The ESEE brought together people involved across Europe and beyond (even from Australia) to explore the changing face of extension, education and rural development and what we are learning about the best approaches. My contribution was a paper (with Neels Botha from NZ) looking at how to build evaluation into multi-stakeholder/collaborative program delivery. It was interesting to hear how ‘co-innovation’ and ‘innovation systems’ thinking was impacting on rural development policies across Europe.
The other conference was the International Australasian Pacific Extension Network (APEN) conference in Townsville. I was convener of an international extension conference in about 1992 at the Gold Coast which also triggered the establishment of APEN. Now seeing the interest, professionalism and commitment of those at the conference reflects the value and success of this network. I was part a workshop that explored the need for a special ‘Reef Extension Network’ for those working in regions impacting on the Great Barrier Reef. This is complex situation that calls for strong technical and extension skills and support from peers. There was a lot of interest and now steps are in place to put something in place.
Other initiatives have also been triggered from the review. This includes appointing a cross-reef region coordinator to maximise collaborative strategic effort, training in extension and increased interest in facilitating ‘peer-peer’ learning. We have long known in extension the value of providing structured opportunities for producers to come together, plan and learn from each other – rather than being seen as recipients of expert ‘teaching’. Now is an opportunity to build this more strongly in the mix.
I also had the opportunity to participate in two national forums in Wellington, New Zealand. These were the final national workshop of the NZ Primary Innovation program (Co-Innovation) where the results of the 5 year project were presented and discussed with a national audience and also a national forum on ‘adaptive governance’ as part of the Scion ‘Weaving the Korawai’ project in which we are involved. Both co-innovation and adaptive governance have a lot in common.
Next on the agenda is a visit back to Chile to test my Spanish in the delivery of another set of workshops around extension delivery. And of course to take the opportunity for fly-fishing in one of those perfect rivers that flow from the Andes to the coast!