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Living: Innovation action plan

1. CRFS vision 2030 and challenge statements

Until the 19th century, the lagoon of Venice was an almost self-sufficient territory in terms of land and water food supplies. Today, lagoon productions include a variety of raw materials and processed products of great quality, but not enough to cover demand. The City of Venice signed the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact in 2015. Since then, a number of sectoral initiatives and programs have been implemented, especially in terms of supporting youth and fragile social groups. However, there is a lack of coordination among these initiatives and there are neither programs nor strategies for the future of the local food system. Today, the high demand for products to be served in restaurants and hotels requires many foods to be imported from the outside. Local producers are struggling to stay in the market. They can offer high-quality products from a unique environment. However, high production costs and the limited size of production sites reduce their competitiveness in a tourist hit-and-run environment. In addition, lagoon production depends closely on ecologically balanced environmental conditions, which are currently at risk. Iuav has proposed Venice as a multiplier city for several reasons: the signing of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, an area of unique productions, high demand for fresh produce, risky environmental conditions, significant food transition potential, and, last but not least, a UNESCO heritage site. Can food be a key to convey ecological transition in the lagoon, to strengthen the local community's bond with its territory, to mitigate the impact of tourist flows? This spatial and urban complexity requires innovative approaches to drive change. To do so, a deep understanding of how the food system works is needed more than ever. 

The main objective of the CRFS Labs will be to build a Food Atlas of the Venice Lagoon, which is essential to gather and promote innovation. In other words, the Venice Lagoon food system should serve the diverse communities inhabiting the lagoon, in balance with a fragile system. To do so, the main challenge is to state clear and shared priorities; the Atlas will serve this objective. In fact, in Italy, several food atlases have been developed in recent years (Turin and Matera among others) to implement local food policies. Atlases represent open and interactive tools that can collect data and information on the food system, but also highlight innovative experiences from below and promote new local food policies. 

2. Collaboration with stakeholders

Iuav is collaborating with: the Department of Economics and the Centre for Environmental Humanities at Ca' Foscari University of Venice; and the Doctorate in Historical, Geographical, and Anthropological Studies at the University of Padua. To ensure the collaboration with public administration and in collaboration with the mentioned scholars, Iuav is defining a knowledge document to share with local institutions to inform them about the Cities2030 project, its goals, and methodologies. Starting with the bilateral meetings with local authorities, the multidisciplinary group intends to ensure their participation. 

Cultural institutions (M9, Ocean Space) have also been actively involved in the activities of the Venice CRFS Lab. In addition to that, students from seven diverse Italian universities and research institutions have been involved in the Lab activities. Finally, involved researchers can count on individual local social networks that can reach other scholars, experts, activists, artists, journalists who are variously engaged in food related topics. 

3. Living Lab resources

The IUAV team (P38) works in continuous relation with researchers coming from other two Universities (University of Ca' Foscari and University of Padua) and the European Project Consulting (P2). The Venice CRFS lab core team is composed of six people (advanced scholars, post-doc researchers, and doctoral students) coming from diverse fields of expertise (urbanism, landscape planning, geography, anthropology). The collaboration with other local researchers provides additional and necessary knowledge from other fields (art, biology, agronomy, and local history). The Living Lab activities are mainly developed with a limited set of resources and only one post-doc researcher is full-time involved in the project. Additional financial resources would facilitate the process. 

4. Living Lab experiments

1. An archive of diverse communicative tools and representation techniques related to the food system to develop a set of diverse descriptive and analytical products (illustrations, photographs, sound recordings, texts, maps…) and to collect local stories. 

Objective & monitoring: Develop a shared language and a series of diverse communicative tools to discuss the city-region food system through a series of workshops and open talks and the production of the archive.

Collaboration: Local artists, researchers, cultural institutions.

Target group: Local inhabitants, students.

2. The Venice Lagoon Food Festival. Building on previous projects undertaken by the Venice municipality (Saòr, Venice), the festival will be a widespread event in the area that will seek to involve the entire lagoon system, creating a meeting point between producers, restaurateurs, traders, citizens associations, and citizens eager to fully understand the history and culture of food in the Venice Lagoon.

Objective & monitoring: Organise a large widespread event that involves the actors of the food arena to strengthen the sense of belonging and to engage individuals of all ages in a discussion about the food system.

Collaboration: City administration(s), local businesses, citizens associations.

Target group: Families, businesses, citizens associations.

3. A situated learning program. Involves architecture and planning students and local stakeholders in the collective design of future food scenarios and new dimensions of multifunctional landscapes as a catalyst to sustainable development. The workshops and the design studio will work in close collaboration with local communities and several stakeholders, bridging the gap between scientific knowledge, non-expert knowledge, and planning activities traditionally perceived as far from everyday life.

Objective & monitoring: Engage in a continuous discussion at the planning and policy level with diverse stakeholders, developing innovative planning scenarios for the Venice Lagoon (food system) through a series of workshops and a Design Studio (1-semester course).

Collaboration: Universities, students, citizens associations, research centres.

Target group: Students, local businesses, public administration(s).

4. A cultural project to disseminate the cultural heritage of fishing in the lagoon. Fishing heritage is considered an asset linked to tradition, local economies, and knowledge. It should be protected and promoted to ensure its survival.

Objective & monitoring: To design, develop and implement activities that contribute to the enhancement of fishing cultural heritage. To study and raise awareness for the population and visitors.

Collaboration: Universities, students, citizens associations, research centres.

Target group: Local communities, tourists, schools.

5. Activation and promotion of the “Fisherman’s House” at Punta Sabbioni (Cavallino-Treporti). Creation of an operational centre for the Fishermen’s Cooperative within the already renovated Fisherman’s House. Creation of a “fish centre” (which will also provide for the sale and consumption of the catch). The space will contribute to creating a stable reference point for the sale and consumption of fish, supporting the Cooperative’s activities economically.

Objective & monitoring: Establish an operations centre that supports fishermen in their activities and strengthens the sense of belonging to the Cooperative in sharing a "home”. Support and greater synergy with the Fishermen’s Cooperative, redevelopment of the area in terms of architecture and visibility in the area.

Collaboration: Local municipality, citizens associations, research centres.

Target group: Fishermen, consumers.

6. Identification of potential gastronomic uses of lagoon edible wild vegetation. Studying to identify potential gastronomic uses of lagoon vegetation and launching experimental studies for the identification of new products, according to paradigms of protection contextualised in the lagoon specificity, can favour the gastronomic offerings related to typicality.

Objective & monitoring: Protection of salt marshes and populations of endangered plant species, creation of a method for the identification of new plant edibles, enhancement of edible heritage in the lagoon, development of sustainable economies in areas with high depopulation rates.

Collaboration: Local economic activities (HoReCa), local farmers, local municipality.

Target group: Local inhabitants, consumers, tourists, chefs.

7. Cultural platform on the relationship between food and the lagoon. Creating a platform where it is possible to share a new socio-cultural relationship between food and lagoon. Promoting the territory through its food-related elements of typicality.

Objective & monitoring: To put cuisine at the centre of the dialogue between nature and culture. Raising awareness and dissemination of local knowledge about gastronomy. Creation of a wider research community that brings forward an innovative relationship between food and the lagoon territory.

Collaboration: Universities and research centres, local artists and communication designers, tourism office, local consumers and producers.

Target group: Local inhabitants, consumers, tourists, schools.

8. Census of disused areas that could potentially be exploited for community agriculture. The census makes it possible to envisage new projects for dormant land, returning it to agricultural use.

Objective & monitoring: Definition of possible strategies for abandoned areas. Mapping of land, constraints, potential. To reactivate abandoned areas. To enhance the potential of the territory in terms of ecosystem services.

Collaboration: Universities and research centres, local associations, local producers, owners of abandoned land, associations representing the primary sector.

Target group: Local producers, new farmers, local consumers.

5. Other Living Lab's measures 

To ensure the survival and the viability of the CRFS Lab and its activities beyond Cities2030, the Food Atlas of the Venice Lagoon will be built in close collaboration with all the stakeholders. A huge effort is being made to explore tools and forms that the Atlas can take and how it can be implemented by all the actors in the food arena, including those with non-technical skills. 

In addition to that, the CRFS Lab has to be able to secure funds beyond the Cities2030 project. To do so, the Lab engages with key actors that provide that form of knowledge (f.e. European funds and the design of business plans). 

6. SMART Goals

To identify the most adequate SMART Goals, we referred to the RUAF Foundation’s document “City region Food System indicator framework” (2017) in which for each overarching object a set of possible indicators is proposed. 

  • SMG 1 - Improve health and well-being and increase access to food and nutrition 
  • SMG 2 - Improve social conditions for workers 
  • SMG 3 - Build local food culture & heritage 
  • SMG 4 - Ensure acceptability of food provision for all city residents 
  • SMG 5 - Increase local economic growth and generate a diversity of decent jobs and income 
  • SMG 6 - Strengthen the city-region food production and supply system 
  • SMG 7 - Improve protection and management of ecosystems and environmental resources 
  • SMG 8 - Improve horizontal and vertical governance and planning 
  • SMG 9 - Reduce vulnerability and increase resilience 

Living Lab experiments

Overarching objectives
1. An archive of diverse communicative tools and representation techniques related to the food system SMG 3, 4, 8
2. The Venice Lagoon Food Festival SMG 3, 6, 7
3. A situated learning program SMG 3, 6, 7
4. Cultural project to disseminate the cultural heritage of fishing in the lagoon SMG 3, 4
5. Activation and promotion of the “Fisherman’s House” at Punta Sabbioni (Cavallino-Treporti) SMG 2, 5, 6
6. Identification of potential gastronomic uses of lagoon edible wild vegetation SMG 1, 2, 3, 5,7
7. Creating a cultural platform on the relationship between food and the lagoon SMG 3, 4, 7
8. Census of disused areas that could potentially be exploited for community agriculture SMG 1, 2, 5, 6, 9

7. Communication, dissemination and exploitation

The integration between Iuav and CàFoscari researchers within the working group offers a twofold advantage in terms of communication. On the one hand, theoretical and technical skills of communication and promotion of project activities are available. On the other hand, both universities can count on local and digital social networks and communication platforms that allow them to inform the local community and to be open to participation. 

Venetian universities, which are sponsoring the Living Lab, can offer project-specific expertise in disseminating results in order to maximise impact. Researchers involved in the project will engage in the dissemination of ongoing activities, producing and disseminating knowledge. Participation in conferences and seminars, development of educational activities, and bibliographic research products are planned. 

The main activities are aimed at rebuilding local-scale social and economic networks, so efforts will be geared toward the exchange of skills and knowledge between sectors and across generations. The planned public and collective activities will be an opportunity to build new synergies between actors in the supply chain. The experiments may, if yielding satisfactory results, constitute pilot cases to encourage upscaling of the model. Coordination among practices, projects and activities will be able to foster the empowerment of the local food community. 

8. Continuity- and scale-up measures

The Food Atlas of the Venice Lagoon is intended to be a collective project and a shared tool that extends beyond the CRFS Lab. Like several other food atlases, it is meant to be an interactive and open-source facility that also promotes innovative experiences. 

The core team of the CRFS Lab works in this direction, in collaboration with the Italian Local Food Policies Network and several Food Atlas to promote a National Observatory of Local Food Policies and a Network of local Food Atlases. The long-term aim of those actions is to sustain the production, the implementation and the monitoring of local and national food policies. 

Moreover, the IUAV Team will meet the other Italian CRFS Labs to develop common objectives and possible collaborations, and to discuss problems related to the shared planning and policy framework. 

9. Risk assessment

Each of the experiments and the overall work of the CRFS Lab strongly depend on the active involvement of local partners and public administrations at all scales. Particularly regarding the public actors, their support determines the feasibility and the effectiveness of the project, but despite the subscription of the MFPP, until now they have failed in producing a clear and effective non-sectoral local food policy. 

To mitigate this risk bilateral meetings will be held. 

The loss of interest and the involvement of local businesses, particularly concerning farmers, is also a potential risk, as they might be scared of losing time and productivity. Communication about the potential benefits of taking part in the lab activities is considered the only means to overcome the risk. 

An additional risk is related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which could eliminate in-person meetings and workshops. Digital activities would hardly substitute those workshops but, in that case, more effort will be put into online communication. 

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