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Towards a complexity-aware theory of change for participatory research programs working within agricultural innovation systems

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Abstract

Agricultural innovation systems (AIS) are increasingly recognized as complex adaptive systems in which interventions cannot be expected to create predictable, linear impacts. Nevertheless, the logic models and theory of change (ToC) used by standard-setting international agricultural research agencies and donors assume that agricultural research will create impact through a predictable linear adoption pathway which largely ignores the complexity dynamics of AIS, and which misses important alternate pathways through which agricultural research can improve system performance and generate sustainable development impact. Despite a growing body of literature calling for more dynamic, flexible and “complexity-aware” approaches to monitoring and evaluation, few concrete examples exist of ToC that takes complexity dynamics within AIS into account, or provide guidance on how such theories could be developed. This paper addresses this gap by presenting an example of how an empirically-grounded, complexity-aware ToC can be developed and what such a model might look like in the context of a particular type of program intervention. Two detailed case studies are presented from an agricultural research program which was explicitly seeking to work in a “complexity-aware” way within aquatic agricultural systems in Zambia and the Philippines. Through an analysis of the outcomes of these interventions, the pathways through which they began to produce impacts, and the causal factors at play, we derive a “complexity-aware” ToC to model how the cases worked. This middle-range model, as well as an overarching model that we derive from it, offer an alternate narrative of how development change can be produced in agricultural systems, one which aligns with insights from complexity science and which, we argue, more closely represents the ways in which many research for development interventions work in practice. The nested ToC offers a starting point for asking a different set of evaluation and research questions which may be more relevant to participatory research efforts working from within a complexity-aware, agricultural innovation systems perspective.

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... Without these links, assumptions made about technological innovations, smallholder farming etc. may be inaccurate (Blesh et al., 2019). Experience in agricultural research for development (AR4D) suggests that the process of improving agricultural productivity and sustainability using science based knowledge can be facilitated by employing a systematic, outcome-oriented approach to designing and implementing translations projects, for example by using Theory of Change (ToC) (Thornton et al., 2017;Douthwaite et al., 2017;Omore et al., 2019;Mayne and Johnson, 2015). ...
... This meant that, right from the outset of the project, highly relevant perspectives, experience and skill sets were combined from research, national and local government authorities, and extension agencies. Engaging stakeholders in processes to bridge science and policy on food security has been identified as challenging, but fundamental to reach outcome and impact (Chaudhury et al., 2013;Thornton et al., 2017;Douthwaite et al., 2017). In the AgriFoSe2030 projects it proved successful including relevant stakeholders during initial planning, which also contributed to building trust and relationships over time. ...
... Regular contact and information flows between the projects, the management team and the supporting specialists helped to promote appropriate and responsive adjusting of plans. Previous publications support our findings that the flexibility to adapt projects rapidly in response to changes and opportunities, and the need for "complexity-aware" approaches are important for projects to be successfully carried through (Omore et al., 2019;Mayne and Johnson, 2015;Thornton et al., 2017;Douthwaite et al., 2017). ...
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Sustainable development of smallholder agriculture production in low and lower middle-income countries are crucial for improving food security. To accommodate this science based evidence needs to bridge with agricultural practices and policy development, which requires coordinated actions and long term strategies involving multiple stakeholders. This paper argues that using a Theory of Change (ToC) approach, with strong emphasis on communication and stakeholder engagement, science based knowledge can be more effectively integrated in agricultural development, but also in policy development. Three projects addressing different challenges within livestock production are used to illustrate the use of and challenges with using a ToC framework. A key for reaching outcome was early involvement of relevant stakeholders in implementing teams and using the flexibility included in the ToC approach from design to implementation.
... Nevertheless, the complexity of global problems is only slowly reflected in the governance and management of change-oriented agricultural research projects, not in the least because change-oriented projects involve changes in what are considered valid ways of producing scientific evidence (Caniglia et al., 2017). Only recently, the CGIAR abolished its systems programs, some of which were well underway in developing adaptive project-management approaches (Douthwaite and Hoffecker, 2017;Leeuwis et al., 2017). ...
... Hall et al., 2001;Klerkx et al., 2012;Leeuwis, 2004), the changeorientation of the EULACIAS project prompted a complex adaptive system (CAS) perspective. Initially developed for ecological and socialecological systems (Levin, 1998), Douthwaite et al. (2002), and more recently, Douthwaite and Hoffecker (2017) used the CAS perspective to provide guidelines for what the latter authors called complexity-aware approaches to agricultural research. Following Axelrod and Cohn (1999), a CAS is described as consisting of agents, entities which can make things happen, along with artefacts (e.g., things, databases, stories) and strategies including values and norms that the agents use in their interactions with other agents and with artefacts. ...
... Progress was monitored through complexity-aware indicators (cf. Britt and Patsalides, 2013;Douthwaite and Hoffecker, 2017), and more traditional agronomic approaches and performance indicators. The latter were based on MESMIS (López-Ridaura et al., 2002) in the Uruguayan cases. ...
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Context Despite a wealth of analytical knowledge on factors and processes that operate to slow down or impede sustainability transitions in various sectors of society, design-oriented researchers face a lack of guidance on the ‘how to’ question for developing knowledge to support sustainability changes. From 2007, we crafted co-innovation as an approach for governance and management of change-oriented projects, combining three domains; a complex adaptive systems perspective, a social learning setting, and dynamic monitoring and evaluation. Objective This paper sets out to describe the co-innovation approach and draw lessons from its application in projects on ecological intensification in Uruguay and the European Union. Methods We used an analytical framework for evaluating sustainability transition experiments, which considers project features that provide insights into the contribution to sustainability transformations by project outputs, outcomes, processes and inputs, and their interactions. Empirical information on 6 cases from 3 projects was collected through in-depth interviews with former project staff, group discussion, and project documentation. This enabled a reflexive evaluation of co-innovation. Results and conclusions Outputs showed substantial variation among the cases despite a similar approach to project governance and management. More significant contributions to sustainability transitions were associated with in-depth project preparation, a focus at the farm-level instead of the crop or field level, connections during the project's lifetime with regional innovation system actors, and frequent facilitated interactions among project actors to reflect on results, wider system implications, and project direction. We discuss the results in relation to the three domains of co-innovation. To enhance the role of projects in destabilizing currently unsustainable systems we highlight: reconsidering the role of projects as a business model; stimulating institutional learning from previous change-oriented projects; and making funding more adaptive to evolving project needs. Significance With most of the budget for agricultural research-for-change spent through projects, how projects are conducted is a critical determinant of the rate of sustainability transitions. Effective disruption of unsustainable practices through project interventions requires rethinking linear cause-effect relations to include project governance and management approaches based on complex adaptive systems thinking, social learning settings, and monitoring geared to adaptation and learning.
... Middle-range theories are particularly useful for program implementers, donors, and policymakers because they enable the identification of common causal mechanisms that produce predictable outcomes across diverse settings (Douthwaite and Hoffecker, 2017;Pawson, 2013). Douthwaite and Hoffecker (2017) call for the development of middle-range theories (and particularly theories of change, or ToC) that are ''complexity-aware," and thus well-suited to understanding processes of multistakeholder innovation in agricultural systems, which are by nature complex. ...
... Middle-range theories are particularly useful for program implementers, donors, and policymakers because they enable the identification of common causal mechanisms that produce predictable outcomes across diverse settings (Douthwaite and Hoffecker, 2017;Pawson, 2013). Douthwaite and Hoffecker (2017) call for the development of middle-range theories (and particularly theories of change, or ToC) that are ''complexity-aware," and thus well-suited to understanding processes of multistakeholder innovation in agricultural systems, which are by nature complex. They develop a mid-level model across two geographically and culturally distinct cases belonging to the same program and facilitated using the same participatory approach. ...
... To explore these questions, I conducted a cross-case synthesis of previously documented cases (Yin, 2018) of inclusive innovation that met selection criteria described in the methodology section of this paper. Following the analytical approach employed by Douthwaite and Hoffecker (2017), I analyzed three in-depth cases of inclusive innovation and identified the major processes, intermediate outcomes, and outcome pathways that contributed to bringing about innovations in each case. ...
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Inclusive innovation as a strategy for inclusive development has received increased attention from development policymakers, practitioners, and scholars in recent years. What these processes entail in practical terms, however, remains contested and under-theorized. This paper addresses the scarcity of mid-level analysis and models of inclusive innovation processes within complex systems, which are needed to enable a coherent empirical research agenda and to inform program theory-building, implementation, and evaluation. Looking to smallholder-oriented agricultural systems in the Global South, where the majority of inclusive innovation implementation and research has been located, this paper proposes that it is possible to identify the essential features and causal logic of these processes to create an empirically-derived, middle-range model with cross-context applicability. Drawing on methods from realist evaluation and social inquiry, I conducted a theory-driven, cross-case synthesis of three studies of inclusive innovation processes in agricultural systems, with one case each from South America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. I find that despite significant diversity in project designs, facilitation approaches, and local contexts, the three inclusive innovation processes unfolded in strikingly similar ways, and that this modus operandi can be modeled as a middle-range theory of change. In each case, I find that a consistent set of activities and processes changed the local context for the inclusive innovation initiative. These altered contextual factors interacted with ongoing programmatic activities in consistent ways to trigger processes of social learning, social capital strengthening, collective cognition, and consensus formation, which acted as causal mechanisms responsible for producing the intermediate outcomes that led to technical, organizational, and institutional system innovation. The middle-range model enables cross-context insights into how inclusive innovation processes work and what capacities are needed to facilitate them. It can also guide the adaptive management and assessment of these processes, while offering testable hypotheses to guide future empirical work and evaluation.
... However, most approaches to agricultural research are blind to this complexity (Douthwaite & Hoffecker, 2017;Klerkx et al., 2012;Schut et al., 2015). Development projects also seek linear attribution rather than embrace complexity and unpredictable change. ...
... As with TOT, scientific research in AR4D is undertaken by elite, trained researchers and research drive the development agenda. The pathways for how a particular intervention contributes to an impact are not clearly articulated nor complexityaware (Douthwaite & Hoffecker, 2017;Douthwaite et al., 2003). ...
... RinD is conceptually distinct to the above two approaches, engaging communities and stakeholders through a joint scoping and design process so that the research agenda reflects local challenges and is locally embedded (Fig. 4). It is complexity-aware (Douthwaite & Hoffecker, 2017). However, the role of researchers remains 'outside' the development system. ...
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This paper introduces Development Led Inquiry (DLI) as an approach to improve situations incorporating relationships between third sector organisations (TSOs) and agricultural scientists, universities, and the public-sector agricultural establishment. There is limited scholarly work on the role of TSOs in agricultural research. Current approaches appear premised on TSOs being researched upon, and recipients of research outcomes rather than partners in generation and application of new knowledge. DLI expands the boundaries of research systems and roles of TSOs as supporters within them. DLI builds on partnerships between NGOs, farmers’ organisations, and women’s associations; it integrates researchers and research organisations to develop, manage and report knowledge generation and application. DLI is dynamic and developmental with learning for all participants central to the process. DLI unsettles current power structures within research systems and sees research and knowledge generation as a supporter rather than leader of development. DLI is embedded in an inquiring systems approach and applies six interrelated conceptual systems thinking tools. The approach emerged from, and was applied in, a twelve-year agricultural research project in India, and was subsequently introduced to, and further developed in a research project in Pakistan.
... Los sistemas de innovación se reconocen cada vez más como sistemas adaptativos complejos, en los que no se puede esperar que las intervenciones creen impactos lineales predecibles. Sin embargo, los modelos lógicos y la tc utilizados por las agencias internacionales, suponen que los cambios en el ámbito del desarrollo sostenible requieren de enfoques dinámicos y flexibles, conscientes de la complejidad para el monitoreo y la evaluación de las intervenciones (Douthwaite y Hoffecker, 2017). ...
... En su forma más efectiva, la tc combina el mapeo lógico de la secuencia de cambio y una reflexión más profunda sobre los supuestos, teorías y visiones del mundo subyacentes que informan el proyecto. Esto puede explicar por qué una gama tan amplia de organizaciones, desde agencias donantes hasta pequeñas sociedades civiles, han encontrado que la teoría de cambio es un enfoque útil para explorar y aclarar su pensamiento, sobre el cambio y cómo contribuyen a él en un contexto particular (Douthwaite y Hoffecker, 2017). ...
Article
p> Objetivo : determinar el retorno social de la inversión del programa de limpia pública; con el fin de evaluar la rentabilidad extrafinanciera de la gestión integral de residuos sólidos urbanos del municipio de Metepec, Estado de México, en el período de 2019 a 2024. Diseño metodológico : la determinación del retorno social de la inversión incluye principios de medición del valor extrafinanciero respecto a los recursos invertidos; en especial el valor social y el ambiental. La unidad de análisis es un programa de alcance municipal que gestiona los residuos sólidos urbanos. Para el cálculo del Retorno Social de la Inversión (SROI, por sus siglas en inglés) se desarrollan cinco fases: a) identificar y establecer el alcance de los grupos de interés; b) mapeo de los resultados o cambios; c) medición financiera de dichos cambios a través de variables proxy ; d) medición del impacto social; y e) cálculo de la tasa de retorno social de la inversión. R esultados: el retorno social resultó en 1.27. Lo cual implica que, el programa de limpia pública, tiene un efecto de valor social positivo. L i mitaciones de la investigación: se deja de lado la construcción de las capacidades de aprendizaje social y la perspectiva holística medioambiental. Hallazgos: se concluye que el programa de limpia pública de Metepec, es sustentable social, financiera y ambientalmente.</p
... logic model, logical framework, results chain) were critiqued for oversimplifying food security programs (Levay et al. 2019). ToCs for agricultural research have also been critiqued for assuming impact will be created through a predictable linear adoption pathway, thus ignoring complex systems dynamics and missing alternative pathways (Douthwaite & Hoffecker, 2017). Furthermore, ToCs were reported to have decreased effectiveness when program theories were not adequately spelled out or did not account for assumptions, context, or unexpected outcomes (Cole et al., 2016;. ...
... There were two main pathways through which "complexity-aware" ToCs were developed: (1) the study emphasized complex issues or systems (Douthwaite and Hoffecker 2017;Van Epp & Garside, 2019;Maru, Sparrow, Butler et al., 2018;Maru, Sparrow, Stirzaker et al., 2018), and (2) the study focused on evaluation challenges or information gaps while also emphasizing complexity . Studies reported accounting for complexity through feedback loops (i.e. ...
Article
The complex ways in which food security actions lead to nutrition and other health outcomes make it important to clarify what programs work and how, with theory-driven evaluation emerging as a promising approach to evaluate complex programs. However, it is unclear how and why theory-driven evaluation is applied in food security contexts. Our objective is to examine the development and use of Theory of Change and Realist Evaluation to support food security programs globally. Using a systematic search and screening process, we included studies that described a food security program, used a Theory of Change or Realist Evaluation, and presented original research or evaluations. We found a total of 59 relevant Theory of Change studies and eight Realist Evaluation studies. Based on our analysis, Theories of Change arose in response to three main problems: 1) the need to evaluate under complexity; 2) challenges with evaluation; and, 3) information gaps surrounding a program. In contrast, Realist Evaluation was reported to be developed primarily to understand a program's outcomes. Reflecting on the problem to be addressed in the evaluation would help improve understandings of the evaluation context, which would then inform the choice and design of an evaluation approach.
... In current literature, there are some contributions to encourage a more integrative approach when referring to biodiversity of food and agriculture (agrobiodiversity) [62]. This seems to follow trends embracing farming systems' approach to research, agricultural innovation systems, and researchextension linkages [63,64]. It seems that management, policy, and practice should connect with socio-economic and biocultural values. ...
... It is believed that the fitness of indigenous livestock in tropical regions is a result of natural selection (with little anthropogenic force) throughout many centuries of traditional farming (extensive low-input systems) [8,73]. Moreover, local adaptation and rare variants in molecular content configure the great potential of indigenous livestock for applied animal science [63]. These are typically key elements to justify and support in situ conservation of indigenous livestock [12,66,74,75]. ...
Article
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For centuries, indigenous sheep have been bred in extensive low-input systems in Midwestern Brazil. The hypothesis of this study was the assumption that phenotypic evaluation of indigenous livestock may drive the establishment of breed standards and official breed recognition, and, therefore, promote more local business opportunities. On the basis of more integrative and participatory theoretical background to applying any decision based on phenotype, we designed this research to determine the most typical and unusual phenotypes of Pantaneiro sheep. Pantaneiro ewes (281 ewes from five conservation units in five counties) were evaluated, bearing in mind both conservation and development. Descriptive statistics were used to classify ewes into typical, intermediate, and unusual phenotypes. Chi-squared tests for association were performed to test if morphological variation in the different sampling sites occurred randomly (p > 0.05) or not (p < 0.05). Some results suggest some sort of diversifying selection pressure, i.e., distinct preferences among keepers. We observed considerable morphologic variation among ewes, but it was straightforward to determine the predominant phenotypes. The study evokes integrative agrobiodiversity by putting phenotypical characterization of indigenous livestock into perspective. Discussions coming from this study may support innovative governance and participative decision-making, allied with strategies that value the socioeconomic, biocultural, and adaptive aspects of indigenous livestock in tropical regions and developing countries. This is a challenge for government, rare-breed keepers, value-chain actors, and civil society.
... This section provides an overview of the initial phases of a multi-actor innovation ecosystem strengthening process, focusing on six initial phases in the process. These phases, and their descriptions, have been identified by the MIT D-Lab Local Innovation Group based on case study research of innovation ecosystem strengthening processes in the United States (Hoffecker, 2014), in Zambia and the Philippines (Douthwaite and Hoffecker, 2017), and through experience with the NEXT i2i program in Ghana. ...
... 1. It is perceived as a "neutral" space that belongs to all group participants, and is not co-opted by the backbone organization or any other group member (Douthwaite and Hoffecker, 2017); ...
Research
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Innovation thrives in a local context when there are enabling conditions that support it, including local champions, appropriate infrastructure, and a favorable policy environment. The local system context that gives rise to and enables innovation in any particular place is known as the local innovation system (IS) or, from a perspective informed by ecology, the local innovation ecosystem. Like a biological ecosystem, the local innovation ecosystem refers to the actors, other elements and resources (living and nonliving), and relationships between them that work together to enable or disable the production of innovation in a particular geography. This guide introduces a process and a series of facilitation tools that local organizations and individuals can use to design, plan, and launch a local innovation ecosystem strengthening process. The guide covers practical topics such as how to identify appropriate participants for ecosystem strengthening working groups, how to budget for and staff such efforts, how to organize an initial series of working group meetings, and a recommended sequence in terms of the agendas for those meetings. The guide also provides detailed sample meeting agendas and specific activities that can be facilitated using worksheet templates that are included in an accompanying digital workspace on Miro. The recommendations and lessons learned presented in this guide are drawn from over a decade of research conducted by Elizabeth Hoffecker, lead researcher for the MIT D-Lab Local Innovation Group, as well as the experience that MIT D-Lab and Ashesi University gleaned from efforts to implement these lessons in the context of a specific ecosystem strengthening effort in Accra, Ghana, implemented as part of the USAID-funded Next i2i program.
... Los sistemas de innovación se reconocen cada vez más como sistemas adaptativos complejos, en los que no se puede esperar que las intervenciones creen impactos lineales predecibles. Sin embargo, los modelos lógicos y la tc utilizados por las agencias internacionales, suponen que los cambios en el ámbito del desarrollo sostenible requieren de enfoques dinámicos y flexibles, conscientes de la complejidad para el monitoreo y la evaluación de las intervenciones (Douthwaite y Hoffecker, 2017). ...
... En su forma más efectiva, la tc combina el mapeo lógico de la secuencia de cambio y una reflexión más profunda sobre los supuestos, teorías y visiones del mundo subyacentes que informan el proyecto. Esto puede explicar por qué una gama tan amplia de organizaciones, desde agencias donantes hasta pequeñas sociedades civiles, han encontrado que la teoría de cambio es un enfoque útil para explorar y aclarar su pensamiento, sobre el cambio y cómo contribuyen a él en un contexto particular (Douthwaite y Hoffecker, 2017). ...
Article
Full-text available
Objetivo: Determinar el retorno social de la inversión del programa de limpia pública; con el fin de evaluar la rentabilidad extrafinanciera de la gestión integral de residuos sólidos urbanos del municipio de Metepec, Estado de México, en el período de 2019 a 2024. Diseño metodológico: La determinación del retorno social de la inversión incluye principios de medición del valor extrafinanciero respecto a los recursos invertidos; en especial el valor social y el ambiental. La unidad de análisis es un programa de alcance municipal que gestiona los residuos sólidos urbanos. Para el cálculo del Retorno Social de la Inversión (SROI, por sus siglas en inglés) se desarrollan cinco fases: a) identificar y establecer el alcance de los grupos de interés; b) mapeo de los resultados o cambios; c) medición financiera de dichos cambios a través de variables proxy; d) medición del impacto social; y e) cálculo de la tasa de retorno social de la inversión. Resultados: El retorno social resultó en 1.27. Lo cual implica que, el programa de limpia pública, tiene un efecto de valor social positivo. Limitaciones de la investigación: Se deja de lado la construcción de las capacidades de aprendizaje social y la perspectiva holística medioambiental. Hallazgos: Se concluye que el programa de limpia pública de Metepec, es sustentable social, financiera y ambientalmente.
... Innovation ecosystems with the presence of actors or the main "hub" can also be observed in the agricultural area. Douthwaite & Hoffecker (2017) describe the transformation from a systemic approach to a more open dynamic agricultural approach, where researchers and rural producers are partners in the solutions, indicating the presence of ecosystems and agility factors. ...
... In the agricultural sector, Douthwaite & Hoffecker (2017) presents activities for research programs to adapt to changes in the agricultural sector: 1) Consensus for comprehensive challenges; 2) Regular review of visions, research questions, plans, and progress made; 3) Action and autonomous decision of groups and platforms for problem-solving at different scales. ...
... One example that comes close to illustrating swarm mentality is CCAFS: a tight, globally-distributed network of hundreds of participants organized into small, autonomous teams, with highly-focused intermittent interaction, working successfully for more than a decade via common impact pathways and theories of change (Haman and Hertzum, 2019;Nowak et al., 2021). Such impact pathways and ToC then need to embrace complexity and learning to be effective, to translate and enhance connections between different levels of action (global-local) and foster deep engagement (Douthwaite and Hoffecker, 2017;Thornton et al., 2017). ...
... For example, academic educational systems and research careers still disincentive young people to pursue positions that require inter-and transdisciplinarity (Koerner et al., in press), neglecting to build capacities to innovate and to manage change that can increase researchers' agency (Armstrong, 2016). To facilitate safe spaces around shared value creation (Gloor, 2006) in which researchers could easily switch between the roles of expert and learner (i.e., breaking the so-called expert-learner duality (Pugh and Prusak, 2013)), institutions could apply more reflexive and complexity-aware monitoring and performance evaluation systems (Douthwaite and Hoffecker, 2017) and increase appreciation of and response to failures (Dinesh et al., 2021a). This could take place in a context of AR4D institutions rethinking their incentive systems, towards rewarding pro-active (societal) problem-solving approaches and accountability (Arnott, 2021). ...
Article
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Accelerating food systems transformation in the face of climate change and other global crises requires myriad changes across all levels, themes, and geographies. This calls for re-thinking the roles of agricultural research for development (AR4D). In this perspective article we use the metaphor of ‘swarms’ and ‘swarming’ to illustrate a more distributed way of working with a set of approaches that, if implemented jointly, may help AR4D researchers and their institutions to step up the pace and scale for food systems transformation, as urgently called for in global dialogues around the UN Food System Summit, COP 26, and beyond. We identify four roles for AR4D within swarmed design: facilitating the directionality of swarms, fostering swarm mentality and creativity, engaging with swarms in different innovation spaces, and building up and monitoring swarm intelligence. Enacting these roles would require an enabling environment, with the main food systems actors working together in four priority areas: aligning allies around shared visions and innovation portfolios, coupling tailored funding schemes and reworked incentive systems, building more permanent spaces for boundary work, and exploring new ways for structuring science.
... This also provides the opportunity to change the approach to focus on supporting farmers' intrinsic motivation to adapt practices and experiment, thereby acknowledging the differences in farming styles and goals. Projects could therefore learn from these case studies to improve farmers' ownership, empowerment, develop 'complexity-aware' non-linear theory of change and evaluation (Douthwaite & Hoffecker, 2017) and become process facilitators (Kessler et al., 2016) in the change towards improving livelihoods and sustainable agriculture. ...
... However, this does not cover the complexity of the agricultural systems and farmers' decision-making. Therefore, both complexity-aware theory of change and evaluation criteria(Douthwaite & Hoffecker, 2017) may be more suitable. This evaluation acknowledges that outcomes can be technological implementation, but also the innovation process, in terms of effectiveness, and to what extent capacity for development, innovation and adaptation within the system have been built up. ...
Article
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The challenges of land degradation, climate change and food insecurity have led to the introduction of conservation agriculture (CA) aimed at enhancing yield and soil quality. Despite positive biophysical results, low adoption rates have been the focus of studies identifying constraints to wider uptake. While the adoption framework is popular for measuring agricultural innovation, objective adoption measurements remain problem- atic and do not recognize the contextual and dynamic decision-making process. This study uses a technographic and participatory approach to move beyond the adoption framework and understand: (a) how agricultural decision-making takes place including the knowledge construction, (b) how agriculture is performed in a context of project intervention and (c) how practice adaptation plays out in the context of interacting knowledge. Findings confirm that farmer decision-making is dynamic, multidimensional and contextual. The common innovation diffusion model uses a theory of change, showcasing benefits through training lead farmers as community advocates and dem- onstration trials. Our study shows that the assumed model of technology transfer with reference to climate-smart agriculture interventions is not as linear and effective as assumed previously. We introduce four lenses that contribute to better understanding complex innovation dynamics: (a) social dynamics and information transfer, (b) contextual costs and benefits, (c) experience and risk aversion, and (d) practice adap- tation. Investments should build on existing knowledge and farming systems including a focus on the dynamic decision process to support the 'scaling up, scaling out and scaling deep' agenda for sustainable agricultural innovations.
... Participatory research has successfully created "farmer-centric" approaches to developing agricultural technology, for example, through the development of farmer innovation networks (Waters-Bayer et al. 2007; Abrol and Gupta 2014), market-led development, participatory approaches to learning and impact assessment (Douthwaite and Hoffecker 2017;Heinemann et al. 2017), and farmer-to-farmer innovations (Van Mele 2006; Kiptot and Franzel 2014;Chowdhury et al. 2015). These approaches have responded to the changing role of farmer organizations (Hellin et al. 2009;Ton et al. 2014) and the development of more demand-driven extension services (Aker 2010;Humphries et al. 2015) and are embedded in more integrated approach toward agricultural research through multi-stakeholder innovation platforms (Schut et al. 2016;Douthwaite et al. 2017;Pigford et al. 2018). ...
... Participatory research has successfully created "farmer-centric" approaches to developing agricultural technology, for example, through the development of farmer innovation networks (Waters-Bayer et al. 2007; Abrol and Gupta 2014), market-led development, participatory approaches to learning and impact assessment (Douthwaite and Hoffecker 2017;Heinemann et al. 2017), and farmer-to-farmer innovations (Van Mele 2006; Kiptot and Franzel 2014;Chowdhury et al. 2015). These approaches have responded to the changing role of farmer organizations (Hellin et al. 2009;Ton et al. 2014) and the development of more demand-driven extension services (Aker 2010;Humphries et al. 2015) and are embedded in more integrated approach toward agricultural research through multi-stakeholder innovation platforms (Schut et al. 2016;Douthwaite et al. 2017;Pigford et al. 2018). At the same time, co-design of farming system approaches has emerged (Meynard et al. 2012;Berthet et al. 2018) and participatory modeling and simulation approaches have made innovative contributions (Naivinit et al. 2010). ...
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Participatory research can improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and scope of research processes, and foster social inclusion, empowerment and sustainability. Yet despite four decades of agricultural research institutions exploring and developing methods for participatory research, it has never become mainstream in the agricultural technology development cycle. Citizen science promises an innovative approach to participation in research, using the unique facilities of new digital technologies, but its potential in agricultural research participation has not been systematically probed. To this end, we conducted a critical literature review. We found that citizen science opens up four opportunities for creatively reshaping research: i) new possibilities for interdisciplinary collaboration, ii) rethinking configurations of socio-computational systems, iii) research on democratization of science more broadly, and iv) new accountabilities. Citizen science also brings a fresh perspective on the barriers to institutionalizing participation in the agricultural sciences. Specifically, we show how citizen science can reconfigure cost-motivation-accountability combinations using digital tools, open up a larger conceptual space of experimentation, and stimulate new collaborations. With appropriate and persistent institutional support and investment, citizen science can therefore have a lasting impact on how agricultural science engages with farming communities and wider society, and more fully realize the promises of participation.
... First, by going back to their first descriptions, we report the story of the conditions under which each of these innovations emerged. To do so, we rely on the case study methodology applied to innovations as proposed by Douthwaite and Hoffecker (2017). It allows the authors to highlight the complexity of the innovation process through a description of the historical context during the innovation's emergence, its mechanism of development in response to constraints, and the role of the different people and institutions involved in the process, in particular producer organizations, management structures and research institutions. ...
... However, innovation's social dimension, which results from interactions and negotiations between actors with effects that are difficult to predict, was not sufficiently taken into account even though it is crucial (Long, 1989;Olivier de Sardan, 2005). In aquaculture, Douthwaite and Hoffecker (2017) use two significant case studies of the intervention of research institutions to note that the innovation process does not necessarily produce the expected results and that it mobilizes complex interactions such as the demands around a common question, appropriated first results, habits of experience sharing and discussion. ...
... Personal Viewfacets of transformation in multiple sectors, including tran sition management, 81,82 respon sible research and innovation thinking,54,75,83 interactive design, 84 responsible scaling and scaling readiness, 13 complexity awareness evalu ation,85,86 and transdisciplinary sustain ability science for food systems transformation.14,87 Conclusion "Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse" ...
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Food system innovations will be instrumental to achieving multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, major innovation breakthroughs can trigger profound and disruptive changes, leading to simultaneous and interlinked reconfigurations of multiple parts of the global food system. The emergence of new technologies or social solutions, therefore, have very different impact profiles, with favourable consequences for some SDGs and unintended adverse side-effects for others. Stand-alone innovations seldom achieve positive outcomes over multiple sustainability dimensions. Instead, they should be embedded as part of systemic changes that facilitate the implementation of the SDGs. Emerging trade-offs need to be intentionally addressed to achieve true sustainability, particularly those involving social aspects like inequality in its many forms, social justice, and strong institutions, which remain challenging. Trade-offs with undesirable consequences are manageable through the development of well planned transition pathways, careful monitoring of key indicators, and through the implementation of transparent science targets at the local level.
... Mixed methods evaluations would evaluate the ability of FFS implementation to adapt to evolving local contexts, preferences and needs, by analyzing when and why FFS are successful learning experiences and for whom. Methods that allow impact indicators to be chosen in collaboration with the actors (Faure et al. 2016(Faure et al. , 2020 or that focus on capacity to innovate (Douthwaite and Hoffecker 2017) should be further developed. For instance, Douthwaite et al. (2007), conducted an impact pathway analysis on an entire project including FFS over a 3-year period. ...
Article
Purpose: Assessment of agricultural advisory services is crucial to improve their quality and effectiveness. Farmer Field Schools (FFS) have been adapted to meet context specific needs in crop or farm management. This article investigates whether the diversity of FFS interventions is reflected in the assessment methods used to evaluate them. Design/Methodology/Approach: Through a systematic review of peer-reviewed literature we identified 180 articles and selected 34 that assessed FFS. Implementation was characterised based on farmers’ participation and FFS topics. Assessment methods were analysed using a causal chain of inputs, outputs, outcomes, and impacts. Findings: Our results showed three types of FFS: (1) technology transfer; (2) consultative participation at cropping system level; and, (3) consultative or collaborative participation at farm level. Fifteen studies did not describe FFS implementation at all. Out of the 34 assessments, 23 focused on inputs (knowledge) and outputs (changes in practices, agricultural or economic performance) for farmers. Only six studies assessed long-term impacts of FFS. Theoretical implications: We found a paradox between the shift from a technology transfer to a participatory advisory services paradigm, and the implementation and assessment of FFS, which do not mirror this shift. Assessment methods remain based on assumed technology transfer, which is not suitable for the evaluation of participatory approaches and their results, including in terms of capacity to innovate. Practical implications: Assessing FFS as a collective and farmer centered experiential learning approach requires appropriate evaluation methods that account for the diversity of contexts, FFS implementation, and the changes they generate. Originality/Value: The diversity of FFS has rarely been analysed to date. This article proposes a typology to go beyond FFS as a catchall term and to guide their assessment.
... The AIS approach to innovation is thus inherently "complexityaware," such that the insights and priorities of actors within the system are paramount in visioning and executing innovations. There is mounting evidence that complexity-aware approaches can lead to positive outcomes, including built social capital, investigative skillbuilding, and resilience, among others, which may bring about livelihood improvements for local communities (Douthwaite and Hoffecker, 2017). The AIS framework positions inclusivity at the center of the innovation process, owing to the critical importance of acknowledging and respecting system complexities. ...
Article
CONTEXT Mycotoxins and other food safety and preservation challenges are prevalent in smallholder food systems, and communities often lack the knowledge and capacity required to effectively diagnose and address these concerns. Participatory research can facilitate innovation in resource-poor settings by fostering collective identity and leveraging endogenous systems of change, but there are limitations to the scalability and impact of this approach across contexts. Embedding participatory research within a farmer research network (FRN) has the potential to enhance the effectiveness of participatory research by enhancing the flow of knowledge between local and global innovation systems. OBJECTIVE This study proposes a framework for FRN-mediated participatory food safety research and reports on key findings from an application of this approach in six villages in Unnao District, Uttar Pradesh, India. METHODS A cohort of 184 households was organized into a FRN and engaged in a series of participatory research activities. Collective identity was developed within the FRN by reflecting on shared goals and establishing leadership. Participatory context characterization combined with multiple factor analysis (MFA) enabled formation of interest-based affinity groups, which explored potential solutions to a range of local problems. Affinity group deliberations led to the implementation of a FRN-wide hermetic grain storage intervention. Uptake of the technology was evaluated by monitoring continued usage, willingness-to-pay, price elasticity of demand, and retail sales across localities. Efficacy of the FRN approach for participatory food safety research was assessed by monitoring participation, motives, and experiential outcomes among members. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS Context characterization revealed distinct needs profiles influenced by the extent of home versus non-home time allocation and economic orientation. Household trials of hermetic sacks were effective in 99% (128/129) of participating households, with 83% continuing use in subsequent seasons. Willingness-to-pay analysis demonstrated substantial demand for hermetic sacks but high price elasticity across hypothetical price points. Despite demonstrable demand and positive reception, actual sales were low (<10 units) due to perceived high cost of the technology. Participation and experiential outcomes were generally positive, but the FRN was not successful in maintaining adequate, representative gender balance in its programming. SIGNIFICANCE This study documents a novel application of the FRN approach to participatory food safety research and constitutes substantial evidence for the potential for FRNs to catalyze local-global knowledge feedback loops. The model outlined is widely adaptable and could be used across contexts in India and elsewhere.
... A complex intervention is composed of multiple interacting components, whereas a complex system is one that is adaptive to changes in its local environment, is composed of other complex systems, and behaves in a non-linear fashion (Shiell, Hawe, & Gold, 2008). Several studies provided insights into addressing complexity Douthwaite & Hoffecker, 2017;Maye et al., 2019); in the context of interventions in complex settings, Douthwaite et al. ( 2017, p. 206) encouraged "staff to be much more engaged in measuring and analyzing that might otherwise be the case. There is also the need to be flexible, adapting and responding to conditions and events as they unfold over time and greater understanding is gained. ...
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The concept of Theory of Change (ToC) is well established in the evaluation literature, underpinning substantial research and practice eff orts. However, its ability to facilitate learning has been increasingly debated. The objective of this paper is to identify, characterize, and evaluate concerns over the use of ToCs based on a review of relevant studies. Seven concerns are found: distinguishing ToCs from other evaluation approaches, conceptual vagueness, underdeveloped ToCs, under-contribution to theoretical knowledge, uncertainty in stakeholder engagement, neglecting context, and overlooking complexity. Priority areas for improvement include integrating context and complexity throughout the ToC process, contributing theoretical knowledge, and engaging stakeholders as appropriate.
... Given the variety of purposes and assumptions of different models, cross-model comparisons are often not possible. Some authors suggest that it is not possible to find common patterns in agricultural innovation systems and that interventions cannot be expected to create predictable impacts [5]. Furthermore, meta-analyses and reviews conducted in adoption in agriculture often highlight the differences rather than the commonality among existing studies [3,6,7]. ...
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Models can provide a structured way to think about adoption and provide a method to investigate the impacts of different factors in the adoption process. With at least 70 years of research in the adoption of agricultural innovations, there has been a proliferation of adoption models, both conceptual and numerical. This diversity has resulted in a lack of convergence in the way adoption is defined, explained, and measured, causing agricultural extension and policy to rely on a body of literature that is often not able to offer clear recommendations on the variables or mechanisms that can be used to design interventions. We conducted a review of conceptual models to clarify the concepts and approaches used in the practice of modeling adoption in agriculture. We described general adoption conceptual models originating from sociology, psychology, economics, and marketing and reviewed examples of models specifically defined for the study of adoption in agriculture. We also broadly assessed the ability of conceptual models to support building numerical models. Our review covered a range of modeling approaches for diffusion and individual adoption, illustrating different perspectives used in the literature. We found that key elements that should be used in adoption models for agriculture include: a way to assess the performance of the proposed new technology (e.g., relative advantage, both economic and non-economic) in relation to the existing technology or practice in place, the process of learning about this advantage, the interaction between individual decision-making and external influences, and characteristics of potential adopters affecting their attitudes towards the technology. We also detected inconsistencies in how different elements are treated in different conceptual models, particularly behavioral elements such as attitudes, motivations, intentions, and external influences. In terms of modeling, the main implication of these inconsistencies is the difficulty to generate quantitative evidence to support these models since multiple interpretations make it difficult to achieve consistency in the definition of observable, measurable variables that can be used to quantify cause-effect relationships. Suggestions for further research in the field include: questioning whether the adoption of all technologies and practices can be represented by the same adoption or learning process, exploring the dynamics in the relationship between adopters and technology before and after adoption, and questioning the basic assumptions behind the process of individual decision-making models and the role of collective decision-making. Findings from this review can be considered by adoption researchers and modelers in their work to assist policy and extension efforts to improve the uptake of future beneficial agricultural innovations.
... Agricultural innovation systems models, includes multiple stakeholders [37] and domains [38], [39] such as financial, technical, environmental, and research and development. The research and development domain is determinant for AIS performance [40], productivity [41], building a participatory approach to development [42], the evolution of farm systems [43] and co-creation of knowledge [44] by mean of stakeholders interactions. ...
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Increasingly, Agricultural Innovation Systems, AIS, have been recognized as fundamentals pathways for agricultural science impact. This new thinking focuses on innovation, not as the end of pipe outcome of knowledge transfer, but as a continuous process of social, technical and scientific collaboration at regional and higherlevel systems that impacts on productivity and innovation performance. This paper surveys the agricultural innovation system in Colombia. We analyze collaboration between authors, institutions and countries from the perspective of social network analysis to introduce a descriptive review of the scientific collaboration in terms of links (discipline structure) and nodes (actors). A mixed methodology is implemented based on co-authorship bibliometric mapping using VOS VIEWER and social network analysis based on the software UCINET. Whereas exogenous authors and institutions are the most connected in terms of interaction, they have lower influence than endogenous authors. Resumen Cada vez más, los Sistemas de Innovación Agrícola, SIA, han sido reconocidos como vías fundamentales para el impacto de la ciencia agrícola. Este nuevo pensamiento se centra en la innovación, no como el resultado final de la transferencia de conocimientos, sino como un proceso continuo de colaboración social, técnica y científica en los sistemas regionales y de nivel superior que repercute en la productividad y el rendimiento de la innovación. En el presente documento se examinan los documentos de agronomía de Colombia como una rama de todo el sistema de innovación agrícola. Analizaremos la colaboración entre autores, instituciones y países desde la perspectiva del análisis de las redes sociales para introducir las principales características de los vínculos (estructura de la disciplina) y los nodos (actores). Se implementa una metodología mixta basada en la visualización de redes de co-autoría con Vos viewer y el análisis de redes sociales basado en el software UCINET. Si bien los autores e instituciones exógenas son los más conectados en términos de interacción, tienen una menor influencia que los autores endógenos. Palabras clave: sistemas de innovación
... If donors and other stakeholders explicitly accept the plausibility of the ToS, this creates a basis for "being in it together"; this can help prevent having to prove effectiveness through mere achievement of predefined scaling targets that may both be unrealistic and create a culture of mere target setting (Douthwaite and Hoffecker 2017;MacCormack 2014). This also relates to roles and responsibilities along impact pathways and the need for appropriate expectations about related contributions to impact (Leeuwis et al. 2018). ...
Chapter
Scaling generalizable solutions delivered through science, technology, and innovation has become a dominant paradigm for achieving the sustainable development goals. In many cases, organizations articulate theories of change that are intended to support the strategic design and guidance of agricultural research and innovation to contribute to impact at scale. How scaling beyond the immediate research and innovation context is expected to happen, however, is often poorly elaborated in theories of change. The question of how scaling could happen—that is, a theory of scaling—tends to remain a black box of unarticulated assumptions. Similarly, policymakers often lack a governance sense-making framework to consider the appropriateness of a multitude of scaling initiatives in light of societal goals. Recent studies have drawn attention to the fact that scaling processes involve greater complexity than is generally taken into account. This chapter addresses this situation by unpacking what is in that black box and translating this into a guidance framework along the lines of a theory of scaling as a dedicated component of a wider theory of change. The objective is to support researchers, management decision-makers, and policymakers in engaging more effectively and responsibly with scaling initiatives.
... The plots were managed and led by selected farmers with other members having unlimited access. The MiDA training programme emphasized a high level of facilitation of farmers exchange of ideas, thus aligned with the AIS concept of exchange of information consistent with Klerkx and Nettle (2013), Douthwaite and Hoffecker (2017) and Pigford, Hickey, and Klerkx (2018). Large-scale investments are encouraged to embed this in design and implementation. ...
Article
Purpose: This paper argues that large-scale agricultural programmes embedded with the Agricultural Innovations Systems (AIS) thinking helps in facilitating innovations. Design/Methodology/Approach: The study adopted a qualitative approach involving focus group discussions, key informant interviews and secondary document analysis. This approach helped to obtain an in-depth understanding of the processes involved, why and how innovation takes place. Findings: The design and implementation of the MiDA programme had elements of the AIS embedded. This helped to contribute to success in areas that aligned and failures in areas that fell short. Stakeholders encountered implementation challenges that did not ensure reflective learning, conversely, some actors worked independently of others, mimicking linear extension approaches. Practical Implications: The future of extension and research in Ghana should not be prescriptive (top-down) but fully integrate farmers and wider stakeholders in the design and implementation of agricultural investment programmes. This is premised on addressing challenges relating to trust, effective leadership and entrepreneurship. Theoretical Implications: Adds on to the limited use of AIS as a conceptual and operational tool in supporting large-scale agricultural investment in the global south by incorporating AIS thinking in policy formulation and implementation of large-scale programmes. Originality/Value: This article adds to the unbalanced literature in Sub-Saharan Africa on the use of AIS in the design and implementation of large-scale programmes. Additionally, it highlights the use of AIS in extension and research in facilitating innovations.
... From a research perspective, the effectiveness of both traditional and group extension interventions can also be assessed through theorydriven evaluation. This would enable an assessment of the level to which extension interventions currently incorporate principles of coinnovation and collaboration at all stages and whether they adequately take account of the complexity of innovation processes within the forest sector innovation system (Douthwaite and Hoffecker, 2017). ...
Article
In the face of growing demand for sustainable sources of biomass, the challenge of mobilising non-industrial private forest landowners (NIPF) with varying management objectives, to actively manage their forests and increase the supply of wood biomass, is an area of growing research and policy focus. While innovation and knowledge exchange is increasingly viewed as a means of promoting sustainable wood mobilisation, structural weaknesses in the sector such as deficiencies in the institutional and infrastructural setting or capacity of stakeholders, can negatively influence innovation processes. Addressing these overarching challenges requires a systemic analysis of the barriers to innovation across the forest sector as a whole. This case study of the Irish forest sector develops a comprehensive innovation systems framework, integrating structural and functional streams of innovation systems research. This `coupled structural–functional’ framework is applied to identify a number of interconnected systemic problems that hinder the functioning of the forest sector innovation system and negatively influence the potential for co-innovation and wood mobilisation in the sector. Three sets of key systemic wood mobilisation problems are identified, among which there is negative feedback. These so called `blocking mechanisms' have developed over time as a result of historical patterns of practice, prevailing culture, attitude and regulation and are defined here as (i) weak networks blocking capacity development of new forest owners, (ii) infrastructural problems blocking the reach and effectiveness of knowledge networks, (iii) rigid institutional structures and policy blocking co-innovation. To address these deficiencies in the current forest policy and institutional environment, this study makes a number of policy recommendations to promote co-innovation and tackle the multi-dimensional challenge of wood mobilisation.
... Co-innovation is an approach that has proved successful in supporting learning for change (Rossing et al., 2010;Dogliotti et al., 2014;Albicette et al., 2017;Rossing et al., 2021). Conceptually, the approach combines elements from complex adaptive systems theory (e.g., Douthwaite and Hoffecker, 2017), social learning (e.g., Blackstock et al., 2007), and project monitoring for learning (e.g., Alvarez et al., 2010). We hypothesized that combining farmers' and scientific knowledge on the ecological intensification of native grassland-based livestock production in a farm-level co-innovation process would improve cow-calf farms' sustainability within three years. ...
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CONTEXT Family-run cow-calf farms based on native grasslands exhibit low economic and social sustainability, as reflected in low family incomes and high workloads. Experimental results have shown that pasture–herd interaction management could improve native grasslands and animal productivity. OBJECTIVE This paper analyzes the extent to which the sustainability of family-run livestock farms based on native grasslands could be enhanced by a systemic redesign informed by ecological intensification practices. The research questions address the initial state of farm sustainability, key bottlenecks to improving farm sustainability, and changes in sustainability criteria achieved over three years of farm redesign. METHODS The study was executed as part of a multi-level co-innovation project in Uruguay in which a team of scientist-practitioners and seven farm families participated in farm characterization, diagnosis, and redesign. The farm characterization took the form of indicators to describe the farms' management and bio-physical subsystems. Redesign plans were negotiated between the research team and the farmers. Frequent monitoring and evaluation cycles enabled finetuning across the years of implementation. RESULTS AND CONCLUSION Improvements were observed in the economic indicators gross margin (+55%), return to labor (+71%), and family income (+53%) and in the social indicator workload (−22%), and the environmental indicators bird diversity and ecosystem integrity index were maintained or increased slightly. These changes were explained by the uptake of coherent sets of ecological intensification practices causing changes in forage height (+30%), forage allowance (+69%), pregnancy (+22), weight of weaning calf per mating cow (+32%), and presence of tussocks (+65%). Ecological intensification principles resulted in synergistic positive effects between productivity–biodiversity tradeoffs and the scope for enhanced farm resilience and stability. SIGNIFICANCE Cow-calf family-run farms can be transformed to produce positive environmental and social effects and viable economic results. The implementation of projects in a co-innovation context may be taken as a guide to scaling up and scaling out the ecological intensification of livestock production on native grasslands, contributing to an extension system at the national level with the aim of improving cow-calf systems sustainability.
... Interventions should be designed with "scale in mind" (Redding et al., 2017), which implies that even during early stages of innovation design and testing there is a clear idea about how such innovations can contribute to societal outcomes. This idea connects with the pathways of innovation and scaling as part of a Theory of Change (Douthwaite and Hoffecker, 2017) that needs to be monitored, evaluated and updated based on principles of reflexive monitoring and adaptive management (Arkesteijn et al., 2015;Klerkx et al., 2010). ...
Article
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This Editorial to the Special Issue “Science of Scaling: connecting the pathways of agricultural research and development for improved food, income and nutrition security” presents the framing, overview and analysis of 10 articles focussed on scaling innovation in the agricultural research for development sector. The publications cut across three categories that focus on: (i) Understanding the scaling trajectory retrospectively from a longer term, systems perspective, (ii) Understanding scaling of innovation retrospectively as part of shorter term agricultural research for development interventions, and (iii) Conceptual or methodological approaches aimed at guiding scaling prospectively. Cross-cutting review of the publications leads to several insights and critically questions dominant ways of understanding and guiding scaling of innovation in the agricultural research for development sector. This provides a starting point for proposing more outcome-oriented scaling as a third wave of understanding and guiding scaling, beyond technology adoption (first wave) and the scaling of innovation (second wave). The Editorial proposes three Research Domains for the Science of Scaling: (1) ‘Understand the big picture of scaling innovation’ that can inform more realistic ideas about the factors, conditions and dynamics that affect innovation and scaling processes; (2) ‘Develop instruments that nurture efficient and responsible scaling’ that comprises new approaches, concepts and tools that can facilitate the development of evidence-based scaling strategies; and (3) ‘Create a conducive environment for scaling innovation’ that focusses on the institutional arrangements, partnership models, and monitoring and learning for scaling of innovation.
... Laciana & Oteiza-Aguirre 2014;Schreinemachers & Berger 2011). Collaborative processes include 'robust decision-making' (Lempert et al. 2006;Haasnoot et al. 2013;Kalra et al. 2014;Maier et al. 2016), 'theory of change' approaches (Prinsen & Nijhof 2015;Allen et al. 2017;Douthwaite & Hoffecker 2017;Thornton et al. 2017) and more recent efforts to develop tools to facilitate planning for the scaling out of innovations in complex developing country scenarios (e.g. Sartas et al. 2020). ...
... Realist evaluation and realist synthesis have become wellrespected methodologies for evaluating program outcomes and developing substantive theory across fields such as healthcare, education, agricultural development, and natural resource management (Rogers 2008, Mayne and Stern 2013, Pawson 2013, Douthwaite and Hoffecker 2017, Ward 2017, McLain et al. 2018. Realist evaluation offers a means to develop both generalizable theory and an associated new set of design principles to help us understand and support multifaceted collaborative initiatives, based on an understanding of how context influences collaborative processes and outcomes, i.e., How or why does this work, for whom, in what circumstances? ...
Article
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There are limited approaches available that enable researchers and practitioners to conduct multiple case study comparisons of complex cases of collaboration in natural resource management and conservation. The absence of such tools is felt despite the fact that over the past several years a great deal of literature has reviewed the state of the science regarding collaboration. Much of this work is based on case studies of collaboration and highlights the importance of contextual variables, further complicating efforts to compare outcomes across case-study areas and the likely failure of approaches based on one size fits all generalizations. We expand on the standard overview of the field by identifying some of the challenges associated with managing complex systems with multiple resources, multiple stakeholder groups with diverse knowledges/understandings, and multiple objectives across multiple scales, i.e., multifaceted collaborative initiatives. We then elucidate how a realist methodology, within a critical realist framing, can support efforts to compare multiple case studies of such multifaceted initiatives. The methodology we propose considers the importance and impact of context for the origins, purpose, and success of multifaceted collaborative natural resource management and conservation initiatives in social-ecological systems.
... Actually, the question is perhaps even broader: what is our place among the range of AIS (Agricultural Innovation Systems) players who influence farmers' design activities through their requirements (e.g. Douthwaite and Hoffecker, 2017;Berthet et al., 2018;Davies et al., 2018)? Many research studies have shown that farmers are caught in, and constrained by, a matrix of requirements (from the processing industry, from those who market their products, from regulatory obligations, etc.) (e.g. ...
Article
In this perspective article, I explain why agricultural sciences are facing what I consider to be design issues, and why I strongly believe that agricultural sciences would benefit from more dialogue on these issues with design sciences. Using two examples concerning the design of Decision Support Systems (DSS) and of agricultural systems, I discuss the methodological and conceptual contribution that design sciences can make to agricultural sciences. I then elaborate on how design sciences are most needed to help us revitalise agricultural sciences so that they can more effectively support farmers and agricultural stakeholders on their road to sustainability – a process which requires a radical, creative and innovative design effort.
... Actually, the question is perhaps even broader: what is our place among the range of AIS (Agricultural Innovation Systems) players who influence farmers' design activities through their requirements (e.g. Douthwaite and Hoffecker, 2017;Berthet et al., 2018;Davies et al., 2018)? Many research studies have shown that farmers are caught in, and constrained by, a matrix of requirements (from the processing industry, from those who market their products, from regulatory obligations, etc.) (e.g. ...
... We adapt a middle-range theory developed by Douthwaite and others (Douthwaite and Hoffecker 2017; to describe how AR4D contributes to OTs (Figure 2). The model in Figure 2 shows that AR4D contributes to an OT through three overarching pathways. ...
Article
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At the end of 2021, CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) will be replaced by Initiatives housed within One CGIAR. This new modality is intended to achieve higher levels of impact at a faster rate and at reduced cost compared to the CRPs. As One CGIAR begins, there is a unique opportunity to reflect on what has worked in different contexts. In this paper, we provide findings that relate to One CGIAR’s overarching view of how it will achieve positive and measurable impacts, and for agricultural research for development (AR4D) more generally. Specifically, we draw from three related CRP evaluations to identify how different types of AR4D approaches have contributed to successful outcomes. In the final section of the paper, we present our conclusions and provide a list of recommendations for the science and technology policy of One CGIAR and possibly other integrated research for development programs.
... The Ethical Community Engagement (ECE) process developed and adopted by the team (Mishra, Ray, Mihra, Ghosh, & Majumdar, 2018) underpinned the interventions. ECE takes a complexity-aware approach (Douthwaite & Hoffecker, 2017) to engagement and positions community members as partners, collaborators and innovators (not research subjects) with their own perspectives, wisdom and priorities, and the power to exert influence on the design and implementation of research activities. ECE proved the catalyst for establishing multi-actor activities (examples of which are shown in the bold text in the outer circle of Figure 1) and partnerships throughout the life of the project. ...
Article
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Large investments in Research-for-Development (R4D) have occurred around agricultural intensification to improve social and economic outcomes for poor small and marginal farmer households. Mixed evidence for sustained and socially just impacts from these investments reflects that projects aimed at achieving social change are inherently complex and the pathways from intervention to impact are deeply uncertain. R4D projects are increasingly drawing on integrative approaches to explore solution spaces for these complex social-agroecological problems; albeit integration science is not yet mainstream in R4D. We reflect on one approach (integrated assessment, IA) in a project on socially inclusive agricultural intensification, namely on how the project team embraced integration tools and research approaches, translated knowledge and learnings of the community and broader research team into systems frameworks, and ensured that social inclusion and justice concepts were central to the IA tools and process. IA was valued for its participatory focus and for lessening ‘silo thinking’ in the design of community interventions and research activities. We argue that complexity-aware integration approaches like IA are needed to support the design, monitoring and evaluation of R4D projects to enhance outcomes and achieve sustained impact.
... D'autres travaux s'intéressent à la dimension involontaire de la production d'ignorance, inscrite dans des systèmes de production de connaissances disciplinaires et morcelés (Dedieu et Jouzel, 2015). 3 Face aux limites des systèmes de production de connaissances disciplinaires et linéaires, un vaste renouvellement de la science appelle à une recherche plus transdisciplinaire, dans laquelle chercheurs de différentes disciplines et acteurs travaillent ensemble pour produire des connaissances plus à même de résoudre les problèmes complexes auxquels ils font face (Cash et al., 2003;Douthwaite et Hoffecker, 2017;van de Gevel et al., 2020;Voinov et Bousquet, 2010). Dans le domaine des pesticides, différentes initiatives participatives ont été développées, telles que les champs-écoles (farmer field schools en anglais) (Van den Berg et Jiggings, 2007) ou les écoles-acteurs (Tonneau et al., 2021) pour débattre les effets des pesticides et élaborer des pratiques alternatives. ...
Article
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Although Brazil is among the world's largest consumers of pesticides, their impacts on local populations have struggled to emerge as a public problem due to a political context that is particularly favourable to industrial agriculture. In this article, we investigate how the knowledge produced on the impact of pesticides contributes (or not) to the emergence of this public problem. We conduct a reflection based on a citizen science process we conducted in the region of Santarem, in the Brazilian Amazon, where soybean has been expanding significantly for the past 20 years. Since 2017, we have built an observatory in partnership with peasant unions to make visible the impact of pesticides used in soy crops on family farmers. Young farmers, trained to become "community researchers", have administered 544 questionnaires to family farmers to learn about their practices and assess the changes caused since the arrival of soy. We conduct an analysis at three levels: at the national level, we follow the emergence of pesticides as a public issue, its consolidation during the Labor government (2003-2016), and then its dismantling; at a local level, the survey reveals how the family farmers are impacted by soy pesticides and at the same time, not so aware of being "victims"; finally, at the territorial level, we question the weakening of the debate between science and politics, particularly within the Regional Forum for the fight against the impact of pesticides set up in Santarém.
... PAR is a research methodology in which researchers and participants work collectively to empower participants' agency (Grbich, 1998;Baum et al., 2006;Minkler and Wallerstein, 2011). Researchers have used PAR in agricultural sciences by incorporating stakeholder feedback through methods like workshops, asking participants to test proposed new technologies, organizing informal discussions and incorporating local knowledge into existing research projects (Carberry et al., 2002;Hossard et al., 2013;Bousbaine and Bryant, 2016;Douthwaite and Hoffescker, 2017;Kinhoegbe et al., 2020). PAR has been a very fruitful approach to building community-based involvement in a wide range of projects that focus on community development. ...
Article
Rapid changes in economic, environmental and social conditions generate both problems and opportunities in agriculture. The cycle from problem identification through discovery of potential solutions is lengthy. The objective of this study was to use collaborative methods to speed the cycle of discovery in sustainable organic strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa) production systems in the southeastern USA. This method, stakeholder-driven adaptive research (SDAR), combines farmers' experiential knowledge with scientists' experimental knowledge to develop rigorous research design collectively. Farmers evaluated our biological research and co-designed research experiments with scientists. Farmers and other stakeholders (1) evaluated on-station experiments individually and then made recommendations as a group, (2) served as advisory council members to direct our goals and objectives, and (3) conducted farmer field trials where they implemented aspects of our on-station experiments under their management regimes. The results eliminated potential solutions that were not feasible, ineffective or too costly for farmers to adopt. Key results included eliminating treatments using high tunnel systems altogether on one field trial on a University of Florida (UF) research facility, adding a leguminous cover crop mix treatment, adding companion planting, and eliminating strawberry cultivars Strawberry Festival and Florida Beauty from our research trials. Our proposed methodology allows farmers and other stakeholders to inform the biological research from design through dissemination to reduce the time needed to create research products in an era of rapid bio-physical, social and economic change. Accelerating the discovery cycle could significantly improve our ability to identify and address threats to the USA and global food and fiber production system.
... So the ability to nurture equitable and effective partnerships underpins assumptions in impact pathways (Stokes, 1997;Price et al., 2020). Process-related factors such as the quality, duration and context of research partnerships are key in ensuring that research is relevant, credible, legitimate and effective (Douthwaite and Hoffecker, 2017;Prain et al., 2020). ...
Article
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High-quality research to provide sustainable development solutions in aquatic food systems requires a deliberate theory for its application at scale. One frequently defined pathway in theories of change for scaling research innovation is through partnerships. Yet, despite the widespread application of partnership modalities in food-systems research, only a small proportion of published research provides original and high-quality solutions for small-scale producers. Metrics of academic success can incentivize publication regardless of end-user impact. Analogously, partnerships among national and international institutions can also lack impact because of inequity and persistent power imbalances. We describe a long-term research for development partnership between a CGIAR center (WorldFish) and a national government agency (Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources; MFMR). We review the literature produced by, or about, the activities carried out in the name of the partnership over a 35-year period to build a time-line and to identify elements of research power, priorities and capacity by decade. The form and function of the collaboration through time form the basis of our analysis of the journey toward an increasingly equitable partnership: a theorized goal toward greater development outcome at scale in Solomon Islands. The partnership has been strongly influenced by changes in both institutions. The MFMR has undergone a significant increase in operational capacity since the partnership was first conceived in 1986. WorldFish has also undergone change and has navigated tensions between being locally impactful and globally relevant through periods of different research foci. With an increasingly competent and capable ministry, dimensions of power and practice have had to be re-visited to embed CGIAR research on aquatic food systems within national development trajectories. By focusing on a practice seeking more meaningful and respectful partnerships, WorldFish-as an international research partner-continues to evolve to be fit for purpose as a credible and effective research partner. We discuss this journey in the context of system-level change for aquatic food system sustainability and innovation.
... Such complex problems have multiple dimensions, involve interactions across different levels, and involve multi-stakeholder interactions (Schut et al., 2015). Finding solutions to these issues requires novel approaches that stretch beyond the linear research-development-extension models to more complexity-aware approaches (Douthwaite and Hoffecker, 2017) where innovation occurs through the interaction between key actors (Dolinska and d'Aquino, 2016). To address these challenges for future agricultural systems, there is an increasing need for inclusion of a range of stakeholder perspectives (Farrington, 1989;Hauser et al., 2016;Ingram et al., 2020). ...
Article
CONTEXT Structured co-design processes are increasingly used for agricultural system redesign challenges. Many co-design processes were created in non-agricultural contexts, therefore there has been limited analysis of how they are best applied when involving farmers in co-design. OBJECTIVE The aims of this paper are to describe the application and affordances of co-design processes in a context of complex agricultural problems, and to build understanding on the use of such approaches with farmer stakeholders. METHODS We examine co-design affordances through two case studies: using Reflexive Interactive Design for future farm system redesign, and Design Thinking for farming workplace redesign. Data collection involved surveys and phone interviews of co-design participants, notes from project team observations and reflections, and direct farmer participant feedback. We critically evaluated the co-design processes using an affordances-based analytical framework. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS Co-design methods can enable researchers to engage with farmers and other agricultural stakeholders to address major agricultural redesign challenges. However, farmers are not always comfortable with highly analytical methods used in some co-design processes. Through the two case studies analysed in this paper, we propose the concept of farmer-centred design, where effective inclusion of farmers in design processes is achieved by selecting the co-design approaches used based on the affordances they provide farmer participants. Processes based on structural affordances (harnessing and aggregating) may frustrate farmer co-designers, while second-order functional affordances, such as exploration, visioning, and extending, can provide better alignment with farmer cognitive processes. SIGNIFICANCE This novel study describes the affordances of co-design tools and proposes an adapted framework for analysing affordances. The framework will benefit researchers when determining the co-design approach that matches their redesign challenge.
... D'autres travaux s'intéressent à la dimension involontaire de la production d'ignorance, inscrite dans des systèmes de production de connaissances disciplinaires et morcelés (Dedieu et Jouzel, 2015). 3 Face aux limites des systèmes de production de connaissances disciplinaires et linéaires, un vaste renouvellement de la science appelle à une recherche plus transdisciplinaire, dans laquelle chercheurs de différentes disciplines et acteurs travaillent ensemble pour produire des connaissances plus à même de résoudre les problèmes complexes auxquels ils font face (Cash et al., 2003;Douthwaite et Hoffecker, 2017;van de Gevel et al., 2020;Voinov et Bousquet, 2010). Dans le domaine des pesticides, différentes initiatives participatives ont été développées, telles que les champs-écoles (farmer field schools en anglais) (Van den Berg et Jiggings, 2007) ou les écoles-acteurs (Tonneau et al., 2021) pour débattre les effets des pesticides et élaborer des pratiques alternatives. ...
Article
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Although Brazil is among the world's largest consumers of pesticides, their impacts on local populations have struggled to emerge as a public problem due to a political context that is particularly favourable to industrial agriculture. In this article, we investigate how the knowledge produced on the impact of pesticides contributes (or not) to the emergence of this public problem. We conduct a reflection based on a citizen science process we conducted in the region of Santarem, in the Brazilian Amazon, where soybean has been expanding significantly for the past 20 years. Since 2017, we have built an observatory in partnership with peasant unions to make visible the impact of pesticides used in soy crops on family farmers. Young farmers, trained to become "community researchers", have administered 544 questionnaires to family farmers to learn about their practices and assess the changes caused since the arrival of soy. We conduct an analysis at three levels: at the national level, we follow the emergence of pesticides as a public issue, its consolidation during the Labor government (2003-2016), and then its dismantling; at a local level, the survey reveals how the family farmers are impacted by soy pesticides and at the same time, not so aware of being "victims"; finally, at the territorial level, we question the weakening of the debate between science and politics, particularly within the Regional Forum for the fight against the impact of pesticides set up in Santarém.
... The AgroAgenda doesn't follow the traditional linear approach of innovation, where scientists are the innovators who transfer their innovations to the practitioners that are supposed to adopt the innovations. Instead, the platform is explicitly built on a so called complex agricultural innovation system (AIS), as described by Douthwaite & Hoffecker (2017): central terms are co-creation, transdisciplinary, holistic perspective, responsive without a predefined agenda, multiple actor approach, aiming at institutional change and interventions based on relationships, trust and an open agenda. ...
Conference Paper
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This paper analyses the initiative AgroAgenda in the northern Netherlands. The AgroAgenda is a platform in which multiple stakeholders together stimulate a circular, and nature-inclusive agro-food system in the Dutch provinces of Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe. Stakeholders come from, among others, provincial governments, farmers' and nature organizations, educational and research institutes and processing companies. They join forces to realize a system change, a transition, in the region, while promoting knowledge circulation, knowledge co-creation and joint learning. The platform, is a front runner of five national, comparable initiatives. The AgroAgenda has the potential to lead to a more nature-inclusive and circular farming. Several of the 40 experiments have already led to good results. However, to bring about a real system change, more attention to innovations in governmental organizations (including law and regulations), policy, the value chains (division of margins, pricing and marketing) and the educational system are needed.
... Research organisations working to meet the impact agenda face several challenges including: evaluation of multiple possible impact pathways (Joly et al., 2016); multiple impacts (Bozeman and Sarewitz, 2011;Kelley et al., 2008) at different levels from programme to organisation; attributing impacts in multi-actor innovation systems (Douthwaite and Hoffecker, 2017;Horton and Mackay, 2003;Joly et al., 2016); and time-lags between research outputs and impacts (Kelley et al., 2008). To address these challenges agricultural research organisations have begun to invest in evaluation capacity building (ECB) (Joly et al., 2016;Maredia et al., 2014;Stone-Jovicich et al., 2019), which is defined as "the intentional work to continuously create and sustain overall organisational processes that make quality evaluation and its use routine" (Hueftle Stockdill et al., 2002, p.14). ...
Article
Performance-based funding and calls for public-funded science to demonstrate societal impact are encouraging public research organisations to evaluate impact, the so-called impact agenda. This paper explores evaluation methods of four fully or partially public-funded agricultural research organisations and how they are building evaluative capacity to respond to the impact agenda. Drawing on cross-organisational comparison of the readiness of each organisation to implement evaluation, the implications for improving evaluative capacity building (ECB) are discussed. This study extends the current literature on ECB, as very little has focussed on research organisations in general, and particularly agricultural research. Driven by the impact agenda, the organisations are beginning to emphasise summative evaluation. Organisational leaders valuing the demonstration of impact and commitment to building evaluation capacity are important precursors to other aspects of organisational readiness to implement evaluation. However, organisational emphasis remains on using evaluation for accountability and to improve efficiency and allocation of funding. The organisations have yet to systematically embed evaluation processes and capabilities for learning at programme and organisation-levels. There is, therefore, an opportunity to develop organisation and programme-level evaluation processes that inform each other and the pathways to impact from science. To realise this opportunity, organisations could strengthen internal and external networks of evaluation practitioners and academics to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of monitoring and evaluation for learning (MEL) and to begin to reshape organisational culture by using evaluation methods that are grounded in co-production and integrated scientific and societal values.
... The current article also examines the best resources, such as green energy's role in the technology changes that are adopted for the companies' success. Many of the past studies also used the theory of change, such as Douthwaite and Hoffecker (2017), who also examined the impact of the different resources on the adoption of agricultural innovation. In addition, a study by Gudanowska et al., (2020) and Vlaev and Dolan (2015) also used the theory of change to predict the companies' resource impact of technology and behavioural change. ...
Article
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Recently, green energy has been a significant factor in the technology changes that require researchers' emphasis. Thus, this study examines the impact of green energy such as renewable energy production, energy import and renewable energy consumption on the technological changes. The current article also investigates the role of economic factors (control variables) such as economic growth and population growth on the technological changes. The present research has selected ten developed and ten developing countries and extracted the data from 2008 to 2019. This article adopted fixed-effect model (FEM), robust standard error and generalized method of moments (GMM) to examine the association between the variables. The results indicated that green energy, such as renewable energy production and renewable energy consumption, along with economic factors such as economic growth, have a positive association with technological changes. The results also indicated that energy import and population growth have a negative association with technological changes. This article guides the regulators while developing effective policies regarding technological changes in the country. ARTICLE HISTORY
... Of note, the SSA approach does not require the development of program theories; indeed, all nine studies applying the SSA approach did not report developing a program theory. It is important for studies applying SSA to not only assess whether programs have a clear theory/logic model but also to develop one; doing so will contribute to middle-range theories that inform strategies for implementing programs in different contexts (Douthwaite & Hoffecker, 2017). Like other scholars (Davies & Payne, 2015;Holvoet et al., 2018;Watts, 2016), we found there is a plurality of methodological frameworks for evaluability assessment, with a lot of overlap between components of frameworks. ...
Article
Since the beginning of the 21st century, evaluability assessments have experienced a resurgence of interest. However, little is known about how evaluability assessments have been used to improve future evaluations. In this article, we identify characteristics, challenges, and opportunities of evaluability assessments based on a scoping review of case studies published since 2008 (n = 59). We find that evaluability assessments are increasingly used for program development and evaluation planning. Several challenges are identified: politics of evaluability; ambiguity between evaluability and evaluation, and limited considerations of gender equity and human rights. To ensure relevance, evaluability approaches must evolve in alignment with the fast-changing environment. Recommended efforts to revitalize evaluability assessment practice include the following: engaging stake-holders; clarifying what evaluability assessments entail; assessing program understandings, plausibility, and practicality; and considering cross-cutting themes. This review provides an evidence base of practical applications of evaluability assessments to support future evaluability studies and, by extension, future evaluations.
... In line with emerging experience in AR4D contexts (Douthwaite and Hoffecker, 2017;Maru et al., 2018;Thornton et al., 2017), AR4D practitioners are using ToCs to develop context-specific approaches to food systems transformation, and in this paper, we find that enacting a theory of change for food systems transformation under climate change can be an effective way to catalyse a transformation and we set out the key priorities for a theory of change. These priorities are placed within the broader perspective of knowledge and innovation systems, and we identify the next steps for better developing the new, reconfiguring the old and making knowledge generation more participative. ...
Article
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In the past few years, we have seen growing calls for a transformation in global food systems in response to multiple challenges, including climate change. Food systems are responsible for a third of global greenhouse gas emissions from human activity and agricultural yields are at risk due to climate change impacts. Although many proposals have been made, there are fewer insights on what these imply for knowledge and innovation systems. We seek to advance the literature on transforming food systems under a changing climate, by identifying concrete next steps for scientists and practitioners. We do this by adapting a theory of change proposed by Campbell et al. (2018). We used the adapted theory of change to design the 5th Global Science Conference on Climate-Smart Agriculture, which brought together different stakeholders within global food systems. Through conference sessions and a survey with 262 of the participants, we validate elements of the Campbell et al. framework, identify additional elements, and offer further nuance. The findings point at nine priority areas for a transformation in food systems under climate change: (1) Empowering farmer and consumer organizations, women and youth; (2) Digitally enabled climate-informed services; (3) Climate-resilient and low-emission practices and technologies; (4) Innovative finance to leverage public and private sector investments; (5) Reshaping supply chains, food retail, marketing and procurement; (6) Fostering enabling policies and institutions; (7) Knowledge transfer; (8) Addressing fragmentation in the knowledge and innovation systems; (9) Ensuring food security. We have identified three types of scholarly insights from innovation, transition and sustainability transformations studies that may inform the next steps: these relate to stimulating novelty across the priority areas, ensuring participation in knowledge production, and reconfiguring incumbent systems to enable implementation of the theory of change.
... c) The literature on evaluating complex interventions uses the term "complexity-aware" (Douthwaite & Hoffecker, 2017), but being aware is only the first step. The next important steps are acknowledging, appreciating, and incorporating these perspectives into the design and evaluation of projects. ...
Thesis
How a project is perceived by its stakeholders affects how it is implemented, and how the outcomes of the project are interpreted by the stakeholders influences the impact project can have on those stakeholders. Often this diversity of perspective is considered an impediment to the effectiveness of the project in meeting its goals. Standard project evaluation techniques dependent on linear and conventional methods to assess and present outputs and outcomes from projects fail to consider the complexity in projects. Complexity in a project arises from the involvement of multiple stakeholders from diverse disciplines, backgrounds, and geographies, and having varied perceptions, expectations, and understanding of the project and its aspects. The overall aim of this PhD is to improve the understanding of evaluation of complex projects by studying the projects from the perspectives of the multiple stakeholders involved in them. The first objective is to explore and understand the approaches to evaluation drawing on perspectives from literature, and observations from the field. The second objective is to understand the perspectives of stakeholders operating at various levels of a complex project on different aspects of the project such as its nature, approach, outputs, and outcomes. The third objective is to relate outcomes at various levels in the project to processes used, as well as associate outputs with outcomes. The fourth objective is to develop an integrated approach to evaluate complex multi- stakeholder projects, which enhances a project’s outcomes and enables learning for the stakeholders involved. With the aim of improvement in the existing knowledge on evaluating complex projects, the methodological approach is developed from a combination of theories and practices on evaluation. Central themes of the methodology are methodological pluralism, multiple perspectives, systems thinking, and appreciation and learning. To facilitate flexibility in navigating through a variety of theories and perspectives to enable both change and enhancement, the PhD is undertaken and presented as an action research. Three complex projects with stakeholders from diverse backgrounds and disciplines are examined in two stages of this thesis. These projects situated on the Chotanagpur Plateau in India with different intervention areas are, i) an agricultural research for development (AR4D) project, ii) a project to develop the skills of community youth to impart education, and iii) a Corporate Social Responsibility initiative. Data are collected from 82 project participants chosen by purposive sampling in the form of narratives, through semi-structured questionnaires. Findings from examining multiple perspectives were similar across the three studied projects. Stakeholders interpreted the nature and outcomes of the project uniquely. This study confirmed the existence of diverse stakeholder perspectives that were not captured or acknowledged in the evaluation of the three projects. These perspectives, however, were important for the stakeholders in how they identified with the project, how they functioned in it, and eventually, how it impacted their lives. Moreover, largely, there was no cognisance of this diversity in the stakeholders of the project. In instances where the stakeholders were aware of the multiple views, there was no mechanism for interaction of, or sharing those perspectives. Neither did the project stakeholders learn to acknowledge and work with varied perspectives, nor did they learn from multiple views in the project which were different from theirs. Besides the standard outputs and outcomes from the project, the project stakeholders outlined long-term personal changes. In particular, the learning which they underwent was considered profound and significant. The subtle shifts in learning and development of capabilities in project stakeholders were capabilities that enhance their sense of agency and change their worldviews, which they may further utilise to impact the project, themselves, and others. In considering these findings and addressing the challenge of incorporating complexity in project evaluation, the thesis develops a framework to evaluate complex projects. The framework is complexity-appreciative which acknowledges, appreciates, and integrates multiple perspectives in the design and evaluation of projects. Evaluation frameworks are always dependent on the contexts in which they are applied, and on those who design and use them, and the kind of boundary judgements they make. Hence, the framework provided in this PhD is not a tool to be used at the end of a project to measure its outcomes; rather, it is a process that must be part of a project from inception as a feedback tool to enhance outcomes. The framework can become a means to create spaces and processes in a project to enable stakeholders to share perspectives, listen to others, understand the diversity in the project, and acknowledge, appreciate and learn from each other’s perspectives as well as each other’s process of learning. Such a space will also allow stakeholders to find their voice and purposes in the project, to help each other do the same, and to further develop those purposes
Research
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Abstract Research and development approaches that incorporate elements of collective action, agricultural innovation systems and value-chain development (VCD) are increasingly popular, but there has been little systematic analysis of their use and results. In this paper, we analyze experiences with a participatory approach for stimulating inclusive innovation in agricultural value chains, known as the Participatory Market Chain Approach (PMCA). Guided by a conceptual framework for analyzing PMCA interventions, we examine cases where the PMCA was applied in value chains for aquaculture, coffee, organic and typical regional products, potatoes and vegetables in Albania, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Indonesia, Nepal, Peru and Uganda. We find that the uses and results of the PMCA were strongly influenced by attributes of the external environment, the targeted value chain and the intervention in which the PMCA was applied. The PMCA has generally produced the most significant results where: (a) the agricultural and policy environment favored agricultural innovation and VCD; (b) the value chain offered significant potential for value addition or cost reduction; and (c) the PMCA was implemented with a high degree of fidelity to its basic principles in the context of a broader development effort. The active involvement of diverse stakeholders – not only smallholder producers but entrepreneurs along the value chain and relevant service providers – was crucial for stimulating innovation. Because innovation processes are complex and emergent in nature, local teams needed to develop flexible implementation plans and procedures that were adjusted over time in response to emerging opportunities and results. And because the PMCA requires the active engagement of value-chain actors and service providers with diver, sometimes conflicting, interests, effective facilitation was crucial to the success of PMCA interventions. We found significant benefits of the PMCA frequently emerged long after the intervention had been implemented. This highlights the value of assessing interventions that support inclusive innovation several years after project funding ends. Notwithstanding the demonstrated utility of the PMCA in stimulating inclusive innovation in agricultural value chains, the approach has only achieved limited use beyond its original developers. This reflects the both the lack of institutional support and an effective scaling strategy for the PMCA and the enduring challenges to mainstreaming participatory systems approaches in agricultural research and development organizations.
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We review the past decade’s widespread application of resilience science in sustainable development practice and examine whether and how resilience is reshaping this practice to better engage in complex contexts. We analyse six shifts in practice: from capitals to capacities, from objects to relations, from outcomes to processes, from closed to open systems, from generic interventions to context sensitivity, and from linear to complex causality. Innovative complexity-oriented practices have emerged, but dominant applications diverge substantially from the science, including its theoretical and methodological orientations. We highlight aspects of the six shifts that are proving challenging in practice and what is required from sustainability science. This article reviews the past decade of literature reporting the application of resilience science in sustainable development practice. Although innovative complexity-oriented practices have emerged, the article shows that dominant applications diverge substantially from the science.
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International Crops Research Institute for the Semi‐Arid Tropics' (ICRISAT) research strategy for sorghum and millets is based on market‐led development. We analyse the construction of this Theory of Change and its application to Eastern Africa using evidence from the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) project. We trace the evolution of market discourse in ICRISAT and ask why this discourse became so influential. The scale of commercialisation was limited, and its effect on intensification was mixed. A Green Revolution for dryland cereals in Eastern Africa may come not from improved varieties that give higher yields but that mature early and evade drought. A modified Theory of Change for dryland cereals requires greater recognition of household food security, farmer agency and regional heterogeneity.
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Contemporary conservation must address social well‐being while still protecting biodiversity. Accordingly, the objective of the Convention on Biological Diversity's recent Zero Draft Post‐2020 Global Biodiversity Framework is to sustainably meet the needs of people while reducing biodiversity loss. However, frequent “failures” in achieving this social‐ecological balance necessitates more holistic, systematic, and adaptive post‐2020 conservation interventions. The Theory of Change (ToC) approach provides a useful and flexible tool to support this endeavor. However, debate persists over its usefulness, and “best” manner of use. This paper explores the elements of, and proposes a framework for developing robust conservation ToC pathways. The framework emphasizes the importance of producing a shared vision of desired results and actions, and associated causal assumptions, among actors. Furthermore, evaluation is considered key to informing required ongoing adaptation to better achieve desired results. The paper also critically explores the challenges associated with ToC, and makes recommendations for its improved use in post‐2020 conservation. In particular, we aim to inform the implementation and mainstreaming of the Post‐2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, especially at a national‐ and local‐level. The framework and discussion should be relevant to a broad range of conservation actors at various scales that must address linked social and ecological objectives.
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The evolution of evaluation in the Cooperative Extension System (Extension) has gone through many changes over the years, from focusing on participation, to the measurement of outcomes, and then impacts. Now, the new evolution in Extension is the use of credible and actionable evidence. This special edition of the Journal of Human Sciences and Extension (JHSE) explored the theme, “What is credible and actionable evidence in Extension programs?” The authors of the articles in this issue wrote about the important concepts ahead of us as we begin on the road to more credible and actionable evidence. This article provides some closing thoughts on this special issue and sets forth challenges as we move forward.
Technical Report
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A agricultura brasileira é um caso de sucesso em termos de inovação tecnológica, explicado, entre outros fatores, pela dinâmica construída entre organizações de pesquisa e atores do agronegócio, que caracterizam um ecossistema de inovação. O conceito de “agilidade” é central na competitividade e na esfera do gerenciamento de tais ecossistemas. A agilidade tem sido discutida como habilidade de adaptação para melhoria das capacidades de inovação de organizações em ambientes marcados por alta complexidade. Busca-se apresentar as definições e os conceitos de ecossistema de inovação e agilidade, bem como sua relação com os ambientes institucionais. A análise auxilia a compreensão dessa abordagem para a construção de políticas públicas e diretrizes para a gestão da inovação no setor agropecuário. Por ser elo importante no ecossistema de inovação no agronegócio, a Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (Embrapa) será objeto de estudo. Resultados de avaliação experimental e exploratória são apresentados, demonstrando haver exemplos na busca de agilidade. Espera-se compreender melhor os desafios de repensar os processos de inovação no agronegócio brasileiro.
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En la actualidad, los sistemas alimentarios forman parte de una red mundial de producción, elaboración, distribución y consumo. Varios cambios en los patrones de consumo de alimentos impulsan la mejora continua y el desarrollo del proceso del sistema alimentario y los nuevos modelos del sistema alimentario según la etapa de evolución y el tamaño de las economías, la diversificación de las zonas rurales, la eficiencia de las organizaciones de productores, la orientación a la exportación y el poder de mercado de los diferentes contextos. La población humana prevista de 9000 millones de personas para 2050 ha dado lugar a un debate cada vez más amplio sobre la necesidad de aumentar la productividad de los sistemas agroalimentarios. El objetivo de este trabajo es analizar los principales factores que afectan a las prácticas de colaboración entre actores a nivel institucional del Sistema Agroalimentario de Santander Colombia. La metodología de investigación incluye técnicas de análisis de contenido y cuestionarios escritos estructurados. La unidad de análisis consistió en una muestra de dieciocho actores que representaban a universidades, empresas, entidades públicas enfocadas en temas de ciencia y tecnología del agro y asociaciones de productores. Los hallazgos más destacados muestran las prácticas de colaboración más frecuentes y las principales capacidades de innovación a nivel de sistema. Las principales recomendaciones se centran en promover la gestión de la integración vertical, horizontal y lateral y la colaboración virtual.
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Dates are a traditional and important part of the sustainable arid food system. As their popularity is growing worldwide, along with global climate change, there is an increasing need for a better understanding of the environmental aspects of the date production system. Israel is one of the major sources of the Medjool variety of dates. We use an environmental “footprint family” framework to analyze Medjool date production, and direct and indirect environmental interactions, and identify positive and negative hotspots. The research focuses on the Israeli Arava desert region. We found that producing 1 ton of marketable dates has an average material footprint of 1550 kg, a land footprint of 1 m2, and a water footprint of 2450 m3, which leads to 990 kg of solid waste and a carbon footprint of 4820 kg of CO2eq. The cultivation stage was responsible for most of the footprints, mainly due to the direct and indirect consequences of fertilizer usage and water production and intake. The significant differences between the plantations were traced back to their varying mix of palms’ age and even more to the human factor and the cultivation methods of individual farmers. We suggest that the environmental footprint of dates can be reduced by adopting improved agricultural methods, such as lower-impact fertilizers and renewable energy. This paper is one of the first to embrace a systematic approach to analyzing dates grown in a desert area. These data can bridge the knowledge gap over the unique food system and crop and, therefore, can provide an initial data body for future research, policy-makers, and farmers as means to advance more efficient, less-intensive use of resources while enhancing production in arid areas and support local and global food security.
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Agricultural production involves the scaling of agricultural innovations such as disease-resistant and drought-tolerant maize varieties, zero-tillage techniques, permaculture cultivation practices based on perennial crops and automated milking systems. Scaling agricultural innovations should take into account complex interactions between biophysical, social, economic and institutional factors. Actual methods of scaling are rather empirical and based on the premise of ‘find out what works in one place and do more of the same, in another place’. These methods thus do not sufficiently take into account complex realities beyond the concepts of innovation transfer, dissemination, diffusion and adoption. As a consequence, scaling initiatives often do not produce the desired effect. They may produce undesirable effects in the form of negative spill-overs or unanticipated side effects such as environmental degradation, bad labour conditions of farm workers and loss of control of farming communities over access to genetic resources. Therefore, here, we conceptualise scaling processes as an integral part of a systemic approach to innovation, to anticipate on the possible consequences of scaling efforts. We propose a method that connects the heuristic framework of the multi-level perspective on socio-technical transitions (MLP) to a philosophical ‘modal aspects’ framework, with the objective of elucidating the connectedness between technologies, processes and practices. The resultant framework, the PRactice-Oriented Multi-level perspective on Innovation and Scaling (PROMIS), can inform research and policymakers on the complex dynamics involved in scaling. This is illustrated in relation to three cases in which the framework was applied: scaling agro-ecological practices in Nicaragua, farmer field schools on cocoa cultivation in Cameroon and ‘green rubber’ cultivation in Southwest China.
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Participatory approaches are advocated as being more effective in supporting rural development processes than traditional top-down extension approaches. Participatory experimentation involving both farmers and researchers is often expected to result in processes of experiential learning. Assuming that such learning leads to change in farmers' views and practices, we wanted to identify these changes. For that purpose we applied an analytical framework that included three dimensions (process, outcomes, impact) and functional as well as human–social aspects. We involved farmers in group-based participatory experimentation for four years with minimum external intervention, aiming for maximum control of the experiments by the farmers themselves. In total 16 groups of farmers divided over four locations participated. Data were derived from interviews and observations. In general participants considered their participation worthwhile and mostly valued learning-aspects. Farmers indicated that they acquired new knowledge and became confident with respect to specific agricultural practices such as fertilizer application. They also felt more confident in conducting systematic experimentation. This confidence is supported by our observation that they managed to achieve positive yield responses, over 50% in most cases. Participating farmers responded significantly differently after the four years of experimentation compared to a control group of local farmers. After the four years they would: (1) involve non-family more in their discussions about farm management; (2) address officials more easily to solve neighbourhood problems; and (3) be more specific in their ambitions to learn about agriculture. Participants perceived significantly more (positive) change towards productivity and poverty reduction compared to the control group. In contrast to our initial expectations, all groups continued their involvement in the experiments for four years and indicated the ambition to continue on their own. Of a set of factors that might influence involvement of farmers, only benefits in the form of good responses were overall important. All other factors were highly variable among the groups. We concluded that change was achieved with respect to functional and human–social aspects, which are both essential components of agricultural systems and affect their transformation. In designing processes of participatory experimentation it is, therefore, important to take such non-uniform sets of impact factors into careful consideration. Given the diversity of groups and the context in which they operate, blue-print approaches are not likely to be effective due to insufficient incorporation of local group variability.
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Innovation Platforms (IPs) are seen as a promising vehicle to foster a paradigm shift in agricultural research for development (AR4D). By facilitating interaction, negotiation and collective action between farmers, researchers and other stakeholders, IPs can contribute to more integrated, systemic innovation that is essential for achieving agricultural development impacts. However, successful implementation of IPs requires institutional change within AR4D establishments. The objective of this paper is to reflect on the implementation and institutionalisation of IPs in present AR4D programmes. We use experiences from sub-Saharan Africa to demonstrate how the adoption and adaptation of IPs creates both opportunities and challenges that influence platform performance and impact. Niche-regime theory is used to understand challenges, and anticipate on how to deal with them. A key concern is whether IPs in AR4D challenge or reinforce existing technology-oriented agricultural innovation paradigms. For example, stakeholder representation, facilitation and institutional embedding determine to a large extent whether the IP can strengthen systemic capacity to innovate that can lead to real paradigm change, or are merely 'old wine in new bottles' and a continuation of 'business as usual'. Institutional embedding of IPs and – more broadly – the transition from technology-oriented to system-oriented AR4D approaches requires structural changes in organisational mandates, incentives, procedures and funding, as well as investments in exchange of experiences, learning and capacity development.
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ASIRPA is an original and comprehensive approach for assessing the socio-economic impact of public-sector research organizations through case studies. The cases are theory-based, selected to characterize the diversity of the broader impacts, and standardized so as to allow the scaling-up of the analysis of impact to the level of the organization. ASIRPA is founded on well-tried tools, and the added value of the approach lies in the adaptation and combination of these tools to design a comprehensive approach, which has been tested in a real situation and proven to be robust, credible, and implementable.
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Although frequently discussed in the evaluation literature and general agreement on what a theory of change is conceptually, there is actually little agreement beyond the big picture of just what a theory of change comprises, what does it show, how it can be represented and how it can be used. This article outlines models for theories of change and their development that have proven quite useful for both straightforward and more complex interventions. The models are intuitive, flexible, well-defined in terms of their components and link directly to rigorous models of causality. The models provide a structured framework for developing a theory of change and analysing the intervention it represents
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Within development cooperation, development issues are increasingly recognized as complex problems requiring new paths towards solving them. In addition to the commonly used two dimensions of complex problems (uncertainty and disagreement), we introduce a third dimension: systemic stability; that is, stability provided by rules, relations and complementary technology. This article reflects on how development evaluation methodologies and especially those introducing a complexity perspective address these three dimensions. Inferring that this third dimension deserves more attention, we explore the characteristics of reflexive evaluation approaches that challenge systemic stability and support processes of learning and institutional change. We conclude that reflexive evaluation approaches may well complement current system approaches in development evaluation practice.
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Sustainability standards and certification schemes have been promoted as a market-driven instrument for realising development impacts and receive public funding. As a result, companies, NGOs and supporting donors and governments want to know if these ambitions have been fulfilled. Their tendency is to commission household surveys to assess net effects of certification in areas such as poverty, productivity and food security. This article argues that, rather than trying to measure precise net effects on farmer income, the focus should be on detailed measurement of more immediate outcomes in terms of knowledge and implementation of good agricultural practices. Contribution analysis is proposed as an overall approach to verify the theory of change, combining survey-based net-effect measurement of these immediate and intermediate outcomes with less precise, lean monitoring of indicators to verify the contributory role of these outcomes that are outside the span of direct influence, such as household income and poverty alleviation.
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The article synthesises the experiences of innovation platforms (IPs) that engaged in open-ended experimental action to improve the institutional context for smallholder farm development in West Africa. The IPs sought change at the level of the institutional regime covering an entire agricultural domain (such as cocoa, cotton, oil palm or water management). Their purpose was therefore not to ‘roll out’ farm-level technologies across rural communities. The IPs's outcomes were documented and analysed throughout by means of theory-based process tracing in each of seven of the nine domains in which regime change was attempted. The evidence shows that by means of exploratory scoping and diagnosis, socio-technical and institutional experimentation, and guided facilitation IPs can remove, by-pass, or modify domain-specific institutional constraints and/or create new institutional conditions that allow smallholders to capture opportunity. The article describes the 5-year, €4.5 million research programme in Benin, Ghana and Mali, covering theory, design, methods and results. It is the sequel to Hounkonnou et al. in AGSY 108 (2012): 74–83.