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Farmers’ Participation in Operational Groups to Foster Innovation in the Agricultural Sector: An Italian Case Study


  • Natalia Molina

    (Department of Agricultural, Food and Agri-Environmental Sciences (DISAA), Pisa University, 56125 Pisa, Italy)

  • Gianluca Brunori

    (Department of Agricultural, Food and Agri-Environmental Sciences (DISAA), Pisa University, 56125 Pisa, Italy)

  • Elena Favilli

    (Department of Agricultural, Food and Agri-Environmental Sciences (DISAA), Pisa University, 56125 Pisa, Italy)

  • Stefano Grando

    (Department of Agricultural, Food and Agri-Environmental Sciences (DISAA), Pisa University, 56125 Pisa, Italy)

  • Patrizia Proietti

    (Council for Agricultural Research and Economy (CREA), Policy and Bioeconomy Centre, Via Ruggero Bardazzi 19/21, 50127 Florence, Italy)


Recently, the interpretation of the innovation process has changed significantly. Its linear model has evolved to a dynamic and ongoing participatory approach where cooperation, oriented to generate co-ownership, is the essence to co-produce knowledge among multiple actors. Farmers’ direct participation in the process is widely accepted since they contribute with first-hand information, perceptions, field experiences, and feedback that are essential for the design and implementation of a project. The European Union encourages their participation through the European Rural Development Policy that promotes competitiveness and sustainability in the agriculture and forestry sectors, building bridges among heterogeneous stakeholders that complement each other to find an innovative solution to a given problem. Thus far, despite participation importance, few details have been provided about producer’s contributions within the process. Consequently, this paper attempts to explore the modus operandi of an Italian Operational Group to get insights about the farmers’ participation and identify the factors that could influence and foster the interactive innovation process. The results, based on a participatory observation, key informants’ interviews, and theory reflection, revealed that farmers are active players in the design and implementation phases. Yet, their participation is not constant throughout the entire process. Empower them to find solutions with different players is a complex challenge as it requires motivation, commitment, trust, and an open communication among different actors.

Suggested Citation

  • Natalia Molina & Gianluca Brunori & Elena Favilli & Stefano Grando & Patrizia Proietti, 2021. "Farmers’ Participation in Operational Groups to Foster Innovation in the Agricultural Sector: An Italian Case Study," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 13(10), pages 1-27, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:13:y:2021:i:10:p:5605-:d:556473

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    References listed on IDEAS

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