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Ongoing project

Demonstrating the benefits of building capability and capacity in extension delivery in the vegetable industry (VG21002)

Key research provider: The University of Melbourne

What's it all about?

This investment is evaluating the impact of providing additional training and support to industry development officers (IDOs) engaged in Hort Innovation projects, with the aim of demonstrating the benefits that can be achieved through enhanced capacity and capability. The research will focus on VegNET 3.0 and the additional training and support that is being provided to the National Coordinator and 10 Regional Development Officers (RDOs) involved in this project.

The direct intended outcome of the project is for Hort Innovation, and other agriculture innovation stakeholders, to be better informed in relation to the most effective methods and approaches for building professional development for extension personnel into extension project designs

IDOs/RDOs play a vital role in the effective delivery of many of Hort Innovation’s projects, and recent internal reviews have determined that IDOs would benefit from professional development opportunities, particularly in the area of extension theory and practice to support effectiveness of project delivery.

By generating knowledge on what works and what doesn’t work for building IDOs capacity and capability, the findings from this project will create the opportunity to improve efficiency and effectiveness across Hort Innovation’s full portfolio of extension projects.

The project’s findings will inform extension practice more broadly in Australian and international agriculture and will contribute to scholarly knowledge in the area of managing extension within various agricultural innovation systems.

Work over the last six months has focused on capturing baseline data on network capability and capacity via an extension capacity baseline study and a social network study.

Extension capacity baseline study

The extension capacity baseline study is now complete and delivered insights for the VegNET team on:

  • The context for regional extension work in each VegNET region including industry characteristics, stakeholders, and extension priorities
  • An overview of what the program expects of RDOs
  • Identification of factors shaping regional extension capacity, inclusive of where professional development fits
  • A framework for assessing capacity and needs
  • A Year 1 ‘VegNET team extension capacity snapshot’ at a summary/national level
  • Identification of themes for further research.

This report will be a key resource that will inform design of the VG21002 PhD research project, which is currently underway.

Social network study

This year the social network study collected data on the information networks of eight of the current VegNet Regional Development Officers (RDOs). These RDOs have regular, routine, and strategic connections with thirteen different types of information sources, covering ten different topics. All RDOs cited other government departments and seven RDOs cited growers, researchers, and independent fee-for-service advisers, as information sources. Each RDO selected a unique range and combination of information topics and sources. It was not possible to identify patterns of either information sources or topics that relate to the tenure of RDOs in their current role.

This information provides a baseline against which to compare the development of regional information and advice networks as VegNET 3.0 proceeds. The social network study will continue throughout VegNet3.0, with further data collection in Year 2 (information networks of growers in selected pilot regions) and Year 4 (RDOs and growers).

Related levy funds

This project is a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Vegetable Fund