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Using Semi-Structured Interviews to Identify the Place and Prominence of Shopping for Change in Local Food Movements

Case
By: Published: 2018 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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Abstract

Between 2013 and 2014, I spent a year immersed in the local food movement in three Canadian cities. I was interested in understanding how consuming differently—an individual-level phenomenon—can become part of collective-level change. In the food-focused literature on eco-social change, personal choices to buy organic/local food, or garden at home or in the community, are described as consumer-responses. In contrast, organizing others to get involved in collective actions or lobbying government are typically described as civic-responses. Consumers and activists are generally conceptualized as two mutually exclusive categories. I wanted to better understand the (overlapping) space between these two categories and to understand the motivations that led some consumers to take on activist roles. To do so, my co-investigators and I used semi-structured interviews to ask: how do food leaders come to diagnose and seek to reform the maladies of the conventional food system? And what roles do they envision for others to engage in food system transformation? Semi-structured interviews are an ideal method to meet these goals, as they allowed me insight into the daily lives, personal histories, and the important stories of people whose everyday work shapes the local food movement. Here, I outline the research methods that led to a key finding: a common story told by food leaders was that they came to their work because they saw the limits of shopping for change, but they nonetheless relied on consumer-focused strategies to resolve complex social and environmental shortcomings in the dominant food system. This key finding is based on semi-structured interview data.

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Methods Map

Semi-structured interviews

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