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Beatrice Walthall


Center for Metropolitan Studies
TU Berlin
Hardenbergstraße 16-18
10623 Berlin    


Revealing Civic Actions in Urban Food Governance: The Case of Berlin

Urban food systems and shifting power-relations in Berlin

Cities and agriculture are fundamentally linked together, co-evolving with each other and contributing to a more self-reliant urban food system. Yet, the changing nature of cities including political, economic, socio-cultural, and technological transformations has deeply reshaped urban food systems spatially and temporally – creating pressures and opportunities for urban societies. While urban societies are not only increasingly affected by unsustainable food systems, they also have the opportunity to take action and reform their food system.

Berlin, along with 100+ cities ranging from Abidjan to Zurich, signed in October 2015 the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, claiming to take responsibility for an unsustainable food system and to contribute to more sustainable food ways. But how can the city of Berlin realize the efforts and claims, when local food policies are largely absent? Is it just a political act with no liability? At the same time, civic voices are increasingly putting issues regarding the food system back on the urban agenda. These new emerging actor constellations and interests in the city of Berlin provide fertile grounds for deeper investigations of civic actions for promoting food policy change.

Research Objective, Approach and Questions

In my dissertation project, I am studying how civic actors engage in different fields of actions to bring about food policy change, in order to understand the role and potential of urban societies in fostering structural change in food governance.  Political processes and outcomes are shaped by the complex interplay of many actors and practices including city authorities, markets and citizens. To explore the complexities and inter-linkages within these governance arrangements, I focus on the civic food council Berlin and analyze how participants seek to influence (i) the food policy agenda ii) food governance mechanisms and iii) food policy outcomes. I argue that civic efforts in Berlin did contribute policy change through a variety of strategies and processes. To discuss the claim, I ask:

  •          How and by whom is the food system of Berlin currently ‘goverend’?
  •          Why and how do civic actors participate in urban food governance?
  •          Why and how are civic actions institutionalized in deeper governance cultures?
  •          How have policy-making processes and food policy changed in Berlin?

Accordingly, my dissertation explores civic agency by highlighting actions as opposed to reactions, in which their agency is typically viewed only as something shaped by the state or the market.  

Theory and Methods

The project is based on a multi-perspective theory approach, linking the debate on urban food governance change with the concept of civic action and an institutionalist perspective on policy change. Data on the case study was collected based on a qualitative research design (Creswell 2007; 2009) between January 2014 and January 2017. Research methods for data collection included on site fieldwork, attending group meetings, public speeches and panel discussions.



Since 05/2015
DFG Fellow at the International Graduate Research Program The World in the City, Berlin – New York – Toronto, Center for Metropolitan Studies, Technical University of Berlin

KOSMOS Summer University: ‘Future Land – Competition for Land’

2010 - 2014
M.A. in Metropolitan Studies – Human Geography, Humboldt University of Berlin

2007 - 2010
B.Sc. in Human Geography and Sociology, University of Potsdam


04/2014 - 09/2014
Junior Faculty Member, Humboldt University of Berlin

2011 - 2013
Research Assistant, Weeber + Partner, Institute for Urban Planning and Social Research, Berlin


WiSe 2016/17
Green City – Just City?: Interdisciplinary master course focusing on urban governance and sustainable urban development. In cooperation with Tilman Reinhardt. Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

SuSe 2016
Grüne Stadt – Gerechte Stadt?: Interdisciplinary master course focusing on urban governance and urban food policy. In cooperation with Tilman Reinhardt. Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

SuSe 2014
Urban Food Systems: Bachelor course covering the role of food systems in shaping urban health, sustainability, culture, community, and economic development. Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


Simone Bröge, Bachelor Thesis
„Landwirtschaft und ländliche Entwicklung - Beitrag der solidarischen Landwirtschaft für die Entwicklung ländlicher Räume in Brandenburg“ (second advisor, submitted in 2016)

Gideon Hussels, Bachelor Thesis    
„Food and space in Berlin -
 a GIS-based approach to identify urban food deserts“ (second advisor, since 2016)

Janina Kosel, Bachelor Thesis                      
“Lebensmittelverschwendung – eine Frage des Angebots? Möglichkeiten und Grenzen der Eindämmung von Lebensmittelverschwendung durch urbane ‚Food Initiativen“ am Beispiel von Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (Berlin)“ (second advisor, submitted 2015)


Strengthening City Region Food Systems: Synergies Between Multifunctional Peri-Urban Agriculture and Short Food Supply Chains: A Local Case Study in Berlin, Germany. In: Niewöhner, J., Bruns, A.,Hostert, P.,Krüger, T.,Nielsen, J.Ø.,Haberl, H.,Lauk, C.,Lutz, J.,Müller, D. (Eds.) (2016): Land Use Competition: Ecological, Economic and Social Perspectives. Switzerland: Springer Publications, pp 263-277

Changing Spatial Imaginations? An Empirical Case Study in the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region. In: Bürkner, Hans-Joachim (Eds.) (2011): Berlin between European Metropolization and Creative Urban Development: Bottom-up Imaginations and Discourses. Potsdam: Universitätsverlag Potsdam.


Revealing Civic Actions in Urban Food Governance
UrbanTopias. Discussing the Challenging of Changing Cities
5th Annual Conference
International Graduate Research Program Berlin-New York-Toronto 
Center for Metropolitan Studies, Berlin 

Civil Society in Urban Food Governance
Conference Democratizing Food System Governance
American University of Rome, Italy  

Umsetzung auf regionaler Ebene: Mehr Nachhaltigkeit durch alternative Landwirtschaft? (Panel Diskussion)
Widersprüchliche Nachhaltigkeit – UN-Agenda 2030 und SDGs bei uns und in der Welt, Tagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für die Vereinten Nationen e.V., Berlin

Wie is(s)t die Stadt?
August Bebel Institut, Berlin

Ein LebensMittelPunkt für Spandau? – Eine Initiative von und für ErzeugerInnen, GärtnerInnen und VerbraucherInnen.
TU Berlin, Berliner Modell: Ausbildung für nachberufliche Aktivitäten (BANA)


Toronto, Canada (Field Research)

Washington, DC, USA (Field Research)

Lancaster, PA, Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC, USA (Field Research)


Association of European School of Planning (AESOP) - Sustainable Food Planning

Zusatzinformationen / Extras


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