O1: RAS Dictionary of competencies

IDENTIFY MAIN BUSINESS PROCESSES, COMPETENCES, CATEGORIES, INDICATORS AND DATA SOURCES SPECIFIC TO ADVISORY ACTIVITY

The first intellectual output of the project will be, in relation with the provision of Rural Advisory Services (RAS), a competency dictionary which is defined as a tool or data structure that covers competences needed to perform specific tasks, jobs, based on capacities that are common to an organization, i.e. teamwork; adaptability; communication, IT, management and other skills required for each task or function.

In our project, the dictionary of competences will serve not only as a significant output on its own, but also as the static core structure, a fundamental building block for the monitoring, quantifying, qualifying and evaluating the performance of advisory work and identifying areas of inadequate competence, focusing mainly but not merely on the specific, functional competencies.

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The need for developing such output is underlied by the outcomes of several initiatives and guidelines which have been developed by FAO, GFRAS, World Bank, other international organizations and research teams in the last decade with the goal of methodology for assessment and evaluation of RAS. Most of these attempts have approached RAS from a wider system perspective and higher policy level, therefore we found their usability in the practice of monitoring and evaluating market-oriented advisory service provision rather limited, with problems arising from:

  • the system is getting increasingly pluralistic as the type of stakeholders getting more varied, therefore the overall assessment of RAS is getting more complex,
  • monitoring methods of service provision for and from the end users’ perspective are often out of focus,
  • many studies have identified difficulties to attribute clients’ results to the impact of advisors’ performance,
  • usually the lack of available indicator data source in required quality and quantity impedes assessment,
  • the concept – methods, coverage, function and target groups - of extension (usually public) and advisory services (public or private) is not clear,
  • used interchangeably and often depends on the background of the experts who are approaching the assessment, public, state funded extension, or advisory service has some fundamentally differing logic from the market-oriented approach, where the clients own accountability.

According to the FAO EAS/RAS Assessment Guide, “to date, efforts to assess the national EAS were often focused on how each organization invests in extension (in most cases in the public sector), farmer-extension ratio, number of human resources deployed for EAS provision, extension activities performed, number of participants reached and technology adoption rates.

Few studies have looked at the capacities or qualifications of its staff and extent of client satisfaction.”

The main direct benefits of developing and putting into practise the RAS dictionary of competences, by the Rural Advisory Service Providers (RASPs) are:

  • to provide clear job description and perspectives for professional development for the advisory workers,
  • to ensure improvement of all processes with regards to professional competences of advisory workers, including the stages of recruitment, service provision and capacity development,
  • to define professional standards in the interest of all stakeholders - providers, advisors, clients, authorities, etc - in a transparent way, what can be expected from the provision of the service, also utilized in O5 for certification,
  • to provide the main building blocks for an effective monitoring and evaluation system, as implemented in the next project work steps.

Our target groups during the development of this Output are:

  • RASP organisations, participating in the Case Study Analysis (CSA), the validation of the professional business processes, and the survey related to the most needed services and competences, as well as integrating the dictionary in the organizational policy
  • Rural advisors, participating in the survey and gaining from benefits mentioned above.
  • Farmers, also participating in the survey what they find the most needed advisory services and what competences of the advisors they evaluate important.

Main elements of innovation:

  • According to the knowledge of partners in the project representing a wide experience in the field, there has not yet been developed and applied such a dictionary in the area of RAS with such systematic approach.
  • When defining the indicators it is important that they are need to be SMART: Specific; Measurable; Attainable; Relevant; and Time-bound.

We will utilize the building blocks of the dictionary in the next work steps, based on which it will become possible to put in place the other innovative elements of the project, the digital system (allowing inputs from more traditional data acquisition methods as well) for monitoring, evaluation and a novel approach of precision e-learning).