Productive Urban Landscapes

Research and practice around the CPUL design concept

The deceptively simple four-box decision-making framework developed by the RSA and discussed in relation to food (source: Sustain webinar 2020)

Making sense of it: Tools for developing food strategies

Last week, Andre Viljoen participated in the webinar Making sense of it: What’s happened and what next? about tools for developing food strategies following on from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The webinar was hosted by two UK organisations, SUSTAIN The alliance for better food and farming and the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). It introduced a decision-making tool based on reviewing ‘things’ that had started or stopped due to the pandemic and aimed at identifying which of these ‘things’ should be taken forward and amplified and which should be curtailed or stopped in light of what we have learned during the lockdown. As Ian Burbigde (RSA) explains, ‘thinking through the measures that we’ve all taken in response to Covid-19 in four categories – stopping activity, pausing activity, temporary measures, and new innovations – can help us focus on what’s worked and what can last’.

And as Sustain asks, ‘when it comes to food insecurity, how do we assess what’s happened over the last months to address rising need in local areas? And how can different actors and new collaborators determine what should happen next?’ Two case studies where presented which applied the simple four-box decision-making tool to future food scenarios.

Key items to emerge from the webinar discussions were in relation to language, in particular it was questioned if the terms “disruption” and “transition” were helpful in encouraging participant inclusion or to what extent they suggested business as usual rather than the need for a radical refocus. The take-home message from the two case studies which applied the RSA tool was that the tool identified issues but, on its own, cannot build consensus. The tool seems to be useful as a means to set some parameters for scenario building from which then it may be possible to build a consensus.

The approach to overlay the RSA’s Covid-19 tool with food questions is interesting to us, both in relation to the scenario building work we do when testing CPUL concepts (using our own CPUL City Actions toolkit) and to current research we are doing with EU colleagues (as part of the EdiCitNet project) reviewing available tools that support sustainable urban food initiatives. And: to see two of our favourite UK organisations, the RSA and Sustain, join forces in order to trigger discussions and actions on more sustainable post-Covid-19 urban food futures is incredibly encouraging. Andre and Katrin have been collaborating with Sustain repeatedly and since many years, and Katrin cherishes her times of RSA membership.


For a recording of the SUSTAIN/RSA webinar see here.

For further information on the tool see Ian Burbidge’s blog here.

Image: The deceptively simple four-box decision-making tool developed by the RSA and discussed in relation to food (source: Sustain webinar 2020)


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* food systems* urban agriculture* urban designInternational

Andre Viljoen • 20th July 2020

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