Project Description

The Environmental Social Science Research Group – ESSRG – is a small research and development enterprise established by researchers of different disciplines looking for autonomy and enjoying working together on the boundaries of environmental and social sciences. ESSRG aims to apply and develop social science research methods to assist communities and decision makers in their efforts of transforming our societies towards social justice and ecological sustainability. We believe in opening up established systems of knowledge creation toward various forms of co-creation, including Participatory Action Research (PAR), Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and citizen science, thus enhancing society’s capacity for transformative learning.


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The Hungarian Policy and City Labs have jointly written an article in the Journal of Food Investigation (text in English after the Hungarian version), presenting the urgent need for a food system transformation at national, European level and international level. It lays out the foundations of a food system approach and describes the importance of responsible research and innovation (RRI) to achieve the transition of our food system. The focus of this first article – which is the first in a series of articles – lies in the theoretical background of the Labs.

Walking the talk: embracing the emergent nature of co-creation processes in complex systems

The FIT4FOOD2030 lab coordinators experimented with a new narrative method to tell stories of the impact of the project. Diana, lab coordinator in Budapest, reflects on the important events, lessons learnt and small successes of her three-year journey and how important it was to remain open and be able to change trajectories quickly in the lab processes.

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Defining the lab vision and trajectory City Lab Budapest began its activities with an internal workshop and interviews for stakeholder mapping. They collaborated with an existing initiative focused on Innovation in the Food System, FoodLab Studio, to host jointly two exploratory workshops with the aim to identify a pool of stakeholders with various backgrounds and experience and begin the process of system mapping, identifying challenges and opportunities. Photo credit: Gyöngyvér Balog. Impact Hub Budapest; April - May 2018 Understanding the local food system: Visions, showcases and breakthroughs A series of three workshops were held in order to develop a common vision for transformation and shared system understanding, considering in the local context the concepts of trends, showcases and breakthroughs and their relationship to the City Lab’s vision. These moments allowed the identification of thematic pathways and leverage points: the emergence of new value systems, community-driven social innovations and social entrepreneurship and empowered and aware consumers. Read more Impact Hub Budapest; July 2018 - January 2019 Supporting the innovation ecosystem A related aim that emerged from the discussions was to support the creation and strengthening of a food-related innovation ecosystem in the Budapest area: acting as a resource point and information hub, networking facilitation and consultation and expertise. A group on social media and an online database with information about members and their competencies, skills, and areas of interest were both developed based on stakeholder suggestions. Bringing everything together One-on-one meetings with various stakeholders and two workshops with university lecturers were held in order to co-create solutions that can be sustainable even after the termination of the project. As a result, education module development was initiated along several axes: higher education, professionals, younger target groups and the general public. January 2019 - May 2019 Two educational modules developed Two prototypes were born out of the process: System Thinking for Food System Sustainability - a blended deep learning module that targets young adults, early career professionals and university students, and 'Our Food System and Us' - a shorter workshop for university students and the general public. Spring 2019 Testing 'Our Food System and Us' This module uses conceptual maps to trigger discussion about the food system and the role and responsibilities of each individual in it. During a first piloting at Semmelweis University, Budapest, in the context of a session in an elective course on Sustainability, participants’ responses showed that a deep reflection mode had been achieved. Semmelweis University, Budapest; 4 April 2019 System Thinking for Food System Sustainability This module is an intensive, facilitated, blended learning journey for higher education students and early career professionals. They are guided through a co-creative, experiential learning-based process where they also engage with their local food environment through a specific challenge they identify. An online component is freely accessible for anyone via the webpage of the City Lab while the offline workshops were tested in the Impact Hub Budapest. Online & Impact Hub Budapest; October - November 2019 Where does your breakfast come from? This question was asked to the general public, allowing the testing of the module 'Our Food System and Us' with a general audience at the premises of a local civil society organisation. Inspiral Club, Budapest; 7 November 2019 Collaboration with the Policy Lab Hungary One of collaborations that took place between the Hungarian Policy Lab and the City Lab in Budapest was a journal article in the Journal of Food investigation (in Hungarian and English) on the challenges of the present and plans for the future. View more April 2020 Summer food discoveries The Lab offered educational activities - based on the module 'I Love Food!' developed by the City Lab Sofia - as part of the one-week-long summer camps organised by the Hungarian Open Air Museum for children between the ages 6-12. More than 300 participants discovered new things about food. Hungarian Open Air Museum, Szentendre; July - August 2020 Turning a crisis into an opportunity The Lab was able to turn the challenge presented by COVID-19 into an opportunity by transforming the course 'System Thinking for Food System Sustainability' to an online format, and in this process creating an e-learning platform that can support further the democratization of knowledge by inviting local communities and CSOs as collaborators. Autumn 2020 Reflecting on impact The FIT4FOOD2030 lab coordinators experimented with a new method to tell stories of the impact of the project. The City Lab Budapest coordinator reflects on the ups and downs of establishing partnerships to develop the educational modules. October 2020 The future outlook of the lab Some of the priorities identified during its activity - sustainable and healthy diets, public school food procurement, the situation of small farmers and a reduction in food waste - and support to the budding network are being taken up by lab host ESSRG in a new EU-funded project with a focus on facilitating collaboration between farmers, consumers, local governments and other actors. 2021