Advancing the research agenda on food systems governance and transformation

Caroline van Bers, Aogán Delaney, Hallie Eakin, Laura Cramer, Mark Purdon, Christoph Oberlack, Tom Evans, Claudia Pahl-Wostl, Siri Eriksen, Lindsey Jones, Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki, Ioannis Vasileiou

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


The food systems upon which humanity depends face multiple interdependent environmental, social and economic threats in the 21st Century. Yet, the governance of these systems, which determines to a large extent the ability to adapt and transform in response to these challenges, is underresearched. This perspective piece synthesises the findings of two recent reviews of food systems governance and transformations and proposes a comprehensive research agenda for the coming years. These reviews highlight the influence of governance on food systems, methodological obstacles to explaining the effectiveness of governance in realising food sustainability, and conditions that have historically supported food system transformations. We argue that the following steps are key to improving our knowledge of the role of governance in food systems: (1) developing more comparable research designs for building generalisable explanations of the governance elements that are most effective in realising food systems goals; (2) using the lens of polycentricity to help disentangle complex governance networks; (3) giving greater attention to the conditions and pre-conditions associated with historical food system transformations; (4) identifying adaptations that strengthen or weaken path dependency; and, (5) focusing research on how transformations can be supported by institutions that facilitate collective action and stakeholder agency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-102
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Opinion in Environmental Sustainability
StatePublished - Aug 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • General Social Sciences


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