AgriLink Blog post: Latvian Living lab update - the most popular forms of advice provision and advisory assistance - AgriLink

Blog post: Latvian Living lab update – the most popular forms of advice provision and advisory assistance

The BSC team organised a seminar on Monday (23 April) to discuss, and receive feedback on, two projects that BSC researchers are currently working on. The first part of the seminar was dedicated to INNOFRUIT. Anda Ādamsone-Fiskoviča (BSC) and Edgars Rubauskis (Institute of Horticulture, Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies) gave presentations, which were followed by a collective SWOT analysis, moderated by Tālis Tisenkopfs (BSC). 

The second part of the seminar was an interactive discussion regarding the Agrilink Living Lab. I gave a short presentation just to bring everyone up to speed. We then moved on to the discussion. The main aim of the discussion was to gain a better understanding of the most popular forms of advice provision and advisory assistance in general. A secondary aim was to continue the process of building our living lab. Even though we got off to a bumpy start, the discussion as a whole was a moderate success.

It was clear that face-to-face meetings with farmers and producers were the most popular form of providing assistance to farmers and producers. Direct communication between client and advisor can minimise the risk of misinterpretation and misapplication, and allows the advisor to get a more nuanced understanding of the particular problem or situation that needs to be addressed. Concurrently, it allows the client to gain a better sense of whether the advisor in question is competent and has the necessary experience.

However, this particular form has a number of downsides. First of all, it is a comparatively expensive service. Secondly, the number of advisers with the requisite expertise is small, and they are not spread out evenly. This means that farmers and producers in some areas are in a better position to receive assistance.

Other forms were also discussed. Videos and presentations posted online were argued to have their uses, but participants emphasised that these methods involve a certain element of risk. Specifically, there is no telling whether the person who made the video is competent. Furthermore, viewers may misinterpret the contents of the video, which may have an adverse effect on their farm. Articles in specialised publications were considered to be a better option because editors could generally ensure that the contents were of sufficient quality. The usefulness of other online and mobile tools was believed to depend on the situation, though some advisers noted that technologically proficient clients were open to using them.

Participants reiterated their support for a platform that would contain up-to-date information regarding the available advisory services and allow farmers and producers to efficiently navigate the advisory system. It was argued that having everything in one place would be very useful, and participants were open to the idea of participating in the construction of this online platform. However, they were worried that practicalities (e.g. funding, need for IT professionals who could manage this platform) might get in the way of the project.

I would like to conclude this entry with some reflections regarding my role as monitor. One of my responsibilities (as I understand them) is to stimulate reflection among stakeholders and participants. After the training event in Leuven, I started to think more about unanticipated consequences and the interests of different stakeholders. I suddenly realised that our living lab could potentially make the advisory system more transparent to clients and stimulate competition between advisers. Indeed, one of the advisers present at the Monday meeting compared our proposed platform to something like booking.com – you could leave reviews and help others choose the best adviser. 

One of the possible side effects of this is that advisers with established client bases may lose clients. I raised this point at the meeting, but most participants were unsure whether this would be the case. There are simply too few advisers working in Latvia. Nonetheless, I shall have to keep my eyes and ears open and be sensitive to potential obstacles to cooperation that could have an adverse effect on the overall goals of the living lab. Furthermore, as the living lab takes shape, I will have to think of news ways of making team members think about the unanticipated consequences of their ideas and proposals.

In conclusion, the meeting was a success for both projects. In the case of Agrilink, we moved ever-so-slightly forward, started thinking about the practical requirements of our platform, and our facilitator (Dalija Segliņa) showed that she feels comfortable leading discussions and facilitating a free-flowing exchange of ideas.

The orginal post is here.

by Emīls Ķīlis, Baltic Study Center

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