Main content area

Pathways of transformation in global food and agricultural systems: implications from a large systems change theory perspective

Dentoni, Domenico, Waddell, Steve, Waddock, Sandra
Current opinion in environmental sustainability 2017 v.29 pp. 8-13
economic sectors, governance, stakeholders
A recent strand of the literature bridging across sustainability, complexity, environmental and governance science (developed under the umbrella of Transition Management, TM) has advanced a theory on how transitions towards sustainability gain scale from niche to mainstream. Though widely applied both in global food and agricultural systems and other economic sectors, this strand of the literature has been subject to debate in the way it conceives its pathways of transformation. One of the main criticisms to TM theory points at its focus on co-creation processes among stakeholders in the transition arena, yet paying insufficient attention to the role of conflict and antagonistic forces in achieving a transformation through power dynamics. Large systems change (LSC) theory, recently introduced, presents a way to address this shortcoming with a more comprehensive understanding of the multiple pathways needed for transformation towards sustainability. In addition to co-creating change, LSC argues that supporting, doing and forcing change strategies are also needed. The perspective of LSC theory on the transformative turn towards sustainability is illustrated using the change strategies taking place in global food and agricultural systems between 2000 and 2015.