the attempt to go beyond the common discourse to challenge situations, while also looking the alternatives.

He reflects on the blurring of disciplines and the challenges and opportunities this poses for Rural Sociology. He makes a plea for enhanced engagement with economies to enhance our understandings of alternatives, without losing the “hard core” of the discipline.

Professor Brunori shares an experience of a rainy group camping trip that led to the consolidation of professional relations that have spanned more than 30 years.

Many thanks to Gianluca for sharing his reflections and to Yanick Bakker for her editorial work.

Prof Myriam Paredes: Friends of RSO video series

Over the last 75 years, we have made a lot of friends from around the world. In this short series, we interview a few of these friends with strong roots in RSO and who have gone on to have internationally recognized scientific careers.

In this interview series, we ask them to reflect on their connection to the group, the legacy of the group, and the future of rural sociology more broadly.

In this first interview, Professor Myriam Paredes, of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, (FLACSO), in Ecuador, reflects on the novel approaches and contributions of the group to sociological debate, notably moving beyond traditional actor /structure dichotomies.

She also recalls fondly the deep conversations and good company she experiences while studying at RSO. She shares that students and staff would come together to debate the ageless question of what different realities mean, as a way to introduce non-sociological students into sociological debates.

She also shares her trajectory from MSc student to PhD candidate and reflects on the quality of the teachers, and ‘friends for life’ that supported her on her journey.

A special thank you to Myriam for sharing her memories and to Yanick Bakker for her editorial support.

Support to the Short Food Supply Chains in Ukraine: MSc Research Practice

This research practical is a project under the supervision of Dr Jessica Duncan, Rural Sociology Group, Wageningen University. It has been set up  students who want to prepare for a career in science but who have a passion for applied research.

Because the practical is research based, the student will need to write a research proposal, carry out a research project and finish with a research practice report.

  • Starting immediately
  • 4-6 months
  • 24-39 ECTS (to be determined with student and study advisor)
  • Flexible in terms of location
  • Only available to students who have permission from their study advisor. The research practical replaces the internship.

The candidate must have:

  • Strong research and communication skills required (english and additional languages are considered an asset)
  • Understanding of short food supply chains
  • Interest working with interdisciplinary teams
  • Ambition to publish research results as part of a team of co-authors

Description:

We are looking for a MSc student to research the possibility of short food supply chains in Ukraine in the current crisis and post-crisis contexts. The project will be supervised by Dr Jessica Duncan who is facilitating a collboration the the topic.

The intern will support the project by desiging and conducting research related to the following 4 steps. It is expected that the results will be published in a book on urban agriculture and occupied territories.

Step 1: Analyse the needs and opportunities for supporting the food supply chains

A rapid assessment of the current situation in Ukraine regarding food chains with support from experts and local networks.

Step 2: Identify and analyse the participating Municipalities

The situation in Ukraine varies and is changing on daily basis, thus rather than working on general level it would be best to identify Municipalities that have interest and capacity to work on short food supply chains. With experts, the intern will coordinate with at least 5 municipalities. The network of contacts in Ukraine will support identification of municipalities. 

Step 3: Map the stakeholders

An analysis of the needs in the selected Municipalities, as well as their potential would be performed. Issues such as population and demographic trends, land availability, labour availability, current food sources, provision and demand, as well as logistics, including storage, supply and distribution should be included in the analysis. Land availability, skills and labour are factors which influence the possibility of various approaches, ranging from large-scale production to small-scale involvement (e.g. garden plots).

Mapping of the stakeholders would be done with the support of local authorities, CSOs and local contacts. Mapping would include not only food producers, food processing companies, retailers, cooperatives and authorities responsible for food quality control, but also small-scale businesses, CSOs, organisations dealing with IDPs and informal groups (e.g. local women initiatives). An important aspect is the potential to organise therapeutic activities for the traumatised as part of short food supply chains.

Step 4: Prepare evidence-based guidelines for supporting short food supply chains

Based on the analysis, guidelines will be prepared for organising and supporting food supply chains. In order to be used by a variety of actors, from municipal authorities to CSOs, the guidelines would include a range of issues and activities, such as organisation of local food markets and food distribution, integration of relocated businesses and people, agricultural advisory service and advice on food processing, as well as provision of therapeutic support and recreation. Preparation of the guidelines would require close collaboration of the international experts and the network of contacts in Ukraine and would nee to be useful in a range of contexts (urban / rural, cash-for-work programmes / contribution in kind), and include a range of practices (e.g. seeds sharing and distribution, food sharing, community cooking).

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of your MSc research practice, you are expected to be able to:

  1. Evaluate career interests and ambitions in relation to the research project and reflect on professional ambitions and capabilities.
  2. Develop a research plan, including: a description of the research topic in relation to the wider scientific context; an identification of the knowledge gap; formulation of research questions and/or a hypothesis, aims and objectives; an explanation of how you intend to conduct the research (e.g. in terms of a design for the project, data-collection and -analysis methods, research tools).
  3. Collect, select and process data, using the design for the project, methods and tools described in the research plan.
  4. Analyse and synthesise the data in order to answer the research questions and/or test the hypothesis.
  5. Formulate answers to the research questions that are supported by the research outcomes; pay attention to potential limitations;  critically discuss the outcomes in relation to the wider scientific and societal context.
  6. Report on the research, both in writing and in oral presentation.
  7. Work in compliance with academic codes of conduct and with proper management of time and resources.
  8. Make use of input and feedback for executing the research project and provide feedback to others.
  9. Define personal learning goals, which could include domain-specific skills, and reflect on development therein.

For more information please contact Jessica Duncan: jessica.duncan@wur.nl

SPS Thesis market 2022

Have you started thinking about your thesis, but are you not sure what topic to choose? Or do you have a lot of ideas, but are you not sure what chair group to join?

Come meet the chair groups at our Thesis Market 2022!

Learn more about our research domains, meet thesis supervisors, and get inspired!

Monday 9th May

16:00-18:00

Leeuwenborch, 3rd floor

Registration is about to close and only a few tickets left. So in case you had plans to join us at the “once in the 25 years” rural sociology event, don’t wait and register here:

Click the following link to see the full program:

Thesis vacancy: A new global movement

Thesis research (BSc/MSc)

A new global movement is in the making. It’s a movement known by many different names, such as democratic confederalism, communalism and municipalism. Defined as “a nascent global social movement” aiming to democratically transform the political and the economy (Thompson, 2021), it is build street by street, village by village, city by city. Protagonists refer to communalism or municipalism as a way to “take back the city” after decades of neoliberal privatization, make livable villages, experiment with new forms of co-production and co-op ecosystem and “put local institutions at the service of the common good” (Barcelona En Cumó 2019). The development of more sustainable food systems are seen as part of this emerging global movement (Sonkin & Treakle 2017), which has strong footholds in cities and villages in Catalonia (including Barcelona), Spain (i.e. Madrid), Argentina (i.e. Rosario), the United States (i.e. Jackson and Los Angeles), Mexico (Chiapas), Brazil (i.e. Bello Horizonte), Lebanon (Beirut Madinatti), and South-West-Kurdistan (Rojava) and many other regions across the world.

I am looking for students, who are interesting to do research into this new global movement and study one particular experience or “case” and the alternative forms of governance and production developed from within these experiences or “cases”.

Interested? Contact joost.jongerden@wur.nl 

75th Anniversary: 60) Research at the Rural Sociology Group: Engaging urban food initiatives in planning: Urban food planning in a complex, pluralistic society

Paul de Graaf

Examining urban agriculture projects in Rotterdam between 2008 and 2018, my research looks at the practice of urban food planning, its strategies, the actors involved and their roles and relations. Central to the research is the observation that in Western European society today, the increased participation of civic initiatives confronts planning with challenges related to governance, decision-making and representation. Sustainable urban food planning can be seen as a laboratory for planning concepts that deal with these challenges.

The purpose of my research is to investigate which conceptualisations of planning are relevant when 1) planning in and for a pluralistic, participative society and 2) planning for sustainable goals related to an unknown future. As there is no consensus in the planning field on what planning is or what it should do, conceptualisations of planning can range widely, from systems planning to advocacy planning and from collaborative to complexity planning. I work with a primary hypothesis that these concepts of planning are complementary rather than mutually exclusive and that in a complex, pluralistic society, different concepts of planning can be relevant in different circumstances.

The main research questions are as follows: What concepts of planning are effective in spatial planning for a common sustainable future when including multiple actors and stakeholders with a variety of frames and perspectives on sustainable food systems? How are different actors, their respective roles and action perspectives included in the decision-making process? What is the role of the planning practitioner in this, and what is the role of governmental planning at different levels?

The research is informed by my own position as a practitioner. Undertaking a professional PhD as an external researcher at RSO allows me to reflect upon and put in perspective my personal experiences in the field of spatial planning and design. Fifteen years of experience with promoting, researching, designing, planning and practicing urban food production in Rotterdam left me (and colleagues from the field) with many ideas and hypotheses on what municipal planners and urban food initiatives should and should not do when planning urban food production. Can municipal planning include the initiatives of societal actors (like myself and fellow urban farmers and activists) in their planning agenda? Would it be possible to do this in a way that respects the diverse world views of these actors? And can societal actors themselves operate in a way that aligns them with governmental planning agendas without losing sight of their own goals?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Civic urban food initiatives represent a diversity of approaches to what a sustainable food system should be and how planning can contribute, but planners at different government levels struggle to facilitate and include these initiatives and their diverse approaches in their planning efforts. This has become apparent in Rotterdam but is also exemplary of a more general gap between bottom-up societal initiatives and top-down governmental planning in the Netherlands. Through a study of the Rotterdam urban agriculture movement – and taking the role of participant-observer – I examine this gap and address the questions above.

The case study of Rotterdam considers projects in which urban food production has been realised and focuses on the people involved in the planning process and their agendas and strategies, with a special emphasis on spatial planning. To avoid any bias due to my personal involvement in the object of study, I use a range of sources, including grey literature and interviews with different planners and societal actors. In terms of method, I combine this sociological approach with plan analyses (of the projects) derived from the discipline of urban planning. In combining different sources and methods from different disciplines, I try to incorporate the views of different actors and gain a more complete picture of what has happened during these past years and what lessons can be learnt for planners and urban food initiatives..

While the PhD is designed as a retrospective, transdisciplinary case study, it inevitably involves and interacts with my own practice as a designer/planner and, more recently, urban food forester. Interviewing planners about their ideas and influences and writing down their accounts of events has already provided insights that are informing my current work in urban agriculture and food forestry  (including advocacy, design and realisation). Although this can sometimes be problematic, the meeting of practical experience with academic and applied research is developing a relevant knowledge base. A professional PhD makes knowledge from practice available to academic research and offers a place of reflection to practitioners.