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Cultures, Communities and Design

Co-creating with design Urban-Rural food systems for sustainability
S. Evans


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With accelerated evidence of climate change as witnessed in 2021 with record breaking high temperatures, wild fires, floods accompanied with food disruption from field to city there is heightened reason to consider the urban-rural relationship of food and agriculture as a contribution to the wellbeing of people, societies and the natural environment. In the past decades, and as recently accelerated, firstly by covid19 pandemic and then geopolitical unrest, the flow of food is of critical concerns to governments and communities alike: as food security is at high risk. This raises urgent questions as to the efficacy of globalized supply chains and re-orientates policy makers to reconsider the benefits of local and regional eco-systems. That meaning the relationships between urban, peri-urban and rural citizens. This paper reflects on six years of relationship building between urban citizens and peri-urban and rural food producers in the city of Shanghai, China and its surrounding countryside. This design led project reframed the food system to attain sustainability and used the principles of the circular economy to guide the flow of produce and materials. With the intention to co-create an embedded infrastructure to strengthen relationships between city and countryside, and build human capabilities on the system to attain sustainability. In this way organic farmers markets were designed to bridge a gap between city and rural citizens. New values were set to improve the natural environment, people and societal wellbeing, guided by openness to experiment, learn and iterate through immersion in the local-regional food system. To encourage behavior change by changing the context by designing-in behavioural effects to encourage stronger relationships through knowledge building. Where information to acquire knowledge is found to flow in both directions. Organic farmer’s markets designed in this way have been found to contribute to both improve localized, peri-urban and rural natural environments, build stronger relationships and in this way improve the human capabilities of urban and rural citizens. In this manner a shift towards localized regional food systems can benefit by design.


Susan Evans is a PHD candidate in the school of Design at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Her focus is on transformations towards Sustainability in the context of a circular economy industrial model. She started her career as a mathematician then onto Global Advertising. Previously, a member of prestigious EU research and development projects, Fraunhofer institute, VP in global advertising with world leaders including Saatchi and Saatchi and Publicis London, FCB and Young and Rubicam San Francisco, CMO and consultant to Silicon Valley digital start-ups and world leaders including Intel, Volvo, Pepsi-co. More recently featured in the Guardian 50 global social-entrepreneurs; receiving extensive coverage for her work in China: includes prototypes for future resilient cities, launched urban-farming in China, established cross-disciplinary spaces to inspire innovation and collaboration across Policy Makers, Citizens and Enterprise.