Shaking it up: the realities of ‘doing’ co-innovation in a privatised agricultural advisory and extension system

Jana-Axinja Paschen, Margaret Ayre, Barbara King, Nicole Reichelt, Ruth Nettle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Pluralistic agricultural advisory systems comprise diverse actors, including public and private research, development, and extension (RD&E) providers, and private sector agricultural advisors. Co-innovation, as a collaborative engagement involving the full range of actors, is regarded as useful when addressing issues arising from this complexity. However, what helps or hinders successful co-innovation with public and private actors in real-world situations is still under-described in the literature. A deeper understanding of the social interactions and practices of doing co-innovation in specific settings is required to achieve successful co-innovation outcomes. This paper asks: What key features of practice support co-innovation with public and private system actors? And: How can enhanced understanding of practice assist in strengthening co-innovation processes? We present findings from research funded by the Australian government from 2015 to 2018 to strengthen private sector extension roles and connections between the RD&E functions in Australia's pluralistic advisory system. Four action research pilots were co-designed with system actors to support co-innovation. These were: Involving agricultural supply chain actors in collaborative agricultural R&D; Increasing farm advisor capacity to engage with digital agricultural technologies; Improving career pathways for new entrants in the advisory and extension sector; and Improving knowledge flows in the advisory and extension system. We found that co-innovation requires potentially profound social change; a shaking up of expectations about roles, responsibilities, and institutionalised processes. The research also suggests that the requirement for social change is underacknowledged in current co-innovation practice, with implications for the success or failure of co-innovation partnerships. Applying a practice theory perspective, our research highlights features of practice that constrained and enabled co-innovation in the four pilots. In doing so, the research provides insights to assist in successful operationalisation of co-innovation involving the private sector in pluralistic agricultural advisory systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-351
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Co-innovation
  • Pluralistic advisory systems
  • Privatised extension
  • Public-private collaboration
  • Social practice

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