Understanding social economy through a complexity lens: Four case studies in Northwestern Ontario
Four Case Studies
Broadly described, the social economy refers to a series of initiatives with common values representing explicit social objectives. The roots of social economy organizations predate the neoliberal economy and are integral to the human condition of coming together in mutual support to address challenges that benefit from collective efforts. Drawing on a complexity science approach, this paper analyzes four case studies situated in Northwestern Ontario—blueberry foraging, Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op, Willow Springs Creative Centre and Bearskin Lake First Nations—to demonstrate key features of social economy of food systems. Their unifying feature is a strong focus on local food as a means to deliver social, economic and environmental benefits for communities. Their distinct approaches demonstrate the importance of context in the emergence of the social economy of food initiatives. In the discussion section, we explore how these case study initiatives re-spatialize and re-socialize conventional food system approaches.