Transforming governance in telecoupled food systems

Hallie Eakin, Ximena Rueda, Ashwina Mahanti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


In this paper we analyze how new actors, interests, and resources become salient to food system governance and how the domain of food system governance transforms as a result. Specifically, we focus on how the boundaries of food systems are redefined and new institutions are developed through the explicit recognition of distal interactions and feedbacks—telecoupling—operating in the food system space. Telecoupling can stimulate new forms of governance, such as the development of codes of conduct and certification schemes, with positive impacts on food and livelihood security; when ignored, telecouplings can exacerbate undesirable social and ecological outcomes in linked systems. We present a typology of telecoupled food systems, highlighting three dimensions of distance that can be present in systems that become telecoupled: social, institutional, and physical. We use that typology to explore the evolution of telecoupling and governance change in two case studies. We associate the tendency for changes in governance that occur in each case with the nature of “distance” in the systems in question: whether the systems are distal in terms of social and/or institutional ties, or in the resource base, or some combination of all three dimensions of distance. The challenge of overcoming distance is not the only issue that affects the possibility of governance change; the cases illustrate that the cultural and economic conditions of the connected systems, the agency of actors involved, and their political and social relations and networks all come to play in enabling governance transformation in telecoupled systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number32
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Food systems
  • Globalization
  • Governance
  • Latin America
  • Sustainability
  • Telecoupling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Transforming governance in telecoupled food systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this