STRINGS Methodological Plan
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Methodology & Methodological Plan

Several studies on local food production in rural areas focus on the impacts that short food supply chains may have in fostering rural sustainable development, as well as on consumer preferences [15]. Little empirical evidence and theoretical reflection exist, however, regarding the role urban specialty stores that sell those products may have in furthering agricultural production, rural development, rural tourism attraction, in reconnecting the rural-urban in Portugal and in reducing the country's persistent territorial unbalances and asymmetries. In the same vein, little research has been conducted on the motivations of urban retailers to sell local food products, on the type of products sold, on their origin and promotion, as well as on the links these specialty stores activate between a number of stakeholders (retailers, distributors, producers and consumers). By creating the links or re-activating them, those stores act as networking accelerators and triggering local and regional economy. Taking into account that food is a relevant part of the culture and identity of a territory, specialty stores, while selling traditional products, are offering a part of local 'savoir faire' and a piece of the cultural identity along with the authenticity consumers seem to look for nowadays.

Given the mainly urban origin of consumers and their preference to shop within the vicinity of their areas of residence, it is important to understand the opportunities that specialty stores may present in promoting the countryside through the sale of rural foodstuffs. This promotion encompasses both the promotion of particular types of products and of the territories in which they are produced and/or prepared, contributing both to fostering their attractiveness and rural sustainable development through the valorisation of agricultural production.

Using a multidisciplinary and multilevel approach, based on the diverse theoretical and methodological skills of the team, STRINGS intends to understand the role that specialty stores, located in urban contexts (Lisbon, Porto and Aveiro) may play in the creation of new rural-urban relationships in Portugal. The project aims to identify, produce and disseminate knowledge about the circuits activated between retailers, distributors, producers and consumers, its dimensions and content, as well as the impacts on rural territories, aiming at developing new insights that may be useful to the diverse actors and institutions involved. At the same time, the project seeks to produce evidence that helps improving local food chains of production, distribution, commercialization and consumption, as well as to inform political decisions.

To achieve these goals the project will:

- Design a typology of specialty stores

- Georrefering those stores so it would be possible to analyse and understand how location and geography influence their success in fostering urban-rural relationships;

- Analyse in detail a sample of the stores typified in order to understand the overall commercialization network processes and to outline the paths taken by the local products, from production to consumption;

- Analyse the promotional materials used by the stores to advertise the products, aiming at unveiling the connections to the diverse territories in which they are produced;

- Analyse in an exploratory manner consumers and their practices;

- Do Exploratory Data Analysis (EDA) combined with spatial interaction models such as gravity models and network analysis of the stores to understand all the production, distribution, commercialization and consumption processes, as well as the socioeconomic impacts on rural territories and the interactions between rural and urban in further detail;

- Produce guidelines to improve the connections between rural and urban territories, based on production-to-consumption circuits.

STRINGS is based on a multilevel analysis, combining qualitative and quantitative methodologies and techniques and it will be developed in 4 stages, involving 8 tasks to be performed during 36 months. 

(Click on the figure bellow to know more about STRINGS'  Stages & Tasks)

References

[15] Marsden, T. and Sonnino, R. (2008). Rural development and the regional state: denying multifunctional agriculture in the UK. Journal of Rural Studies, nº 24, pp. 422-431.