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What is this blog?

October 2, 2009

This is the blog of a scientific seminar, “19th ESEE -European Seminar on Extension Education”, held in Italy in September 2009. The official website for 19th ESEE gives more background.  The blog gives a glimpse of the richness of our work and conversations in Assisi, using text, notes, photos and video. This blog is dormant now, it may be revived by the time of the 20th ESEE, to be organised in 2011 in Finland.  Until then the scientific journal JAEE is a good place to look for more information about Agricultural Education and Extension.

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санкт-петербург – parte 2

May 10, 2015

TwO Travel

Não é por acaso que São Petersburgo é majestosa. Foi, na realidade, a partir de 1712 a capital do Império Russo. Mandada edificar por Pedro, O Grande, nas margens do rio Neva, em 1703, a cidade cresceu pelas mãos de milhares de camponeses russos, prisioneiros de guerra e servos.

P1050909

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The 19th ESEE in Perugia…

October 7, 2009

The 19th ESEE was:

  • Productive: Over 70 papers, (a pdf with all the papers can be downloaded from the official site)
  • Well attended and diverse: with  more than 100 participants from almost 40  countries
  • Hosted in an excellent way by the Faculty of Agriculture of Perugia -DSEEA- and by the Istituto Nazionale di Economia Agraria -INEA- in Assisi, Perugia, Italy,
  • Located in a beautiful rural area with exceptional cultural heritage.

For those who like brevity, below is an attempt to capture the  ‘gist’ of the rich mix of 3 days and all the many extension experts. It  is based on this summary of WG2 by Artur Cristovão , the  results of the other two groups were woven in  -while keeping it  as short as possible.

“Extending…”

In many economically developed countries, as well as in many developing countries, two opposing trands can be observed. On one side, the industrialization of the food systems makes the farmers passive receivers of orders coming from the processing firms or by the organized chains of retailers. In such cases, advisors transmit “innovation packages and knowledge” which have been elaborated elsewhere. It is the “top down approach”, the “agricultural treadmill” which has been described in many situations, with negative impacts on the environment, on the society, and on the global economy in the long run. In other cases, the society is moving from an industrial model with vertical hierarchical structures towards a networked society with increasingly horizontal organizational structures. Implications for agriculture, rural areas, extension and extension education are far-reaching. There is growing importance of: sustainable agriculture and sustainable food systems, markets (new demands, direct marketing, collective action, chain management, vertical integration, …), better rural-urban relationships and dynamics, more attention to environment and natural resources, better entrepreneurship education, more personal and social skills (social capital building, empowerment, networking, …), health and safety.

The aim or ‘end‘ to which extension should contribute is shifting along this continuum: production increase, compentency development, empowerment, networking, advocacy, innovation, sustainability. Audiences for extension in this second scenario are no longer defined target groups but may be wide and fluid collections of individuals.  The role of the agent moves from technology transfer to learning facilitator, innovation broker, holistic resource manager, knowledge manager.  The profession is changing and it seems that the identity of agronomists and extension agents in general tends to be weaker. The context of extension work, global, national or more specific, tends to be more and more competitive, uncertain and risky.
The ‘networked society’ is complex and (seemingly?) lacks central governance. The present institutional arrangements for extension do not match the new dispersed form of learning. Who defines and manages the extension agenda? The papers illustrated situations of flexible and inclusive systems, open for participation and negotiation, as well as others more closed or centralized, in which agenda setting is basically a top-down exercise. “We” need to realize that networking is needed, there are allies among policy makers, private parties, ngo’s and international organizations. We need a marriage between extension and agricultural innovation systems, which is very theoretical still and this is where the money will be going.

Methods, media and tools are rapidly expanding. ICT and e-learning are still in full development and only beginning to be integrated in our methods, including the use of mobile devices. Internet web2.0 brings social media, which again is an entirely new generation with its own dynamics. The new tools mean an ever increasing number of sources of information for farmers and rural populations. It also drives the trend towards peer learning. Media fragmentation and divides running through audiences, including the digital divide, make it harder to bring a message across.

Content quality was also an important question of debate. With increasing number of information sources there are diverse value systems shaping and evaluating extension content, and that there are belief, acceptance and relevance issues involved. Content negotiation and education (helping to interpret, combine and recombine information and build knowledge) are critical aspects.

These points pose implications for extension agents’ training; moving from a strict technological profile; addressing epistemological and ontological questions; promoting an holistic view. Universities have a critical role and should also provide lifelong learning opportunities to new and older extension workers.a new attention to ethical questions (for which development are they striving for? What is the appropriate content? Is neutrality possible or desirable?); acquisition of new skills, including those related to personal and social development (reflexivity and critical thinking, systems thinking, entrepreneurial thinking), and the capacity to cross boundaries and to see the world (including farmers and farming) in a different way.

How to prove extension matters? Many papers have provided quantitative assessement of the role of advisors, but the above trends open a need for M&E methods that are more qualitative and narrative.

Theories supporting the field of extension: there is difficulty to claim a scientific territory. Social learning theories from different fields, complexity theory, and pluralism are some of the underlying theories. Extension science is a collection of many other disciplines and is an evolving scholarly assessment of impacts of systems, approaches, and methods.

Finally, but very important, the issue of extension funding was also debated: Who should pay for what content? What is of public and private interest? For instance, should direct marketing of agricultural and agri-food products be addressed by public extension services? The positions were diverse, suggesting that this is a matter for research and debate in future seminars.

WG 2 – An attempt to conclude …

September 25, 2009

1. There were 16 paper presentations in group 2, representing research work on extension issues developed in about 20 countries.
2. Most papers addressed content related matters, as well as other questions concerning agricultural and rural development policies and/or extension methods and approaches. In general, we can say that it was impossible to separate the content aspects of extension work, from the context, policies, processes and other connected dimensions.
3. The context of extension work, global, national or more specific, deserved a particular attention. It was stressed that it tends to be more and more competitive, uncertain and risky. It was quite clear that the situations addressed in the papers are quite diverse, and that there are new challenges for agriculture and rural development in general and extension in particular, including the climatic changes and the rising hunger and poverty.
4. A first and immediate question when debating the content of extension work had to do with the definition of the agenda, that is: Who defines and manages the extension agenda? Who should define it? Who establishes what is the content of extension work? These questions are obviously related to the question of system governance and functioning, as well as with power issues. The papers illustrated situations of flexible and inclusive systems, open for participation and negotiation, as well as others more closed or centralized, in which agenda setting is basically a top-down exercise.
5. There are several emergent content issues in the global extension agenda. In the case of farming and rural development in general, the papers suggest the growing importance of sustainable agriculture and sustainable food systems, markets (new demands, direct marketing, collective action, chain management, vertical integration, …), rural-urban relationships and dynamics, environment and natural resources, entrepreneurship education, personal and social skills (social capital building, empowerment, networking, …), health and safety.
6. In the case of extension agents’ training, several challenges were identified, namely: changing roles (from technology transfer to learning facilitator, innovation broker, holistic resource manager, knowledge manager, …); changing focus (from production to resource management, from individuals to territories, from farmers to rural entrepreneurs, …); a new attention to ethical questions (for which development are they striving for? What is the appropriate content? Is neutrality possible or desirable?); acquisition of new skills, including those related to personal and social development (reflexivity and critical thinking, systems thinking, entrepreneurial thinking), and the capacity to cross boundaries and to see the world (including farmers and farming) in a different way.
7. Still in relation to extension agents, the questions of professional identity were raised and subject of discussion. The profession is changing and it seems that the identity of agronomists and extension agents in general tends to be weaker. The identity issue, together with the challenges identified in the previous point, pose many implications for education and training: moving from a strict technological profile; addressing epistemological and ontological questions; promoting an holistic view. Universities have a critical role and should also provide lifelong learning opportunities to new and older extension workers.
8. Content quality was also an important question of debate. In fact, it is clear that the number of information and knowledge sources is expanding, that there are diverse value systems shaping and evaluating extension content, and that there are belief, acceptance and relevance issues involved. Content negotiation and education (helping to interpret, combine and recombine information and build knowledge) are critical aspects.
9. Finally, but very important, the issue of extension funding was also debate: Who should pay for what content? What is of public and private interest? For instance, should direct marketing of agricultural and agri-food products be addressed by public extension services? The positions were diverse, suggesting that this is a matter for research and debate in future seminars.

Artur Cristóvão, with the support of Ian Houseman and Jenny Hockert and the contribution of all participants

Back to work …

September 23, 2009

Hello dear ESEE people!! We are all back to work, here and there, from Italy and Sweden to Iran, Korea or the USA, …! I wish you had a nice trip back to your countries and places.
The ESEE can be a process and we can continue the interactions using this nice tool. Soon I will send you a brief document containing the major conclusions of Work Group 2, on the content of advisory work. Meanwhile, I invite you to read the papers presented in the Seminar. You can also refer them to your students and colleagues.
I have to say that the Portuguese team enjoyed very much the Seminar in Assisi. Thanks to all the efforts of Fabio and team! We had a nice but long trip back to Vila Rea. Tim and Alberto took some time in Rome to visit the Vatican, but did not see the Pope.
Please be in touch! I will be back to the blog one of these days!!
Regards to all!

Final plenary session

September 18, 2009

WG3 summary_1In the afternoon we had 1,5 hour to come up with a final statement of our working group 3. Our facilitator Eelke came forward with 6 main themes. We filled one flip chart for each of the six main themes. There was no time to go deeply into issues, but we sat in our U-shape of tables and someone said something, which gave someone else a good idea, who said something else. Popping up like pop corn style we contributed to Eelke’s writing on the charts. When the pace slowed we took a few minutes to look at what we had and see if we liked it and if we had to add to it.

In the plenary the Working Groups reported to each other. Bill Rivera’s Working Group 1 shared a written summary. Artur Cristovão actually managed to present a powerpoint presentation, and our flipcharts had been photographed and presented.

It was remarkable how many of the themes came back in all three groups.

The role of the extensionist evolving from trainer, advisor, mentor to knowledge broker, network facilitator…
The expansion from agriculture to rural development..
The impact that new tools have and the digital divide they explicitate. The need to find allies, to include and influence policy makers and to network.

The need for good M&E methods, and possibly adding more narrative/qualitative ones to the range.

Here you will find the results of each Working Group.
Work Group 1 – Content Isuues doc
Work Group 2 – Content Issues
Working Group 3

Eelke Wielinga: our field is growing and more exciting than ever

September 18, 2009

In this post of a few weeks ago, I asked Eelke Wielinga what he wanted to achieve during this seminar. He said: I hope we can leave enthusiastic and with a feeling of having learned something. Today, shortly after the end of the official part of the 19th ESEE, I asked him if he feels satisfied. This is his answer in the video.

In the video Eelke refers to the fact that although we may not have a good name for “the-field-formerly-known-as-Extension”, the field is growing and more alive and more needed than ever. Suggestions for the names are still welcome here.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=2640216&dest=-1]