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Last update: May 2021

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Relocation of food systems within territories: which framework of analysis in ergonomics?

A case study in the Saclay plateau

2021 - Chloé Le Bail, Marianne Cerf and Gwenola Yannou-Le Bris


The relocation of food systems in territories pursues both a political and civic ambition to reconnect agriculture and food, and to face the challenges of sustainable development. It calls upon ergonomics because such an evolution cannot be achieved without work transformations. The present article is based on an exploratory case study which was conducted on the Paris-Saclay territory. The study concerns the supply of local products to staff canteens. It focuses on actors whose positions (farm manager, restaurant manager) and experiences reveal an ongoing or “practise-based” redesign of intra and inter-organisation coordination processes that aims to support the development of the local food system. The case study highlights the elasticity of the territorial definition experienced by the actors involved in the development of a local food system according to the social and cultural values they defend. The actors appropriate and change the organisation of a local food system which crosses the boundaries of their own organisations.

In this article we propose to approach the inter-organisational change that results from the re-localization of food in and through the territories. We define such a change as a collective design process which creates a dialogue between two coordination re-design processes, one at the level of each organisation and the other at the level of inter-organisational relations. Finally, we define a unique and situated “territorialisation work” that includes the activities of the coordination re-design, and which aims to develop a geographical, cultural and/or political space that the actors identify as a territory, in order for this space to fit in with their vision of what local and sustainable food means. We discuss the implications of the results for both ergonomic analysis and intervention.