Language has tremendous power. It does more than just communicate information. It engages us in many ways, leading to a multitude of conscious and unconscious responses.
All of us, whether we’re out shopping, watching TV, reading magazines and newspapers or checking social media, are constantly being addressed as consumers. So, what is likely to happen to us when we are repeatedly addressed as consumers?
Research has shown that the simple fact of addressing people as ‘consumers, rather than ‘citizens’, makes them less likely to care about one another, act collectively, or actively participate in society. However, this ‘consumer’ language is deeply embedded in society, and increasingly, people are beginning to see it as a problem, because addressing people as consumers can be a barrier to creating wider changes in society.
What would happen if people were addressed as citizens instead?
We believe there is a major opportunity for our food system in the shift from a Consumer to a Citizen Mindset, and we want to open the conversation to explore how we might work together to develop an influencing agenda rooted in this way of thinking.
With its Food Citizenship project, the Food Ethics Council is promoting a shift away from consumerism by encouraging a large-scale shift in mindset, leading to more environmentally sustainable and socially positive behaviours from all. The project builds on the work done as part of New Citizenship Project’s ‘Future of Food’ inquiry, which led to the #FoodCitizenship report and toolkit (see links below).
We are using the Art of Hosting ‘Two Loops’ theory of change as our conceptual framework. This approach gives us four key tasks in accelerating the transition from consumer to citizen as the dominant mindset in the food system:
- Name the movement so the pioneers know what they are part of
- Connect the pioneers to one another
- Nourish them with relationships, learning, resources and support
- Illuminate their stories as important examples of the future taking place right now
Our primary audience are changemakers in the food and farming system - although we make a point that everyone can create change!
Where our journey started...
The Food Citizenship movement was first identified in a ten-month inquiry into the future of the food system convened by the New Citizenship Project in collaboration with the Food Ethics Council.
We worked together to explore what could happen if all the key players in the food system switched from a Consumer to a Citizen Mindset; generating ideas and testing new approaches to Food Citizenship; going beyond engagement to involve people, and recognising the multiple roles citizens can have in the food system.
This is only the beginning. For more information, visit www.foodcitizenship.info
 The New Citizenship Project, 2015, This is the #citizenshift: A guide to understanding and embracing the emerging era of the citizen