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International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food

Published by Michigan State University

Official publication of the Research Committee on Sociology of Agriculture and Food (RC-40)
of the International Sociological Association (ISA)

Editors: Raymond Jussaume, Claire Marris and Katerina Psarikidou

Frequency: 3 issues per year 
ISSN: 0798-1759

Volume 24, Issue 3 (2018)

The Emergence, Dynamics and Agency of Social Innovation in Seed Exchange Networks                                     336-353

Authors: Bálint Balázs (a) and Guntra Aistara (b) 

Affiliations: (a) ESSRG Ltd; (b) Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy, Central European University

Abstract            PDF

Seed movements are more than a manifestation of the struggle to increase farmers’ and gardeners’ access to seeds. In this article, we explore seed saving and sharing as networked practices for the maintenance of genetic diversity as well as for social innovation in a new type of seed exchange networks in Hungary, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and the European Coordination of the Let’s Liberate Diversity network. We analyse our qualitative interview data using Transformative Social Innovation theory as a new perspective to link social movement and social innovation literature. We focus on the emergence, dynamics, and agency of seed exchange networks in Europe as innovative social configurations to explore how seed networks promote transformations in agricultural, ecological, political, material, social, and cultural realms. We conclude that social innovation arises when the material exchange of seeds is intertwined with interpersonal sharing of knowledge that helps to create new social relationships and reframe global agricultural problems. The materiality of the seed is the intermediary that unites people, ideas, and networks across sectors, and serves as a means to redefine social relationships and create new modes of learning, doing, framing, and organising.