Urban food strategies are increasingly being used as means to address a multitude of challenges presented by food system failings. The use of participatory approaches has become common practice in the field of urban food systems planning. These approaches are believed to democratize, legitimize and increase effectiveness of addressing challenges. Despite these “promises”, they have also been viewed as problematic for being unbalanced and lacking accountability.
This paper sets out to compare the creation and use of new participatory spaces in two initiatives in two European cities in their on-going attempts to formulate urban food strategies through multi-actor processes. This is explored through operationalisation of two key concepts essential to participatory approaches: participation and accountability. As such, the paper addresses how participatory processes for urban food strategies can be conceptualised when policy making involves the interplay of actors, knowledges and spaces.
We conclude that within the two cases, ample attention is given to get a cross-section of the types of participants involved, while accountability is an aspect still under-represented. Based on the two cases, we argue that incorporation of accountability in particular will be instrumental in the development and implementation of more mature urban food strategies. However, it is essential for participatory processes to not completely break from more “traditional” policy processes, at risk of limiting progress in strategy development and deployment.
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