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Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions

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Talk – Using Cooperation Science to Strengthen Local Food Systems

November 20, 2017 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

| Free

Speakers: Afton Hupper, Taylor Lange, Tim Waring, Local Food Lab, UMaine

Sustainable solutions are not always win-win. The hardest sustainability challenges are social dilemmas in which the best outcome for individuals (e.g. more comfortable lifestyle) conflicts with the best outcome for the group (e.g. avoiding overuse of environmental resources and natural disasters). But social dilemmas can be solved when individuals cooperate.

We study the role of cooperation in Maine’s growing local food system. We use cooperation science, experiments, simulations, and stakeholder guidance to determine which factors inhibit or encourage cooperation. And, we work with local food groups to help them better achieve their goals.

In this talk we introduce our collaborative research on food buying clubs and Buying Club Software. Buying clubs are small, quasi-formal purchasing groups who share food orders to meet their needs. Our results suggest that cooperation is vital to the success of food buying clubs, and cooperatives generally. We explain the implications of this finding and share our future research and solutions plans.


Dr. Tim Waring studies how cooperation determines sustainability outcomes. Using economic experiments and agent-based simulations, he builds evolutionary models of social and economic change to learn how sustainable behaviors, and durable institutions arise and persist. He has led two national working groups to refine this theory and apply it to case studies around the world.

Dr. Waring now leads a five-year research project to study how cooperation can improve the success of local food organizations, and grow the local food economy.

Taylor Lange received his Masters of Arts in Geography with a certificate in Evolutionary Studies from Binghamton University under the tutelage of Dr. Richard Shaker and Dr. David Sloan Wilson, and began his PhD studies at the University of Maine with Dr. Waring in the Fall of 2017. His dissertation research is focused on applying principles of group psychology and evolutionary science to assist local food organizations in accomplishing their goals. He aspires to use the skills he acquires during his doctoral training to become a research and teaching professor, honing humanity’s knowledge of sustainable practices, and instilling them in his students.

Afton Hupper has worked as a research assistant in Dr. Waring’s lab since 2016. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maine in 2017 with a B.S. in Ecology & Environmental Science. She is continuing her education at UMaine to pursue a M.S. in Resource Economics & Policy, and working under adviser Dr. Waring. After graduate school, she plans to gain experience abroad before working in environmental policy as an advocate or analyst.



November 20, 2017
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Event Category:


107 Norman Smith Hall
Mitchell Center - UMaine
Orono, ME 04469 United States
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Mitchell Center
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