A sociological analysis of self-governance in the agri-food system

    Project Details


    Main research question/goal
    This dissertation has two objectives. The first is to understand how inter-organizational agri-food networks (ION) function and how integration is constituted in these ION. From this analysis we gain scientific insight into the relation between network structure and culture, practical insights that add value for actors wishing to start or manage an ION, and more. A second research objective is to develop, implement and evaluate procedures for qualitative social network analysis that facilitate insight into the functioning of and integration inside inter-organizational networks from a socio-centric (i.e., network-level) perspective. This results in a so-called Integral Network Analysis. This qualitative analysis is based on the individual and collective experiences and stories present in a network.

    Research approach
    Based on insights from literature including relational sociology, social network analysis, inter-organizational networks (in agri-food), rural sociology and sociology of agriculture and food, we describe integrated networks as networks that succeed in uniting their members by connecting them in structural patterns of relations and by producing perceptions and feelings of belonging, commitment and identification. This definition leads us to distinguish five interconnected network domains that join to shape integration: network structure, network geography, roles, culture and governance. Following this conceptualization, we have developed a qualitative approach to social network analysis, which we call Integral Network Analysis (INA). Firstly, INA allows researchers to study inter-organizational networks qualitatively in a systematic way. Secondly, INA enables the study of inter-organizational networks from a network-level perspective. Finally, INA takes the mutual relation between network structure and culture into account. Based on a systematic case selection process, we selected three cases to which INA was applied in a single and a comparative case study approach.

    This dissertation adds to literature on inter-organizational networks (IONs) and agri-food networks in three ways. Theoretically, by combining insights from research on the five network domains, relational sociology, social network analysis and rural sociology; methodologically, by contributing an original method to the field of QSNA and studies of whole IONs; and empirically by providing detailed insights into the functioning of and integration within inter-organizational agri-food networks. In addition to these scientific contributions, we also reflected on the translation of our findings into tangible interventions to enhance integration inside networks. Because of our focus on self-governing IONs, the aim of these interventions is application within and by networks themselves. However, as this may be a difficult process, there are opportunities for governments or consultants to play a supporting role.
    Effective start/end date1/10/1330/09/17