Facilitating practice-led innovation

Practice-led innovation supported by science and market-driven actors in the laying hen and other livestock sectors

HORIZON 2020 ISIB-02-2014 project, Grant no. 652638

Facilitating pratice-led innovation 

In much conventional agricultural extension and knowledge transfer, the role of intermediaries, or facilitators has been to transfer knowledge to farmers. The implementation of changes in practice have often been developed and decided away from the farm context. With an increasing recognition that such approaches to knowledge transfer do not always work in practice, there has been a turn towards more participatory approaches. The role of the facilitator is to promote and help knowledge creation within a system that values different sources of knowledge and expertise, both practical and scientific.

The differences between facilitating predefined change and facilitating practice-led innovation can be summarised as:

• Facilitating the known vs the unknown (i.e. an uncertain process and outcome)

• A structured pre-planned route vs flexibility

• Facilitator led vs facilitator guided, enabling a process but not taking control of the process.

The role of the facilitator is one of nurturing the group to find their own most relevant goals, and working to generate the changes needed to meet these goals through a process that is led by the practitioners. The facilitator is not a manger but an enabler. This is a flexible role and one that can vary greatly depending upon the group, the context, and the topic.

Practice-led innovation offers the potential to create contextually relevant change in the laying hen sector. This can improve productivity and hen welfare, increase the capacity of producers to resolve future problems, gain knowledge, and expand their networks. The role of the practice-led facilitator is diverse, but should be structured with a process through which the network progresses in working towards the generation of innovation. Typically the facilitator’s role will involve brokering links and mobilising resources, acting as a motivator and enabler in the innovation process, and providing organisational and structural support.

Guidelines to assist facilitators of practice -led innovation networks, with particular emphasis on livestock farming have been developed and are aviailable here. These guidelines build on the lessons learned from the multi-actor practice-led innovation networks formed during the Hennovation project, which sought innovative solutions to injurious pecking and issues at End-of-Lay.

Facilitators of practice led innovation in the laying hen sector should view these guidelines as a starting point which can be revisited in order to focus on the basic structures, processes and needs. However, ongoing reflection and systems for peer support are crucial in order to successfully facilitate practice led innovation.