Innovating in context: social learning and agricultural innovation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Recognition of the complexity of challenges rooted in human-environment interactions has led to increased interest in methods that enable diverse stakeholders, from within and beyond the scientific establishment, to work together. Increasingly, agricultural innovation is understood in these terms, with calls for group learning processes that bring science and engineering stakeholders into contact with farmers and farmer knowledge. This perspective relates closely to social learning (SL) as a theory and approach in which cycles of knowledge sharing and joint action lead to the co-creation of knowledge, new or changed relationships, and changes in practice. While SL theory has been widely considered in literature concerned with natural resource management, the body of papers that link SL and agricultural innovation is surprisingly sparse. The papers included in the literature search presented here, identify a number of potential drivers and barriers to agricultural innovation emerging from SL processes. In particular, we identify the significance of: issue framing and agreement between actors about the role of the innovation; skills and capacity to do with learning as well as the use of the technologies; compatibility between existing practices and innovations; trust in innovations and other actors; and the facilitation of the process. Our paper shows there is a fundamental significance of SL to agricultural innovation, which can be operationalized by framing agricultural innovation as changes in understanding, practices and relationships. The use of SL as a design framework supports the emergence of agricultural innovations that bring equitable benefits, are sustainable and are innovated in context.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication13th European IFSA Symposium: Farming systems: facing uncertainties and enhancing opportunities
Subtitle of host publicationTheme 1 – Learning and knowledge systems, education, extension and advisory services
PublisherInternational Farming Systems Association
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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