Landscapes - People - Global change

Category: Agriculture (Page 1 of 29)

Partnerships and defining success with the Atlantic Living Labs

Guest post by Dr. Brooke McWherter

Dr. Brooke McWherter presenting at the Newfoundland Living Lab in Corner Brook, NL.

Across the country right now farmers, farmer organizations, federal and university scientists, industry partners and more are working together to identify and test innovative agricultural practices on working farms to support sustainable production on farms. Called Living Labs (LL), these innovation hubs aim to bring together many of the diverse stakeholders in the agricultural food system to identify, develop and test innovative practices that aim to promote adoption and support Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.

However collaboration of this scale is never easy and strategic planning can support diverse collaborative networks in identifying connections and create opportunities for finding commonalities among the diverse projects everyone is engaging in. This is where I fit in. As a natural resource social scientist, one of my passions is understanding collaborations and supporting collaborative efforts.

New Brunswick Workshop participants discussed their perceived roles and responsibilities.

My first workshop with the living labs occurred during the New Brunswick Living Lab (NB-LL) Annual Update and Planning workshop where I discussed my research on barriers to adoption and monitoring progress. Working with NB-LL partners we discussed the importance of setting clear roles and expectations and I led participants through a 1-hour workshop developing logic models for each commodity group within the LL. Logic models are useful tools because they allow for partners and organizations to clearly demonstrate their logic for how their activities will lead to specific goals and outcomes of the program. They can also be used for follow-up monitoring and evaluation.

Following this workshop, I met several other Atlantic LL leads who were present, and I was invited to Newfoundland to conduct a 7-hour two-day workshop with all of their partners. Together we first did a partnership mapping exercise which mapped out the different partners and their connections to other groups and then we completed an extended logic model that not only looked at planned activities but also their status which were then compared to current tracking documents.

As a facilitator both of these workshops really highlighted the complexity of running a living lab and what it means to co-produce knowledge. We often say we want more stakeholders involved but the more organizations in a project the harder it can be to keep everyone on the same page, to follow all of the projects involved, and to overcome institutional hurdles such as low incentives for co-creation projects, data sharing restrictions, and partners with high responsibility loads.

However what these experiences and my most recent facilitation role with the Atlantic LL in identifying shared success factors show is the power of relationships. The Atlantic LL team leads from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI, and Newfoundland really exemplify the types of leaders that have been recruited for this project and the power that comes from collaboration and working together. The different leads are often present at each other’s workshops, work to build cross-provincial connections and projects and support each other in the co-production process. After all no one knows better than them what they are going through.

It has been an amazing experience to work with the Atlantic Living Labs and support their efforts to improve collaboration, co-production, and cross-provincial comparison. I personally can’t wait to see what they come up with in the future.

New Brunswick Living Lab meeting

Brooke doing her thing at the NB-LL meeting in Jan, 2024

Today’s blog post comes from PDF Brooke McWherter based on her recent trip to NB

The annual New Brunswick Living Lab (NB-LL) meeting and workshop brought together government, industry, NGO, and producer stakeholders to discuss the year’s progress in the development and running of the NB-LL. Before the start of the event, Atlantic representatives from other living labs in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and PEI, came together to discuss their progress in measuring the socio-economic impacts of the program. The different representatives highlighted the strong bond among the Atlantic provinces and their commitment to collaborating and continuing to support each other as the living labs continue to evolve and grow. At the event talks included discussions on current trials measuring the impact of various BMPs on soil health, and carbon sequestration.

Our MREM intern Patrick James presented his work, funded by the SSHRC Engage Program, examining co-production and engagement of LL producers and federal scientists. Patrick’s talk highlighted how challenging co-production can be for all sides, but also the steps members are taking to be flexible including working with farmers to collect data that doesn’t deter from their harvesting schedules. I then ran a workshop defining co-production and providing some tips for enhancing engagement moving forward which then led to developing logic models (an objective-oriented planning tool) around the five BMP foci of the program. Producers, government staff, site contractors from various watershed and conservation organizations, and industry reps discussed the outcome form the program they wanted and identified activities and capacities they may need to develop to achieve those objectives.

Patrick James (centre) with the NB Living Labs team, including FaRM Program collaborator and CFGA ED Cedric MacLeod

Fall 2024 omnibus

From left to right, Brooke, Patricia, Karen, Sam and I at Samantha’s MES defense

First, belated congratulations are due to Samantha Howard, who defended her MES thesis earlier in the fall term. Thanks to Brooke (her co-supervisor), Karen Akerlof of George Mason University in Washington, DC (her committee member), and Patricia Manuel from Dalhousie’s School of Planning for the great discussion of Sam’s work. Her thesis is now available on Dalspace:  Understanding Psychological Drivers of Attitudes Towards Coastal Climate Adaptations in the Minas Basin, Nova Scotia.

Brooke discussing the Advanced Grazing Systems program she is studying at the CFGA 2023 conference.

Second, great to see Brooke engaging with livestock producers, commodity group organizations and NGOs at this year’s Canadian Forage and Grassland Association (CFGA) conference in Harrison Hot Springs, BC. Her presentation was called Rotational grazing: Examining perspectives for sustainable Canadian landscapes, and draws upon her mixed methods research around the national grazing mentorship program Advanced Grazing Systems that is a partnership between CFGA and Farmers for Climate Solutions. Can’t deny that it is also a great time of year to be visiting somewhere with hot springs!

Last, today, Patrick James presented his MREM project to complete his program at Dalhousie. Over the summer, Patrick worked for the ResNet project on system dynamic modelling of specific ecosystem services, supervised by Lara. Over the fall term he has been supervised by Brooke, working on the SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant she led to understand how farmers are experiencing the New Brunswick Living Lab program. Congratulations, Patrick, and thanks for all the contributions you made to the lab!

July 2023 news

Two women in plaid shirts

Brooke with Carlene Schneider, spruiking the Advanced Grazing Systems programme at farming events in Saskatchewan.

Lots going on in and out of the lab, but not a lot of time to talk about it. Many folks are writing (final thesis/dissertation chapters and papers, comps and dissertation proposals), some are knee deep in data, and a few are in the field gathering new data. Brooke is notably literally in the field, attending farm events in Saskatchewan and Alberta with our key collaborators at the Canadian Forage and Grassland Association and Farmers for Climate Solutions to spruik the Advanced Grazing Systems program and our survey research related to it. For my part, I’ve been catching up on reading a lot of the work being produced as described above.

This coming week I am in the final stages with my colleagues and co-editors Glad Thondhlana (Rhodes) and Doug Jackson-Smith (Ohio State) of submitting to the University Press of Colorado the next 10-year review of the field of natural resource social science. These final stages are very finnicky in a volume with 15 chapters and over 50 authors, but we’re very excited how it has all turned out.

Three people behind a conference table and one on the screen behind.

My panel at Managed Retreat 2023 on Ecosystems and Managed Retreat

Back in June I didn’t get around to blogging about the biennial Managed Retreat Conference  at Columbia University in NYC that I attended after IASNR. I presented on the social science synthesis for ResNet’s Landscape 1 (Bay of Fundy Dykelands). It was a great source of state-of-the art thinking, with highlights including Linda Shi, Jamie Vanucchi and Shanasia Sylman (all Cornell), Carolien Kraan (University of Miami), Lieke Brackel (Delft), John Nelson (RISD), Kensuke Otsuyama (Tokyo), AR Siders (Delaware) and Shaieree Cottar (Waterloo).

ResNet AGM 2023

The L1 team at Jouvence for AGM 2023 (Emily, Lara, Sam, Maka, Evan, Isabel, me, Kiirsti and Brittney)

Last week we had a productive AGM for NSERC ResNet up near Montreal. Around 70 academics, students, postdocs and partners joined for some very full days of reflection, synthesis and planning. My highlight was the ecosystem service assessment we were tasked for the Hundred Aker Wood (see below), Winnie the Pooh’s world from A. A. Milne, during which we identified Pooh’s body mass index as a key indicator for honey production (a clear provisioning service). While it was a wet few days, it didn’t dampen the spirits of the indomitable HQP (highly qualified personnel), who particularly enjoyed the firepit. If you could see the fire better, you’d see they were writing words on the logs for things they’d like to see gone. I saw white supremacy and racism go in. Thanks to PI Elena Bennett and everyone at the Central team for organizing and seeing to all our needs so thoughtfully and patiently.

Isabel takes seriously our task of ecosystem service assessment for Winnie the Pooh’s world.

The firepit, surrounded by students and postdocs (mostly), with L1 folks playing firemaster.

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