The ecology of organizational forms in local and regional food systems: exploring the scaling-up challenge via a species concept
Over the past 30 years, Western nations have developed alternative systems for exchanging agrofood products which incorporate social values into the transactional environment. These systems are comprised of many different exchange relationships, structured to transmit information about social values and attach credence attributes to the products. New organizational forms, institutions, and networks arise to achieve the values demanded by the underlying social movement. One movement centers on the social value of a commitment to place. It seeks to create relocalized and socially embedded means of exchange. Policy initiatives have responded, making investments in local and regional food systems. The primary challenge faced by these initiatives: how to increase the of scale while maintaining the value premiums associated with the movement's objectives. I view these complex networks as ecologies and seek to understand how different organizational forms interact to scale-up LRFSs. I make three crucial developments: (1) a framework to define LRFSs; (2) a model on the metaphysics of social objects and their kinds; and (3) an Organizational Species Concept to consistently identify organizational forms. Together these developments enable an ecological approach by providing a means of identifying distinct organizational populations. I apply my OSC to the case of food hubs – coordinating intermediaries identified as a key for increased scale. This yields six "species". I find that each fills a different functional role and contributes differently to scaling-up LRFSs. I highlight how this is helpful for targeted policymaking.
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