Student-led Project

Exploring resilience capacities: The art of storymaking with food innovators in the Western Cape

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This project explores the potential of storymaking as a novel methodology for developing insight into the ways in which a small selection of social innovators are working to shape change in the food system of the Western Cape, and particularly some of the different capacities they are drawing on that may contribute to resilience. This thesis brings a narrative and interpretative lens to the experiences of five social innovators who are working towards social-ecological change in the food system of the Western Cape, South Africa, and are part of the international Seeds of the Good Anthropocene project. The Seeds of the Good Anthropocene research seeks to analyse the potential of selected small-scale social-ecological projects to help accelerate transformations towards positive futures for people and planet.

In this project, the stories of food innovators are analysed through a ‘storymaking’ process of in-depth interviews, narrative inquiry and interpretative phenomenological analysis. In this process, a richness of experience and meaning that surfaces in the stories shared by research participants is explored, with the aim of understanding whether interpreting these stories through different resilience frames can help to provide insight into the capacities that contribute towards resilience.  This work conceptualises the Western Cape as an ‘Anthropocene space’, with a unique historical and geographical context in which multiple food system crises are reflected, thus creating conditions ripe for transformation. Against this backdrop, the work connects the stories of social innovators in food to social-ecological resilience themes of rootedness, resourcefulness and resistance. It also connects these real-life stories and themes to a more theoretical exploration of the complex relationships between stories, resilience, agency and transformation.

What emerges is a picture of social innovators experimenting and connecting with one another, guided by rich and emerging value systems, working along the ‘unruly edges’ and the generative niches in between more formal institutions, practices and ways of thinking, transforming these spaces through their alternative narratives of food, culture and community, and in the process deeply exploring questions of how to reconnect with nature and ourselves, and how to live well in the Anthropocene.

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