Digitalization of the Logistics Process in Short Food Supply Chains. An online Viable System Model application during the COVID-19 pandemic

Eliseo Vilalta-Perdomo*, David E. Salinas-Navarro, Rosario Michel-Villarreal, Rocío García Bustamante

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper reports an ongoing exercise concerning the design of a logistics App to support operations within Farmers’ Markets in Mexico. This exercise is part of a wider research agenda focused on ‘Supporting Alternative Food Networks’ (SAFeNET). This is a research agenda to conceive, build, implement, and develop better-informing decision-making processes that support effective and efficient AFNs (also known as Short Food Supply Chains) logistics operations in a digital environment, through smooth flows of goods and information among producers, AFNs coordinators, and consumers. This view calls for taking a systemic approach to help collectives of people to improve their autonomy and viability. Initial plans were to conduct this collaborative design exercise, using the Viable System Model (VSM) as a conversational tool. Accordingly, a series of face-to-face interviews and a focus group were planned. However, the lockdown due to COVID-19 forced researchers to abandon the face-to-face option and conduct the primary data collection online. The VSM intervention had to be adapted for its use on an online platform, in such a way that the platform would support knowledge building interactively, with a series of participants. This paper describes the format and visual appearance of the online VSM framework, its application, and the lessons learned through this exercise. Two points deserve to be highlighted: First, although the exercise outcome was very valuable for the next stage of the design, the participants’ capacity for collective and individual reflection during the workshop was limited. Second, participants continued adding comments via the adopted online visual collaboration platform after the workshop ended, showing an understanding of the process and commitment beyond the researchers’ expectations. The outcomes from this experiment are promissory, suggesting that online Systems Thinking interventions deserve further development.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages26
JournalSystemic Practice and Action Research
Early online date2 Nov 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s), 2022. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this licence, visit

Funding: The research leading to these results received funding from UK Research and Innovation, under the Grant: ASTON GCRF QR 2020-21.


  • Covid-19
  • Farmers' markets
  • group facilitation
  • Online systems
  • Thinking
  • Short food supply chains


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