Shaping the concept of bioeconomy in participatory projects - An example from the post-graduate education in Finland
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CitationTakala, Tuomo. Tikkanen, Jukka. Haapala, Antti. Pitkänen, Sari. Torssonen, Piritta. Valkeavirta, Rosa. Pöykkö, Tapani. (2019). Shaping the concept of bioeconomy in participatory projects - An example from the post-graduate education in Finland. Journal of cleaner production, 221, 176-188. 10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.02.007.
Evolving complex concepts, such as bioeconomy, cannot be applied without selecting (consciously or unconsciously) some definitions and excluding others. This process of selection may have a considerable impact on how bioeconomy is understood. This paper presents how the concept of bioeconomy took shape in a participatory development project that created foundations for new professional specialisation studies within the Finnish bioeconomy. Written documents (n = 21), produced in different phases of the project, were analysed with qualitative content analysis to find out how bioeconomy was A) understood as an activity, and B) conceptually linked with different global meta-discourses. Bioeconomy was primarily understood as an intensive use of diverse biomasses within a forest cluster, agriculture, the food industry, waste management and the energy sector, whereas many other bioeconomy sectors were marginalised or excluded. The idea that biomasses should be saved was very rare, and the concepts that prioritise some biomass uses over others, such as the cascade principle, were excluded. Bioeconomy itself was understood as a societally and globally influential new way of thinking i.e. as a meta-discourse. Strong associations were also made to nationalistic and statist meta-discourses. Conceptual transformation during the project was most distinct in the sustainable development meta-discourse: sustainability turned from a self-evident characteristic of bioeconomy into a consciously reflected and desirable goal. The results illustrate how a common consensus of bioeconomy is built through exclusion and inclusion in a participatory development project. Project organisers should be conscious about this process and explicitly state how and why some aspects, actors and activities are emphasised while others are downplayed or excluded in their bioeconomy projects. Only then we can create far-reaching policies and considered actions to guide societies toward the desired and defined future.