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Workshop B - Assimilation - integration of ideas

Time to challenge and clarify emergent theories, models and process underpinning practice change/extension with others who are from similar backgrounds. The six workshop groups were; Private Providers, Natural Resource Management, Training and Education, Research, Agriculture and Community Development.

The new understandings/theories about practice change in each sector that are being pointed to:

Education and Training

  • Education & Training should look wider than traditional client base to affect change
  • There is no one way to design and deliver training
  • Being “learner driven” doesn’t always lead to “learner uptake”
  • Build capacity and social capital – help the community identify their educational needs
  • Education and Training has to be driven by community /client needs
  • Be careful of the language and terminology we use
  • Ask what they want - don’t assume
  • Information and delivery needs to be relevant (at every stage)
  • Need to integrate theory and practice in “training”
  • Meet the real needs of farmers and build on their passion (the need to know not the nice to know)
  • Need to link skill development with experiential learning & with institutional efficiency
  • delivery of messages designed for specific audiences
  • More sensitive to people – values, aspirations, needs and understand why
  • Embrace bigger picture. Bigger than competency training – style and mode of engaging needs to build social capital beyond adoption
  • Organisations that employ us are heading dow the path of experimental learning, however, may be missing quality of results. Formal institutions are heading to more formal process. Experiential learning constrained by legal implications
  • Being honest and clear about why engaging.
  • Managerialism and institutional agendas are barriers to experiential learning

Private Providers

  • Involving the private sector can add focus, relevance, accountability, efficiency, a business approach
  • “extension” is not a word that means something in the private sector. It is not inclusive of the people involved
  • Recognise the value of experience, knowledge and IP in the private sector – we need to recognise that value ourselves first and bring it to the attention of funders and other providers
  • Need for private sector to engage with public and other sectors to get seamless access – to R&D, to ensure consistent technical information
  • Big opportunity to value and recognise private providers as contributors/partners in practice change
  • Any private sector forum should include wider information on trends/changes/future landscapes for our work
  • Policy makers listening to people on the ground (public and private)
  • All in the team (tent) private and public
  • Dollar model does not work in all sectors, particularly NRM
  • PC is all encompassing (not just agriculture/NRM)
  • Align funding in the new environment of practice of PC
  • Accountability/transparency regarding all processes in PC
  • Mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual outcomes – public – private
  • Foster a profitable private sector with expertise to deliver outcomes, policy, practice change and information transfer
  • Fee – for service is vital for accountability in public and private sector
  • The private sector is a significant component of the practice change delivery system and has a crucial and increasing role to play in practice change
  • An inclusive (private/public) operational model based on shared values and alignment of purpose, for delivering practice change will be more efficient and effective
  • Practice change occurs most effectively when done in the context of a ‘whole of system’ (including social) view
  • Policy making needs to be informed by those working on the ground

Natural Resource Management (NRM)

  • Switch from production to NRM focus in extension
  • Addressing the social in the triple bottom line
  • Trend to greater recognition of social aspects
  • Huge need for people skills (including leadership)
  • Relevance to landholders and decision makers
  • New relationships between policy and practice change and research and development
  • Totally of human needs requires to be understood/addressed
  • Sustainability and NRM require whole community partnership
  • Beyond farm for whole catchment and landscape
  • Reporting requirements but much of what we need to achieve is very hard to measure
  • Government expectations for ‘user pays’
  • Taking responsibility for project leadership
  • New ways of capturing and unleashing experience of practitioners
  • Needs of the ecosystem to function – higher priority
  • Power and conflict in multi-stakeholder processes
  • Not everyone is a ‘winner’ (compromise) – cannot always achieve consensus
  • Need for pre- planning and time factoring
  • Change is also about identity predisposition and change moments (and it is not rational)


  • Starting with end users in mind – at the macro and at the –micro level.
  • Inspire learning in institutional arrangements (and individuals)
  • APEN & RDCs lobby Minister for Education (through Susan Ley) to increase role of ‘impact’ in the RQF


  • Create a structure for professional development for extension – collaborative, co-learning, social context, career path
  • We need to balance our technical skills with our ‘psychology’ or people management skills to understand the social context that the practice change needs to occur in.
  • Honest appraisal of the market for change and trigger points, with continuous improvement
  • Desire to capacity (means to) to change to ability (know how)
  • Where the empowerment/community capacity building model is important – need to quantify the impact of that
  • To achieve practice change, investors will incorporate extension in R&D projects and practitioners will consider the social context in which their target audience operates

Community Development

  • Developing institutional structures to sustain participatory approaches. Need to ensure flexibility. Need – more balance between populace and decision makers. Need interdependence between community and government
  • Greater emphasis on BEING not just doing which looks like transformational (invisible, experiential) learning based on trust and respect. To get here requires first listening to, understand and knowing the process is as important as the outcomes
  • What new understanding about practice change in community development sector do these messages point to? Altruism (for the greater good), self interest can be divisive and multi pronged, not everyone has to be altruistic – need some degree of altruism for success, culturally appropriate development
  • Identify entry point to a community sector – preparation, trust, respect indigenous/local knowledge - legitimacy, what value offered, response to the community identified – ‘soft’ intervention first, interactive process, opportunity for on-going development and learning and reviewing and expanding (interventions which create learning, not destabilisation)
  • Spread the knowledge (mentoring), community to have ownership of project, where has the need come from, altruism (for the greater good)

Some key new understandings/theories about practice change in each sector that are being pointed to from across Workshop B

  • Enabling resilience – capacity to withstand disruptions
  • Diversity – nothing is homogenous – everyone has a different context
  • Importance of understanding the social science behind people when solving complex problems
  • Realistic courage (wish list trend)
  • Understanding between researchers and extension
  • Farmers are becoming increasingly socially isolated due to depopulation of rural areas
  • Most of society is disconnected from agriculture: consumers have a lot of power to change this by their choices
  • Ethics of social science in moving from areas on consensual solutions to areas of wicked problems
  • Power moving around – not being willingly relinquished – or new information forcing change – linked to ethics
  • Adaptive management
  • Efficient, effective fair tendering process
  • Accountability in the public sector
  • Understand what is influencing and shaping producer, industries, rural communities and service providers
  • Shift from extension being seen as an agricultural towards NRM/ornamental/community development – in line with government trends
  • How does extension services cater for ‘C’ clients?
  • Process and allocation of resources to private sector for capacity building – disadvantage private sector
  • Paradigm shift in practice of practice change not reflected in the business of practice
  • Increasing the role of the private sector in extension delivery. Private providers have a more holistic understanding of farming business
  • How can we line up behind primary/community needs (anyone involved in change?)
  • Developing effective private/public partnerships
  • Need for intent of APEN to include/capture better balance of private/public and rural community sectors
  • Developing a genuinely cooperative relationship between the sectors. Consultants, agribusiness, public sector. Institutional barriers that restrict involvement of private sector. Money and who holds the power to involve people
  • Make the private/public interface work
  • Concentrate on where people are at rather than where we want them to be
  • Keeping up with the technology trends and theory - attending training, value of learning in private – higher cost to be involved in these events
  • Develop policy with understanding of rural and regional Australasia and of interface between private and public sector providers
  • Public sector – passion, flexibility, drive, future orientated
  • Funding changes ie Telstra Sale 1. When is next change (catch the wave/adapt/prepare)
  • Different types of participation can have very different outcomes – consultative, part decision making, partnership planning and action
  • Challenge of what we say to Susan Ley about extension policy and resources
  • Developing institutional structures to sustain participatory approaches need to ensure FLEXIBILITY so that remote aboriginal communities, local farmer networks can be sustained. Short term contracts are a draw
  • Contextualising the community development – different tools suit different community types – understand and learn about your community before you jump into work – sustain practice
  • Community development facilitation – timing of ‘stepping out’ of the drivers seat or – when to butt out

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