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Learning from Other Communities: Organising Collective Action in a Grassroots Food-sharing Initiative

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Springer, London


This paper illustrates the work of creating, infrastructuring, and organising a food-sharing community from the ground up. Drawing on Participatory Action Research (PAR) and a three-year engagement with FoodSharing Stockholm, the paper shows how the processes of starting up a grassroots initiative are shaped by participants’ direct experience and knowledge of similar initiatives. The analysis draws attention to: (1) how central activities such as recruiting volunteers, choosing digital tools, and establishing partnerships with food donors are conceived and organised, (2) the concrete challenges of sharing surplus food, such as adopting a distribution model, and negotiating fairness, and (3) how governance and decision-making models are adopted and (re)negotiated over time. The paper introduces the term Collective histories of organising to cap- ture the impact that learning from previous experiences can have on communities’ efforts to set up and run; and re-orient design visions towards the consideration and adoption of existing sociotechnical practices, rather than always aiming at novel digital explorations. We outline three emerg- ing dimensions that can characterise “Collective histories of organising” as a concept, (1) configuring capacities, (2) configuring sociotechnical- cal practices, and (3) configuring participation. The paper contributes practical sensitivities to build, sustain, and infrastructure surplus food- sharing initiatives, where these three dimensions are discussed as central concerns designers and other food-sharing communities could learn from.


Berns, Katie; Rossitto, Chiara; Tholander, Jakob (2023): Learning from Other Communities: Organising Collective Action in a Grassroots Food-sharing Initiative. Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Vol. 32. Springer, London. PISSN: 0925-9724. Full Papers. Trondheim, Norway. June 5-9, 2023