Network Interventions by Private Partners for Responsible Innovation

In Dutch agriculture we witness a trend of companies and entrepreneurs taking the lead to align innovation with the concerns of citizens, consumers as well as to ensure economic viability. Working on such transformations with partners from the value chain and others is extremely challenging. In this context, there is a need for a better understanding of the social learning process between the actors of the innovation network and outsider groups.

The research focuses on the social learning processes of the two initiatives Sustainable Dairy Chain (DZK) Market Driven Greenhouse Sector (STAP) that seek to align animal welfare, environmental and economic concerns in innovation. In DZK dairy processing companies and regional agricultural organisations aim to improve sustainability on four major dimensions: climate and energy; animal health and welfare; grazing; and biodiversity and environment. STAP is initiated and supported by growers and value chain partners who want to stimulate farmers to be market oriented and innovative, and alter the relations within the value chain to this end.

Starting from the rich experiences in these initiatives, we will explore how the partners collectively develop solutions to tackle challenges encountered on their trajectories of ‘transitions in the making’. This social learning process will be studied, while supporting it, with the methodology Reflexive Monitoring in Action. We aim to further conceptualise how innovating private actors give meaning to the institutional setting and its boundaries while changing it. We also expect to develop concrete tools to aid actors to address and interact with perceived outsiders about their initiative without closing down prematurely.