Propagating Success? The Incredible Edible Model


Photo by Sludge G / CC BY


Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Central Lancashire have been commissioned by Incredible Edible Ltd to undertake research to understand the effectiveness of the Incredible Edible model of community development.

Context and Rationale

The Incredible Edible (IE) model of using locally grown food to help communities rethink their lifestyles has been applied in Todmorden, a town of around 15,000 people, for the past eight years. Through creating edible landscapes, passing on skills and supporting local food businesses, the IE model is widely perceived to have played a key role in transforming the town both through economic uplift and by improving everyday living environments. Its success has also stimulated the establishment of over 100 other IE groups across the UK and overseas. This has been achieved not with the help of existing democratic or private structures, but by volunteers living within the town.

The overarching aim of this project is to evaluate the potential of the IE model as a community-led framework for improving social, economic and environmental wellbeing. In so doing, it will explore the potential of IE to provide a new approach to catalyse and facilitate community flourishing, and develop recommendations attuned to the current era of public sector austerity. The project will also test, refine and disseminate a practical framework for the benefit of other IE communities

Research Outline

The project is structured around the following three stages:

1. Using participatory techniques the research will identifying how the IE model has been developed and implemented in Todmorden and its resulting impacts on aspects such as health, wellbeing, skills, jobs and the local environment. This will include the development of a Theory of Change and a financial estimation of impact using the Social Return on Investment (SROI) method.

2. Using the understanding of how the IE model has worked in practice to produce a ‘toolkit’ to assist other IE groups and communities with similar goals to refine and implement the IE model according to their own local priorities.

3. Providing a series of public policy focused recommendations to support IE and similar ‘self-starting’ communities across the UK.

The project will also produce academic outputs that seeks to understand the role of food as a substantive focus for community development based on the IE experience, and pursue opportunities for further research studies that provide a comparative perspective of the IE model across groups and with analogous food and non-food focused movements.

Funding and Timeline

This project is funded by the Ashden Trust and the Nisa Making a Difference Locally fund via Incredible Edible Ltd. It will run until Spring 2017.

For more details contact: Adrian Morley at