The Research Programme "Networks In Livestock Farming" As A Means Of Promoting Innnovation In Agriculture
Since the privatization of the agricultural extension service in the Netherlands and the need for a more market oriented approach, the agricultural innovation system “REE” (from Research through Extension and Education to farmers), no longer seems to provide a suitable response to the complex social changes faced by the agricultural sector. The research programme “Networks in Livestock Farming” can be seen as an experiment aimed at giving a new shape to the interaction between practice, research and policy and thus increasing the self-solving ability of farmers and encouraging innovation in livestock farming in the Netherlands. In 2004, 50 networks of livestock farmers were facilitated by 35 project directors from Wageningen University and Research Center (WUR). This paper describes the experiences and results after six months of “working with net-works”. The authors recommend to clearly identify the aims (with regard to content and/or proc-ess) that form the basis for the research programme. Clear choices and definitions of the aimes of the research programme must have consequences for both the nature of the networks to be supported and the nature of the support to be offered, which affects the selection criteria to be applied.
Keywords: Networks, knowledge generation, sustainable innovations, facilitation.