How scientists learn from stakeholders: research beyond ivory towers

To promote effective stakeholder dialogue, SolACE will hold three stakeholder events, the first of which already took place in 2017. These events will be used to facilitate two-way information exchange between stakeholders and representatives of conventional and organic farming.

Participants at the first SolACE stakeholder event in Montpellier, France. Photo: Simon Bull, LEAF, 2017.

SoLACE is a multi-actor project, an approach which recognises that there are complementary types of knowledge that can be combined with the aim to produce impact. It is more than a strong dissemination requirement or a broad stakeholders' board and requires two-way discussion throughout the project. This means that there are roles for the different actors in the work plan, from participating in planning work and experiments, as well as their execution up until the dissemination of results and the possible demonstration phase. These concepts apply equally to the researchers and we will be assessing the scope and nature of their interactions with stakeholders in order to assess their impact on the progress of the research.

Within the concept of a multi-actor approach it is worth noting that actors are not the same as stakeholders. An actor is a partner taking part in project activities, contributing to outcomes over the course of the project. A stakeholder is a person expressing a view/stake at a certain moment(s) during the project.

The stakeholder event brings project partners, external speakers, the stakeholder forum and other stakeholders together to discuss the project progress and outcomes, dissemination and technology transfer tools. The first stakeholder event took place in Montpellier, France in June, 2017. It set the scene for the project and explained the different workpackages and the role of multi-actors and stakeholders in the project. As such a series of questions for each workpackage were assessed:

  • What potential combinations of water and nutrient stress concern you the most (e.g., prolonged drought, extreme events)?
  • Which plant traits and characteristics help to improve the efficiency of water and nutrient use?
  • Which management tools do you currently use, or are aware of, to improve the efficiency of on-farm water and nutrient use?
  • What are the breeding strategies helping to respond to shortages in water and nutrients?
  • How can farmers and researchers collaborate to design and test new breeding and management strategies that can be applied across Europe? And where do we need to apply site-specific solutions?

The proceedings from the first stakeholder event are available here. Subsequent meetings will reflect the interests of the stakeholders from the host country. The second event is to be held in Foggia, Italy, in parallel to the Durum Days conference. As such the focus will be on the needs and views of the pasta supply chain and how SoLACE can provide positive impacts.