From the 14th till 18th of June, 2015 EUFRAS held its 3rd Meeting in Solothurn, Switzerland within the 54th IALB Conference Efficiency in the Agri-Food Sector: Reality and Appearance in Farming and Advisory Services. The focus of the EUFRAS Meeting relied on strategic approaches. Strategic conduct is important in different settings. In the first part of the meeting, two best practice examples were presented. The second part of the EUFRAS Meeting was dedicated to discussions about EUFRAS strategies.
The meeting was initiated by Tom Kelly, EUFRAS Chairman of the Board who gave warm welcome address to the participants as well as an overview of EUFRAS current situation and actualities and stressed the importance of advisory networks.
Strategic consulting is considered as the supreme discipline in extension. Mark Moore from TEAGASC, Ireland presented a new tool for business strategy formulation with farmers.
With impending changes to the milk quota regime and increased volatility for all commodity prices Teagasc decided to offer training to farmers in the area of business strategy formulation. Initially the approach was to deliver the content using in-house staff but ultimately they decided to partner with the UCD Michael Smurfit Business School. The course delivered was fully accredited at University College Dublin. Through running the course Teagasc learned a lot about farmers’ willingness to pay for high level courses, the value of offering high-level business content to them, and the synergies that can be generated by working closely with new partner organisations such as the Smurfit Business School.
Another context, where a strategic approach is useful, is the extension process itself. Advisors need a strategy for their consulting sessions. With the Trump cards, Leif Raun presented a tool to structure advisory work.
Consultancy must make an impact. If the consultancy does not lead to changes for the better, it is of no use to the farmer and the consultant has wasted his or her time. That is a fact. Still, it is this simple conclusion that forms the basis of Trump Card concept. Because while it may seem obvious, it remains one of consultancy's greatest challenges to ensure that the advisory meetings and interviews produce specific, constructive plans that the farmer can and will implement, and which end up making a valuable difference in the end, i.e. have an impact. Using the Trump cards, you, as a consultant, can make impact on all phases in the consultancy process. Each Trump card places the focus on a tool or technique that can help ensure that the interviews generate concrete proposals that have, both the necessary impact, as well as the farmer's full backing and understanding. Both of these are necessary if the consultancy is going to have the desired impact in the end.
The second part of EUFRAS meeting started with the keynote speech by Prof. Volker Hoffmannn, internationally renowned expert and influential thinker for rural extension.
I recapitulate my proposals from 2003, at IALB-Conference in Oldenburg and from 2004 for the IALB managing board in Landshut. The vision was from IALB to European Network for rural advisors. And from that to the final stage: A Europe-wide professional association for rural advisors with individual and organizational members. Considering the development meanwhile, I come to some modifying comments, concerning the future of EUFRAS, IALB and other regional and national organisations.
The visions for EUFRAS and IALB rural advisory networks presented by Prof. Hoffmann were discussed in a group work following the presentation.
The visions can ideally serve as an impulse for ideas for future EUFRAS strategies, priorities and structures developed in this workshop. Within the one hour time-frame of the workshop, the aim was, that working groups present first ideas, thoughts and proposals to get hints for priority topics and possible further organizational development of EUFRAS. The goup work results were presented by representative from each group and summarized by meeting moderator, EUFRAS Member of the Board Pablo Asensio. Summary of workshop results available here!
A reference to AGRIDEA/IALB Conference website!