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Food and Agriculture Institute

Food Systems Vulnerabilities

Vulnerabilities and the future of food: Integrated food systems planning and resilience

Farmer to consumer_cropped. Casap, E. (Photographer). (2016).

Project Description

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed challenges and vulnerabilities surrounding local and regional food systems. In collaboration with the FVRD government, this research project explored new ways of improving and increasing local and regional resilience to future exogenous shocks and reflected upon the challenges and vulnerabilities that the pandemic has revealed about local and regional food systems.
This research employed a community-based participatory approach, engaging researchers, local and regional government, stakeholders, and community members in the Fraser Valley to develop ‘systems maps’, illustrating new ways of exploring and increasing food systems resilience, and regional/local relationships, and linkages in food system disturbances, vulnerabilities, among other factors.
Challenges highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic have also revealed challenges and opportunities surrounding the nature of how people interact and work. This research aimed to enhance and further develop online tools for facilitating transdisciplinary work around sustainability issues using the CoLabS platform to facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing.



The following presentations were delivered at the Fourteenth International Conference on Climate Change Impacts & Responses (April 7-8, 2022):

Participatory Methods for Examining Vulnerabilities to Exogenous Shocks
(Rob Newell, Colin Dring)
This presentation discusses the use of experimental, participatory methods and tools for supporting long-term food systems planning by examining regional food vulnerabilities and opportunities/needs for building resilience to exogenous shocks

Climate Impacts and Resiliency Planning in the Fraser Valley Food System
(Colin Dring, Rob Newell)
This presentation reports on the outcomes of the year-long participatory action research project in the Fraser Valley Regional District, which identified food system vulnerabilities via an exploration of experienced pandemic impacts and perceived impacts arising from climate change (and other) shocks.

Related Articles and Publications

Reflecting on COVID-19 for integrated perspectives on local and regional food systems vulnerabilities, Newell, Dring, Newman.The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted multiple vulnerabilities and issues around local and regional food systems, presenting valuable opportunities to reflect on these issues and lessons on how to increase local/regional resilience. Using the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) in Canada as a case study, this research employs integrated planning perspectives, incorporating comprehensive-systems, regional, place-based, and temporal considerations, to (1) reflect upon the challenges and vulnerabilities that COVID-19 has revealed about local and regional food systems, and (2) examine what these reflections and insights illustrate with respect to the needs for and gaps in local/regional resilience against future exogenous shocks. The study used a community-based participatory approach to engage local and regional government, stakeholders, and community members living and working in the FVRD. 

Newell, R., Dring, C., & Newman, L. (2022). Reflecting on COVID-19 for integrated perspectives on local and regional food systems vulnerabilitiesUrban Governance.

CoLabS: A collaborative space for transdisciplinary work in sustainable community development‌This research article explored the development of an online platform "CoLabS", specifically designed as a virtual meeting and learning space to support collaboration within and between communities to accelerate sustainable community development efforts. While the move towards online collaboration in virtual environments has steadily increased in the past decade, it has now become essential due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the feedback provided by focus groups, the collaboratory platform's design and usability, as well as the technical aspects and its functionality are discussed in this paper.

Jost, F., Newell, R., & Dale, A. (2021). CoLabS: A collaborative space for transdisciplinary work in sustainable community development. Heliyon, 7(2).

COVID-19 and climate change_ an integrated perspective_Article_Image‌The COVID-19 outbreak has revealed multiple vulnerabilities in community systems. Effectively addressing these vulnerabilities and increasing local resilience requires thinking beyond solely pandemic responses and taking more holistic perspectives that integrate sustainability objectives. Pandemic preparedness and climate action in particular share similarities in terms of needs and approaches for community sustainability. This paper reflects on what the outbreak has illustrated regarding community vulnerability to crises, with a focus on local economy and production, economic diversification, and social connectivity.

Newell, R. & Dale, A. (2020). COVID-19 and climate change: an integrated perspective. Cities & Health.

Virtual collaboration led to CoLabS_Article‌"Ann Dale and Rob Newell have teamed up to create CoLabS - which stands “community + collaboration + sustainability” and is pronounced Ko-Lab-Ess - a flexible and customizable online platform for facilitating virtual collaboration amongst researchers, from university professors and students to non-profits, government agencies and community groups". Richard Dal Monte

Dal Monte, R. (2021). Virtual collaboration led to CoLabS. Royal Roads University News.


Spaces, places and possibilities: A participatory approach for developing and using integrated models for community planning_Article image_ Robert Newell & Ian Picketts‌Integrated models can support community planning efforts because they have the ability to elucidate social, economic, and environmental relationships and outcomes associated with different local development plans and strategies. However, deciding what to include in an integrated model presents a significant challenge, as including all aspects of a community and local environment is unfeasible, whereas including too few aspects leads to a non-representative model. This research aimed to address this challenge by employing an iterative, participatory process in an integrated modelling effort.

Newell, R., & Picketts, I. (2020). Spaces, places and possibilities: A participatory approach for developing and using integrated models for community planning. City and Environment Interactions, 6.

Project Collaborators

FVRD logo         Royal Roads Logo_square

Project Funding

This research project has been successful in securing funding from Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Engage Grants COVID-19 Special Initiative 2020-2021 program.

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