Date: Thursday 22 January, 2015
Venue: The Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG
The CCRI 2015 Policy Conference took place on 22 January 2015 at the Royal Society in London.
‘Countryside Values for the 21st Century’ was a unique opportunity for rural policy and decision makers, stakeholders and researchers to come together to discuss and debate contemporary topics based around evidence from CCRI’s latest research.
Taking a lead from our suite of current research, and in dialogue with leading thinkers and actors, the 2015 conference provided a platform to explore and celebrate what the contemporary countryside offers with a focus on its key needs and concerns for the future.
It was attended by a very engaged and diverse audience, with people coming from Scotland and Ireland, as well as community groups and NGO’s across England.
The conference comprised of presentations based around three themes; ‘Inclusive food systems’, ‘Well-being, Happiness and Rural Policy’ and ‘Learning and Innovation for Sustainable Farm Businesses’. Delegates enjoyed a range of presentations that highlighted the link between social science theory and changes to practice on the ground.
CCRI Rural Policy Conference panel.
One of the recent ‘hot topics’ has been the concept of using a happiness index to influence government policy. Not surprisingly, Paul Courtney’s presentation ‘Happiness: a goal for rural policy?’ sparked up some interesting discussion and debate. CCRI’s John Powell (Delivering well-being benefits through the RDPE ) and Margi Lennartsson from Garden Organic (Growing carrots for health and happiness) also gave presentations under the theme of ‘Well-being, Happiness and Rural Policy’.
Damian Maye and James Kirwan’s presentation, ‘Re-imagining food chain performance’, highlighted the need to extend our thinking about food chains and their performance. It explored the way in which local and global food is perceived and defined in the public, market, scientific and policy spheres, by focusing on the relationships between various attributes associated with these food supply chains.
Also on the theme of inclusive food systems, principal conference organiser, Matt Reed, made a presentation entitled ‘Food in cities – the new frontier of rural policy’ which considered the role of cities in the future of agricultural food production, particularly in addressing challenges such as food security in a post-supermarket food supply chain. It also highlighted changes in the conceptualization of the rural-urban continuum.
External speakers included Tom MacMillan from the Soil Association whose presentation focused on some innovative activities they have been conducting, including the Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme, and Joy Carey from local food consultants, f3, who presented on ‘Food and Cities – Bristol’, which explored how to educate and engage people in the current food-related debates.
The external presentations demonstrated how the investments in research made by EU, DEFRA and others are feeding into agendas that are making difference to people’s lives – Urban Ag, Farmers Innovation or Happiness Well-Being agenda.
Julie Ingram, Janet Dwyer and Jane Mills made presentations under the theme of ‘Learning and Innovation for Sustainable Farm Businesses’, which were well received and triggered some interesting discussion.
A panel including Audrey Roy, from Natural England, Andy Dean from RSN and Richard Wakeford, an expert on Rural strategy and Public policy analysis and implementation, rounded the day up with discussions which highlighted the importance of working with people on the ground to realise change but that this can be informed by good social science research.
The conference was formally closed by CCRI Director, Professor Janet Dwyer. Janet commented after the conference,
“The Policy Conference has been a great success. All the presentations fostered a really interesting series of debates and I know that everyone enjoyed the networking over lunch. I hope that those people who have not been able to join us in person were able to see some of what has happened through the social media.”
Most of the conference presentations can be viewed on the CCRI Slideshare account.
Background to the conference:
The social, economic and environmental changes we have seen in the last 15 years have already challenged established orthodoxies of the twentieth century, in respect of policy goals and how best to pursue them. With 30 years of experience researching rural change and policy, we have noted how topics once confined to the countryside have become topics of wider and more pressing societal concern, such as farming and food supply, environment and climate management, and sustaining local economies and services.
In some ways we find that rural areas have become social laboratories, testing new governance models to address future challenges including plant and animal disease, climate risk and uncertainty, declining natural and cultural resources, and community cohesion in situations of tangible inequality.
This conference offered the opportunity to reflect on the multiple needs that 21st century society seeks to meet from the countryside, including food, energy, materials and medicines as well as recreation, leisure and residence, and to share ideas and experience about how it could and will respond.
Countryside values – in the light of growing economic, environmental and social demands, the conference aims to highlight the importance of fully understanding ‘what the countryside does for us’ and what that means for future management.
Innovation – in a world subject to rapid change, strategies must be found to suit individuals, families, businesses and communities. The conference will look at how people are becoming engaged in innovative ways.
Happiness and equity – rural areas continue to face profound inequalities in wealth and opportunity, with problems of access to housing and employment that foreshadow those of the wider economy. The conference will consider how policies can best underpin effective local action.
Three spheres of research can shed new light on these inter-connected topics.
1 – An inclusive food system – investigating the ways in which people can be more aware and involved with the food that they eat, and the benefits of participation, but also the policy challenges for food supply, such as achieving sufficient production and minimizing waste.
2– Well being, happiness and rural policy – much of the current discussion of well-being adopts medical models focused upon physical and mental health. Our work highlights the need for a broader concept, including respect, sharing and community identity. As a new generation of thinkers challenges the focus on growth as a dominant mantra for rural and societal development, we analyse the evidence on what really matters to people.
3 – Learning and innovation for sustainable farm businesses
Faced with immediate and long-term environmental challenges, farm businesses, scientists and policy makers are seeking new strategies for success. We explore how innovative and collective learning approaches are being used to facilitate and support this process and discuss the implications for future policy.
Conference fees: The cost of attending the conference, including lunch and refreshments, was £145.00.
Venue: The Royal Society is located on Carlton House Terrace, just off Waterloo Place, between Pall Mall and The Mall. It is 5 minutes walk to Piccadilly Circus underground station and 10 minutes to Charing Cross mainline and underground stations. Go to https://royalsociety.org/venue-hire/location/ for more information.
Contact: Dr Matt Reed, Tel +44 (0) 1242 714138. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor Paul Courtney discusses his presentation for the forthcoming CCRI Policy Conference
Matt Reed, Conference Organiser, talks about the forthcoming CCRI Policy Conference