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Genevieve Shanahan

PHD Graduate - 2022

Thesis title

The local prefiguration of a global sustainable food system: Reconciling radical democracy and scale through technology

Areas of expertise

  • Social Changes
  • Technology Communities
  • Communities, Open Source, Hacking
  • Local food and localized systems of food provision
  • Non-profit-making organizations

Genevieve received her PhD from Grenoble Ecole de Management in January 2022. Her research deals with the ways in which technology can enable or impede radical democracy in alternative organisations, especially those that address the climate crisis. More broadly, she’s interested in critical perspectives on technology and post-capitalist futures. She additionally holds an MPhil in Philosophy from University College London, and a BA in Philosophy and English Literature from University College Cork. 

This doctoral dissertation examines whether community-based coordination, specifically prefiguration, might be an effective means of intentionally transforming the food system in a manner responsive to the demands of the climate crisis, local-level specificities and justice implications. It particularly focuses on the use of information and communication technology (ICT) tools to secure this responsiveness through democratic revisability, that is, keeping coordinating decisions regarding the means and ends of organizing continually open to modification by the relevant community. Chapter 1 theoretically investigates the prospects of intentional social transformation through community-based coordination, drawing together alternative organizations scholarship regarding the degeneration thesis, the critical realist social morphogenesis framework and real utopian sociology to examine the potentialities and risks associated with two broad approaches to such coordination. Chapter 2 presents the case of the Open Food Network (OFN), an e-commerce platform designed to support sustainable food enterprises, and explores the extent to which its configuration of ICT platforms and organizational practices realizes the democratic revisability of its coordinating texts. Chapter 3 focuses more specifically on whether ICT tools themselves can be subjected to democratic revisability, approaching this question through the case of the Réseau Alimentaire Local (RAL), a network of participatory cooperative supermarkets across France who attempt to co-develop open-source software. This dissertation makes the following contributions to the study of alternative organizations: the specification of a set of insulation degeneration risks dialogically enmeshed with their more commonly studied exposure degeneration counterparts; an articulation of democratic revisability as an important but somewhat neglected dimension of organizational democracy, along with its necessary limits; and a model of how common ICTs might be incorporated into organizational practice to realize a degree of revisability compatible with effective coordination of complex organizational action.
    • Leadership and Responsible Management - Licence - from 2021 to 2022
    • Leadership and Responsible Management - Licence - from 2020 to 2021
    • Leadership and Responsible Management - Licence - from 2019 to 2020
    • La force du Manager de demain : réflexivité et coeur à l'oeuvre - Licence - from 2018 to 2019
    • Sustainability and CSR - Master - from 2020 to 2021
    • Sustainability and CSR - Master - from 2019 to 2020