Major considerations and interpretations upon which this project is based include:
Attention to innovation systems and their dynamics
We will use an “Innovation Systems” (IS) perspective as a key component of our analytical framework for understanding and assessing multistakeholder innovation at various scales, with a particular emphasis on innovation processes
; indeed, the term “innovation” is used throughout to refer primarily to the process
of developing “new things and ways that work”.
We will encompass the diversity of stakeholders within agricultural/rural innovation systems, including actors in ARD, the private sector, local (grassroots) institutions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), policymakers at various levels, and innovative individuals and groups. We will not assume, however, that all necessary and legitimate actors are involved in any specific innovation system, nor that satisfactory, formal interaction and coordination among them (i.e. through partnerships and other mechanisms) is actually in place.
We will consider the dynamics of innovation systems and processes over time. This requires assessing, wherever possible, their multiple outcomes and impacts. Also, innovation will be considered as an emergent property of both supervised and unsupervised learning and interaction among stakeholders under specific conditions.
Broad interpretation of the multiple dimensions of traditional knowledge
We will focus on the local knowledge held by farmers (both men and women) and other rural actors. Local knowledge refers to both their capacities and activities and builds strongly on traditional knowledge. It is firmly rooted in people’s identities and culture and in the relationships they have developed with their natural and social environment over time.
Yet this knowledge is not static. Hence, we will take into account the dynamics of knowledge generation, to reflect its multiple transformations and recombinations in the course of innovation processes. We will analyse how each stakeholder involved in such processes mobilises and transforms his/her knowledge base.
Interest in the diversity of innovation types and contexts
We will consider the diverse environments under which innovation processes take place, its underlying drivers, carriers and the multiple forms of interaction among stakeholders, its multiple dimensions (technological, organisational, institutional, incremental and systemic), its territorial scales (from local to national) and timeframes (from short-term to long-term processes) and domains (natural resource management/NRM, agricultural production, processing, marketing etc).
We will look at agricultural/rural innovation from various scientific/disciplinary perspectives (agronomic, economic, and socio-anthropological) as well as from the viewpoints of the various local stakeholders in their diversity, especially with respect to wealth and gender and their access to information or other resources.
We will look at innovation within different institutional frameworks and contexts (enabling and otherwise). Comparisons of experiences within and between countries will be the key to exploring the influence of such contexts on agricultural/rural innovation systems and processes.
Thrust to strengthen existing initiatives and networks
Many relevant initiatives are ongoing, and several networks have been created in the past years to deal with innovation. Our objective is therefore be to link with them and support and strengthen them, rather than creating new networks, which might “over–crowd” the innovation scene. This will facilitate longer-term appropriation and sustainability of the project’s key outcomes and recommendations.
Pragmatic participatory approach to project conception and implementation
We want to ensure consistency between what we claim to assess and learn, and how we do this. We also want to ensure that diverse stakeholders can effectively contribute to the project. This requires that we remain pragmatic and that no stakeholder imposes his/her concepts and approaches on others, even though it will be necessary to provide a sound, unifying conceptual foundation across project activities.