Planning for change : transformation labs for an alternative food system in Cape Town, South Africa
CITATION: Pereira, L., et al. 2020. Planning for change : transformation labs for an alternative food system in Cape Town, South Africa. Urban Transformations, 2:13, doi:10.1186/s42854-020-00016-8.
The original publication is available at https://urbantransformations.biomedcentral.com
There has been a call for more participatory processes to feed into urban planning formore resilient food systems. This paper describes a process of knowledge co-production for transforming towards an alternative food system in Cape Town, South Africa. A ‘transformative space’ was created though a T-Lab process involving change-agents advocating for an alternative food system, and was designed to discuss challenges in the local food system from a range of perspectives, in order to co-develop potentially transformative innovations that could feed into government planning. In this paper, we describe and reflect on the T-lab in order to consider whether its design was able to meet its objective: to initiate an experimental phase of coalition-building by diverse actors that could feed into the provincial government’s strategic focus on food and nutrition security. Our findings indicate that T-labs have the potential to be important mechanisms for initiating and sustaining transformative change. They can be complementary to urban planning processes seeking to transform complex social-ecological systems onto more sustainable development pathways. However, as with all experimental co-production processes, there is significant learning and refinement that is necessary to ensure the process can reach its full potential. A key challenge we encountered was how to foster diversity and difference in opinions in the context of significant historical legacies of inequality, whilst simultaneously acting for ‘the common good’ and seeking ways to scale impact across different contexts. The paper concludes with deliberations on the nature of planning and navigating towards systemic transformative change.