Exploring the use of systems thinking approaches in the management of alternative food networks

Elena Tavella

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportPh.d.-afhandling


This PhD-study takes up two challenges: firstly, to suggest, describe and analyse Systems Thinking approaches, especially Problem Structuring Methods (PSMs), as means to problem solving and enhancing management processes within Alternative Food Networks; secondly, to empirically assess the claim that PSMs can improve the quality of group conversations in terms of fostering a productive dialogue, and to empirically compare the behaviours of expert and novice facilitators during problem structuring workshops.

To meet these challenges the researcher adopts a research approach based on multimethodology and intervenes in selected European Alternative Food Networks. The researcher selects and combines different Systems Thinking approaches, describes and illustrates them with real-world cases and interventions, reflects on the interventions, and qualitatively analyses one problem structuring workshop with (i) a dialogue lens and (ii) an expert versus novice facilitator lens. In this presentation the researcher mainly focusses on the claim that expert and novice facilitators behave differently during problem structuring workshops. The researcher explores this claim by examining the transcript of a two-day PSM workshop facilitated by an expert and two novices within a local food network in the UK. Drawing on the facilitation roles in Huxham & Cropper (1994), the researcher compares and contrasts how the facilitators behave while managing the workshop, and analyzes the extent to which they behave differently.

The analysis shows that the expert and the novices behave differently, as well as similarly while facilitating the workshop, thus supporting and contrasting the explored claim. In identifying differences this research contributes to PSM theory by extending the definition of ‘expert vs. novice’ PSM facilitator to include the notion of ‘external vs. internal’ PSM facilitator. In identifying similarities this research contributes to PSM practice by formulating training and facilitation strategies for contexts in which external, expert facilitation is not always possible.
ForlagDepartment of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen
StatusUdgivet - 2013
Udgivet eksterntJa

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