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Tuesday, July 28 • 14:46 - 16:15
"Role of Social Media in Enhancing Stakeholder Networks for Innovation in Ontario" [Cancelled]

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Authors: Pawandeep Kaushik, Ataharul Chowdhury and Helen Hambly Odame

Background: There has been a growing importance for innovation in Local Food in order to mitigate the crisis of food shortage and food safety. Local food system includes short food chain that aims at ensuring socially and economically food production and consumption processes {Feagan, 2007 #119}. Innovation in local food depends on networks and interaction of various actors such as producers, consumers, advocator, policy makers and brokers. In recent years, there are number of initiatives to deploy social media for supporting communication and stakeholder interaction. However, there is little or anecdotal evidence on how stakeholder use social media to influence ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ ties within the network and enable local food innovation processes in Ontario. 

Objective: The study focuses on analysis of online social networks mediated through social media tools. Aim is to answer the questions, How local food stakeholders use social media tools to promote local food? What type of information do they share online? How do social media-enabled online networks support learning and knowledge creation among the stakeholders? The study is based on the frame work of "strong and weak ties" of the network of online communities of agri-food stakeholders. Weak ties are important for learning through networks with distant people and strong ties are helpful for collaboration for action and implementation of the knowledge to create change {Haythornthwaite, 2002 #5, Granovetter, 1983 #32}. 

Methods: I purposely selected four cases of social media channels (Face book and Twitter) of local agri-food stakeholder from Ontario; Foodland Ontario (Government organisation), Sustain Ontario (non profit organisation), Mucci farms (small and medium enterprise), Bailey's Local Food (local aggregator). I used Netlytic software {Gruzd, 2013 #62} to collect data during October-December, 2014- 2015 for Facebook and up to 1000 record for Twitter accounts. For analysis I am using UCINET and NETDRAW software. For compilation and analysis of data I used several criteria such as, topics of discussion, characteristics of the contacts (types, location, distance ) purpose (marketing or learning), intimacy of the tie/contact (frequency), relationship (#group members change, #of new staff and members posts, #of new comments, #of new likes, #of new events).

Results: The findings indicate that, the major contacts of Foodland Ontario are consumers, Sustain Ontario, Mucci farms and Bailey's local food have contacts with diverse interests e.g. consumers, brokers, farmers market organisations. The analysis of online communication behavior indicates that stakeholders discuss various topics such as health, recipes, organic, GMO, freshness and taste of local food , support for local produce and farmers. Foodland Ontario does not focus on the agri-food value chain (ego-centric network), where as sustain Ontario’s social media channels includes various actors of the whole value chain from producer to consumer (diverse and inclusive). Small organizations and individual farmers exhibited strong ties with the non-profit, local food market or aggregators. Their ties with the social media channels of government organization are not strong. 
Stakeholders need to be more strategic in using their social media channels. For instance, weak ties/contacts visit the social media accounts of the stakeholders to navigate the conversations and get new ideas. These loosely defined contacts with different interests may provide new impetus for strengthening local food system. 


Ataharul Chowdhury

Adjunct Faculty, University of Guelph
avatar for Dr. Helen Hambly

Dr. Helen Hambly

Associate Professor, University of Guelph - R2B2 Project
R2B2project.ca Ontario’s largest public-private partnership (P3) funded research initiative for rural internet. The project conducts geospatial and econometric analysis for evidence-based decision-making for public investment in regional and rural broadband.Before joining the University... Read More →

Tuesday July 28, 2015 14:46 - 16:15
(8th Floor) TRS 2-166 (Ted Rogers School of Management) 55 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON M5G 2C3

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