Exploring the Unique Aspects of the Northern Social Economy of Food through a Complexity Lens

  • Connie H. Nelson Lakehead University
  • Mirella Stroink Lakehead University


This article explores our observations on the ways that a social economy of food emerges out of context and place in Northwestern Ontario. We use a theoretical approach that draws on concepts from complexity science to better understand how the diversity inherent in context and place enables the unique social, ecological, and economic features of four case study initiatives. Our analysis of these social economy of food case studies reveals areas where the social economy appears to function differently in Northwestern Ontario, and this divergence from the literature is the focus of the article. We suggest three unique processes: first, a blending of social and capitalist economies; second, limitations of the capitalist economy in this northern setting; and third, the impact of connections with the unique landscape of Northwestern Ontario. We see people in pursuit of livelihood and well-being who are connecting and interacting as complex systems, thereby adapting dynamically through feedback loops to their total ecosystem (social/economic and biophysical), and producing diverse economic and social benefits. The resulting diversity and innovation build well-being, adaptation, and resilience in Northwestern Ontario communities as local food initiatives are strengthened.

Author Biographies

Connie H. Nelson, Lakehead University

Professor Emeritus, School of Social Work

Mirella Stroink, Lakehead University

Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology

How to Cite
NELSON, Connie H.; STROINK, Mirella. Exploring the Unique Aspects of the Northern Social Economy of Food through a Complexity Lens. Northern Review, [S.l.], n. 49, p. in press, dec. 2019. ISSN 1929-6657. Available at: <https://thenorthernreview.ca/index.php/nr/article/view/783>. Date accessed: 27 jan. 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.22584/nr49.2019.007.
Place Based Sustainability Research in the Provincial North