We need to understand how farmers make decisions, the role of advisory organisations in those decision-making processes, and how advisory organisations are organised and governed. There is a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives (particularly psychology, sociology and economics) on these processes, as well as practical knowledge from advisors and farmers. WP1 is a conceptual work package which brings together these different perspectives into a consistent framework for use in guiding research in the empirical work packages.
During the first six months of the project, the WP1 team (Hutton, INRA, Wageningen Research and the Baltic Studies Centre) immediately began working on the Initial Conceptual Framework. The AgriLink Conceptual Framework is a living document which will be developed over the course of the project. The Initial Conceptual Framework is built on a set of 22 primers (to date), written by consortium members on their specialist areas of expertise. These primers provide background information on the different approaches to understanding decision-making, advice, knowledge-based businesses and governance.
Key issues in developing the conceptual framework:
- Defining the main AgriLink terms: it’s important that consortium members have the same understanding of what is meant by particular words. Terms like ‘farmer’, ‘advisor’, ‘living labs’, ‘AKIS’ and ‘R-FAS’ all feature in the glossary of the Initial Conceptual Framework.
- How to integrate scientific and practical knowledge: the Initial Conceptual Framework has been written primarily by scientists, but has had contributions and reviews by non-scientists. To make it easy to read, each section has:
- A subsection on the key concepts used
- A subsection on the applications to AgriLink
- Some hyperlinks to the theory primers where more information about the key concepts can be found.
- Integrating findings across scales: the literature on learning and farmer decision-making is focused at individual and household level, whereas organisations and their governance operate at regional, national or European levels. Over the course of the AgriLink project we will see how actions on these different scales can be understood conceptually, using the multi-level perspective from transition theory.
- Developing the conceptual framework for specific application in empirical work packages: WP1 leaders will collaborate with the leaders of the empirical WPs to co-design the research methods.
- Connecting to policy: Agrilink is ultimately intended to influence policies around support for advisory services and farmer innovation. There is therefore a section on the policy context in the Initial Conceptual Framework.
The Initial Conceptual Framework is a deliverable submitted to the European Commission on 30 November 2017. It is being further refined by project members and was made public in February/March 2018.
Pierre Labarthe (INRA)