Multi-actor networks and innovation niches: university training for local Agroecological Dynamization

  • Daniel López-García
  • Laura Calvet-Mir
  • Marina Di Masso
  • Josep Espluga
Article

Abstract

The global environmental and social-economic crises of industrialized agriculture have led to the emergence of agroecology as an alternative approach aiming to increase the ecological, social and economic sustainability of agri–food systems. The ‘multi-level perspective’ is now a widely used framework to understand and promote the upscaling of local innovation niches, such as agroecology, to broader scales (e.g., regional, national, international), thus reconfiguring the dominant socio-technical regimes. Additionally, emergent ‘hybrid forums’ can provide a space between niche and regime where niche innovators can become important actors in scaling up and out emergent innovations. In this paper, we examine a university training program (Postgraduate Diploma in Local Agroecological Dynamization at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), to better understand its role as a ‘hybrid forum’. Our analysis focuses especially on how the program, as an example of a hybrid forum, worked to reconfigure practices, concepts, and tools of local development practitioners. We also assess to what extent the program contributed to transitioning local development institutions toward agroecology. An online survey (n = 46) and in-depth interviews (n = 16) were carried out to determine how the training program has impacted the student’s opinions and their respective institutions. The results show that most of the students consider that they have acquired new theoretical frameworks and useful methods to re-framing their local development projects, that new alliances with multi-actor networks have been perceived, and that some internal changes of the local development practices have taken place. We conclude that the training program, as a hybrid forum, is capable of outscaling niche innovations through linkages with different kind of actors both from the niche and the regime. Political changes in the socio-technical landscape level offer an opportunity to amplify the impact of the innovations which are being generated by those multi-actor networks, but with a limited multi-level impact as far as institutional regime-actors not aligned with agroecological transition keep the most of the competencies on agri–food systems.

Keywords

Agroecology Agroecological transitions Hybrid actors Hybrid forums Multi-level perspective Grassroots innovation and social innovation 

Abbreviations

LAeD

Local Agroecological Dynamization

MLP

Multi-level perspective

NGO

Non-governmental organization

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Ariadna Pomar-León and Guillem Tendero-Acín, as co-coordinators of the Training Program of Local Agroecological Dynamization, for their unvaluable cooperation for the present paper and in the training program itself. We would also like to thank all interviewees and respondants of the survey for their cooperation with the present research and their daily effort for agroecological transitions in Catalonia and Spain. Lastly, we would like to thank the special issue editors and the anonymous reviewers for their patient and invaluable comments, which really strengthened and enriched the paper.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fundación EntretantosValladolidSpain
  2. 2.Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3)Universitat Oberta de CatalunyaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia AmbientalUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  4. 4.Agroecology and Alternative Food Systems ChairUniversitat de Vic-Universitat Central de CatalunyaCataloniaSpain
  5. 5.Facultat de CCPP i Sociologia, Institut de Govern i Polítiques PúbliquesUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaCataloniaSpain

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