- What is participatory research? Who actually participates in what, and how?
- Is it only happening in individual countries, in certain projects? If so, how can it be scaled up?
- What kind of change is needed to make research processes participatory? Is it about attitudes, governance structures, policies, funding channels?
- What kind of partners and partnerships are essential?
These were some of the questions participants came to grapple with during the two-day workshop, The Partners were there to develop a strategy, a design for a Collective Action.
The goal of all approaches to making research more participatory is to end up with fewer publications collecting dust on the shelves, and more farmers benefitting from the knowledge this research has to offer. More technologies effectively made available and usable by farmers. Importantly, though, it’s also about finding ways to integrate farmers’ own traditional knowledge and techniques with the findings of research institutions in the best possible way. It’s about empowering smallholder family farmers to innovate in agriculture themselves, rather than to just be occasional recipients in a research pipeline.
Three key features as pillars of the Collective Action:
- Feature 1: Sustaining innovative research in favor of smallholder family farmer should have a dual participatory dimension, both at the level of the specific activities that support this type of research, grounded at local and country experience, and among the actors themselves, to constitute the initial working nucleus of GFAR partners designing the Collective Action. This nucleus will perform its own self-analysis to identify the room and potential for improvement of respective roles and contributions. This Working Group will be comprised of representatives from the Partners in GFAR participating in the Collective Action who have made commitments to drive it forward.
- Feature 2: Existing cases where institutional and operational innovations in governance of research with/of family farmers are taking place will be put at the center of the activities. The Working Group will build on experiences of the Partners themselves in order to address the challenges to making research processes truly participatory: the way their decision-making processes work – or don’t work – in favor of smallholder family farms within their organizations and in partnership with others.
- Feature 3: Throughout the elaboration of the Concept Note design, partnership quality assessment criteria inspired by what was discussed at the workshop will be applied to monitor the process of partnership building and ensure it is coherent with the values of participatory research.