Analytic Framework to Determine Proximity in Relationship Coffee Models

Hanna Edelmann, Xiomara Fernanda Quiñones‐Ruiz & Marianne Penker (2020)

Sociologia Ruralis. 60(2), pp. 458-481

Abstract. In conventional food systems, there are often large social and geographical distances between production and consumption. Alternative food networks (AFNs) like relationship coffee models aim to shorten these distances through direct contacts, communication, trust, transparency or commitment to improve farmers’ livelihoods. These relationship coffee models appear in diverse shapes with various implications for producers. Therefore, we deductively develop a framework to conceptualise proximity in four dimensions (organisational, institutional, cognitive and social) with subdimensions and three transversal dimensions ((temporary) geographical proximity, power, and communication). The analytic framework is complemented by an illustrative case to empirically test it, showing high geographical, organisational, institutional and cognitive proximity but low social proximity between coffee producer and restaurant owner. For future research, the framework can help to conceptualise proximity or to distinguish different types of relationship coffee models and to unpack conditions under which relationship coffees can increase proximity between coffee producers and buyers, often located far apart.”

Excerpt. “Conventional coffee value chains are considered as buyer-driven (Ponte 2002; Raynolds 2009). That means that large retailers set the standards of the trade relationships that producers have to comply with (Gereffi 1994). Relationship coffee models tend to emphasise mutuality and  equity among producers and buyers (Panhuysen and Pierrot 2018; Vicol et al. 2018). However, Dallas et al. (2017) argue that all business relationships show power differentials. Some governance models might have stronger power imbalances than others, and this is not necessarily negative. They differentiate between direct and diffuse forms of power transmission: direct transmission refers to intentional power exertion of actors with clear aims, positions or resources. Diffuse transmission is less explicit, can be unintentional and occurs in the forms of societal norms, quality conventions or e.g., best-practice examples.”

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Link to the review