Research

Doctoral research

The Visible Hands - An ethnographic inquiry into the emergence of food collectives as a social practice for exchange

Doctoral research – The visible handsMotivated by an observation that new forms of organizing and alternative practices for exchange increasingly transpire outside formal organizations, this doctoral dissertation adopts a social practice approach to study how food collectives emerged as a new practice for exchange. In doing so it challenges the dominance of markets as the focal explanatory concept of economic organization and shifts attention from organization as an entity to organization as emergent order.

In studying the emergence of a new social practice, the dissertation draws on extensive, in-depth ethnographic fieldwork on Finnish food collectives conducted during 2010-2017. Food collectives comprise of groups of households that collectively procure local and organic food directly from farmers and other suppliers and distribute it among the participating members. The data originate from participant and non-participant observation, interviews, meetings, social media discussions, documents, and archival material.

The empirical findings of the dissertation suggest that the emergence of food collectives as a new practice for exchange was predominantly tactical rather than discursive accomplishment requiring people to invent their ways of doing while engaging in a bundle of activities and continuously re-connecting different elements, including materiality, temporality, meanings, and embodied skills that were in constant flux (Essay 1). The findings further point towards temporal and moral ordering effects of emerging social practices. The study identifies rhythmic qualities that enable people to sustain their food collective’s web of practices (Essay 2) and evaluative work that anchors common values in food collectives’ practices (Essay 3).

Capitalizing on four distinct practice theoretical approaches this study advances organizational scholarship, particularly the emerging body of literature examining alternative forms of economic organizing, and contributes to practice theory. The study finds that in order to emerge, new social practices not only involve new ways of knowing and doing, but also require people to unlearn dominant ways of knowing and doing. The study brings further attention to a web of practices and shows how social practices emerge by transforming interactional orders of existing practices and by re-connecting them in new ways. The study also raises important questions on the relationship between people and practices and offers methodological guidance for studying phenomena on emergence.

As the market economy is being increasingly contested at grassroots, the challenge for policy-makers is to understand and better acknowledge the role of alternative forms of economic organizing in the transformation towards a more sustainable economic system.

Studying practices among low-income consumers

Studying practices among low-income consumers. This project focused on consumer practices related to packaging, mass communication and primary education at the BOP and emerging markets in four continents. The research methodology was ethnographic and data was gathered in Brazil, India, Russia and Tanzania during 2009 and 2010. The objectives of the research were to document and describe practices in these markets and to advance the innovation work of the Finnish forest sector.

The project identified a number of opportunity spaces in the BOP markets. These business and innovation opportunities arose from an analysis of the existing low-income consumer practices.

The project was part of a wider Radical Market Innovation (RAMI) programme and was funded by Tekes and Forest Cluster. The project finished in June 2010 when the final report (PPT presentation), photo gallery and video materials were delivered to the Forest Cluster. The results were also utilized in Innovation Labs for members of the Forest Cluster.

BOP Innovation project

BOP Innovation project. The BOP Innovation project (2009-2010) focused on studying innovations at the BOP and emerging markets. The objective was to offer Finnish innovation policy actors’ a deeper understanding of innovation processes aiming to develop socially responsible solutions targeted at low-income markets.

Furthermore, the project sought to encourage relevant Finnish stakeholders to better recognize innovation opportunities in the BOP markets. The project was funded by National Innovation Agency, Tekes.