Food Security

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 287–310 | Cite as

Governance of food systems across scales in times of social-ecological change: a review of indicators

  • Aogán DelaneyEmail author
  • Tom Evans
  • John McGreevy
  • Jordan Blekking
  • Tyler Schlachter
  • Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki
  • Peter A. Tamás
  • Todd A. Crane
  • Hallie Eakin
  • Wiebke Förch
  • Lindsey Jones
  • Donald R. Nelson
  • Christoph Oberlack
  • Mark Purdon
  • Stephan Rist


Governance of food systems is a poorly understood determinant of food security. Much scholarship on food systems governance is non-empirical, while existing empirical research is often case study-based and theoretically and methodologically incommensurable. This complicates aggregation of evidence and generalization. This paper presents a review of literature to identify a core set of methodological indicators to study food systems governance in future research. Indicators were identified from literature gathered through a structured consultation and sampling from recent systematic reviews and were classified according to governance levels and the food system activity domain they investigate. We found a concentration of indicators in food production at local to national levels and with less literature investigating how food governance affects food distribution and consumption. Many indicators of institutional structure were found, while indicators capturing social agency and indicators of cross-scale dynamics were moderately represented but critical perspectives on governance were lacking. These gaps present an opportunity for future empirical research to investigate more comprehensively the diverse components of food systems and how governance arrangements at different scales affect them.


Food systems Governance Food security Research methods Evidence synthesis Socio-ecological change 



We acknowledge the CGIAR Fund Council, Australia (ACIAR), Irish Aid, European Union, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, UK, USAID and Thailand for funding to the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). The research for this article was funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), under the Priorities and Policies for CSA Flagship. This article builds upon an earlier version which appeared as a CCAFS Working Paper, number 167. This work was also supported by the US National Science Foundation (grant numbers BCS-1534544, SES-1360421, and SES-1360463) and some authors benefitted from support from the R4D project “Food Sustainability” funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF 400540-152033). We would like to thank Katrien Termeer for helpful insights throughout the project. Thanks are also extended to all those who helped by suggesting literature during consultation, all authors who responded to requests during the review and to Patricia Lezotte of the Ostrom Workshop at Indiana University for invaluable assistance during drafting. We acknowledge the services of the Bibliothèque Nationale de Luxembourg for providing access to materials reviewed.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. We disclose above the sources of funding that made this research possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature and International Society for Plant Pathology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aogán Delaney
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tom Evans
    • 2
  • John McGreevy
    • 3
  • Jordan Blekking
    • 2
  • Tyler Schlachter
    • 2
  • Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki
    • 4
    • 5
  • Peter A. Tamás
    • 6
  • Todd A. Crane
    • 7
  • Hallie Eakin
    • 8
  • Wiebke Förch
    • 9
  • Lindsey Jones
    • 10
  • Donald R. Nelson
    • 3
  • Christoph Oberlack
    • 11
    • 12
  • Mark Purdon
    • 13
  • Stephan Rist
    • 11
    • 12
  1. 1.Independent Consultant ResearcherLuxembourg CityLuxembourg
  2. 2.Department of GeographyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  4. 4.Helsinki University Centre for Environment, HENVIHelsinkiFinland
  5. 5.Center for International Forestry Research, CIFORBogorIndonesia
  6. 6.Research Methodology Chair GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenthe Netherlands
  7. 7.International Livestock Research InstituteNairobiKenya
  8. 8.School of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  9. 9.CGIAR Research Program on Climate ChangeAgriculture and Food SecurityNairobiKenya
  10. 10.Overseas Development InstituteLondonUK
  11. 11.Centre for Development and EnvironmentUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  12. 12.Institute of GeographyUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  13. 13.Département de science politiqueUniversité de MontréalMontrealCanada

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