Global Good Practices in Rural Advisory Services
14 to 17 September 2015 in Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan
The 6th GFRAS Annual Meeting took place from 14 to 17 September 2015, with side events on 14 and 18 September. Organised around the topic of Global Good Practices, this year’s annual meeting challenged participants to reflect on the process of generating, documenting, sharing, testing, and adapting knowledge and good practices.
130 participants of 54 countries and 12 regional networks argued that sharing, discussing, using, and adapting good practices are part of a wider and complex learning process in RAS. They discussed that learning happens at different moments, can be implicit or explicit, and is a complex and continuous cycle, involving many actors at different stages within agricultural innovation systems and beyond. Thinking about the potential benefits of sharing good practices, participants agreed that a good practice must be end-user oriented, demand-driven, and include best-fit considerations. While it is important to note that there is no ‘bad practice’ as long as we learn from it, for good practices to be really useful and beneficial for the end-users, we need to strategically decide what, when, and how we share our experiences.
As success and failure of RAS approaches, tools, and methods highly depend on the context, we must include considerations of best-fit into our good practices and document them as well.What are contextual factors (such as the political, economic, socio-cultural environment) and the general characteristics of RAS in the specific geographical entity that influence the success of a good practice? In which contexts do we have to expect challenges in implementing it?
But the participants also addressed the end-users and clientele of good practices, who bear a responsibility and play an important part in the learning cycle too. They are advised to be open, flexible, and innovative to see and use good practices not as one-size-fits-all solutions, but rather as input and inspiration, to be used, re-shaped and recombined to fit in their local context. Without feedback on good practices by end users an improvement of the best-fit considerations and the practice itself is not possible.
Participants recognised the crucial brokering role that RAS, and regional RAS networks and country fora, play in this learning cycle within the AIS. However, in order to be fully able to do so they need strengthened skills and capacities, an enhanced exchange with the clientele, especially with producers and producer organisations, use new tools and means, especially those provided by ICTs, and support inclusive RAS environments that include all actors from all gender and age.
Concretely, participants recommended the following to enhance efficient learning in RAS:
- Promote the idea of learning as a dynamic and circular process that includes many different actors of the agricultural innovation system who share, discuss, test, and adapt experiences and knowledge.
- Define good practices as demand-driven and end-user oriented, which include honest and tangible information and incorporate best-fit considerations within the wider RAS contexts. They should challenge stakeholders to reflect on their own practices.
- Recognise and assume each and every stakeholder’s responsibility to act as a catalyst in the agricultural innovation system (AIS) to ensure that good practices are shared, tested, used, and refined in the field.
- Develop individual capacities of RAS providers that go beyond technical skills and enhance career development in RAS to ensure a sustainable, well facilitated, and effective process of experience and knowledge exchange within the AIS.
- Enhance capacities of RAS networks, fora, and champions to allow for them to fully use their potential as knowledge and experience brokers within the AIS.
- Promote community-based approaches and enhance synergies with producers and their organisations, as they are the ones providing the ultimate reality check and feedback regarding workability, sustainability, effectiveness, efficiency, and inclusiveness of any good practice or approach.
- Prominently include all relevant actors of the AIS, especially women and youth, in learning cycles and create spaces for open and honest dialogues amongst the different stakeholders.
- Use and promote ICTs as prominent tools to disseminate, share, and discuss experiences and good practices to reach a wide audience, especially end-users.
- Advocate and work towards an enabling policy environment for RAS that allows for testing, using, and adapting new approaches and experiences.