PostDoctoral Fellowship: Exploring Practical Tools to Spark Network Action

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PostDoctoral Fellowship: Exploring Practical Tools to Spark Network Action

Sustain Ontario, in collaboration with Lakehead University, is seeking a 4-month community-based PostDoctoral Fellow to provide research and knowledge mobilization in support of Food Networks in Ontario moving from Strategy to Action.

This position requires a PhD in a relevant field (within the last 5 years). The successful candidate will become a PostDoctoral Fellow at Lakehead University, supervised by Charles Levkoe in addition to working closely with Sustain Ontario lead Phil Mount, as well as members of three regional food systems organizations in Grey Bruce, Peterborough and Ottawa, Ontario.

ANTICIPATED TERM: Jan 17 – May 14, 2021 (4 months)

Applications will be accepted on December 14, 2020 and will be assessed on a rolling basis until the successful candidate is identified, no later than January 8th, 2021. The project will start in mid-January, 2021.

This position is conditional upon confirmation of Mitacs PostDoctoral Fellowship matching funds. Questions and applications should be directed to Phil Mount (

Sustain Ontario and Lakehead University are strongly committed to diversity within their communities and welcomes applications from all qualified individuals including Indigenous persons, visible minority group members, women, persons with disabilities, members of sexual minority groups, and others who may contribute to the further diversification of ideas.

Position Details

The work of food systems organizations brings together planners, community organizers, public health professionals, food producers, distributors, and many others to transform food systems through direct activity in communities, and collective work across organizations and regions. Many food systems actors in Ontario have identified a fundamental challenge: moving from collaboration to action within their region. While many regions have moved forward by identifying strategies and goals, through lengthy processes, increasingly organizations engaged in regional networks have identified that they would be well-served by a project that could uncover and share a suite of successful pathways to action employed by similar regional food systems networks.

These pathways must address a wide variety of contexts and stumbling blocks, including the challenges of engaging policy-makers; finding ways to identify and include relevant, absent voices; creating a space where uncomfortable conversations can lead to constructive engagement; integrating urban, suburban and rural goals; and agreeing on a specific area of focus in a food system rife with issues, among organizations whose mandates target not only food but health, climate change, rural development, reconciliation, poverty and social justice, among others.

While overall strategies or goals may be present and agreed upon, these regions need support identifying how to start implementing activities. This project will collect, examine and evaluate existing, effective tools and practices in order to curate and share them between all regional networks in the province. The focus will be on what works—approaches that generate tangible, positive actions and outcomes that, in turn, might seed transformation in regional food systems.

To be clear, research will not be limited to successful food systems network approaches. The partners are interested in any and all approaches that have showed success in mobilizing and catalysing to action networks in any context that is relevant to their current reality. This might include social movements, climate change action groups, political protests, or other outside-the-box approaches that have relevant lessons.

After meeting with representatives from the partner organizations to establish the context and research parameters that will support each region, the successful applicant will:

  1. Compile and summarize best practices and approaches used with success by networks in various contexts and across sectors, with a focus on successfully moving networks from strategy to action.
  2. Identify contextual distinctions leading to success within different examples.
  3. Produce a research report, clear language summaries and infographics as appropriate.

The researcher’s reports (both plain language and infographic) will feed into a community of practice where these regions and others can share experiences and observations. This work will also lend itself well to academic publication.