Increasing Knowledge Flows between the Agricultural Research and Advisory System in Italy: Combining Virtual and Non-virtual Interaction in Communities of Practice

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Abstract

Purpose: The aim of the paper is to analyse the use of Communities of Practice and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to enhance knowledge sharing between researchers and advisors. The associated research question is to what extent ICT supported a virtual Community of Practice and has been effective in counteracting fragmentation between research and advisory systems in terms of knowledge sharing between these two pillars of the Italian Agricultural Knowledge System (AKS). Design/Methodology/approach: The paper uses a mixed methods approach: a questionnaire submitted to the Community of Practice participants on their experiences, observation of interaction between Community of Practice participants and data on the use of the ICT platform. Findings: The ICT supported Community of Practice approach appears to improve knowledge sharing between researchers and advisors, and also draws in other actors of the broader Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System in which the AKS is embedded. However, ICT based tools alone are not sufficient and need to be complemented with face-to-face (non-virtual) interactions. A clear theoretical implication of this study is that this is an iterative process in which virtual and non-virtual interaction mutually reinforce each other: ICT interaction spurs real life and face-to-face interaction, and ICT supports follow-up on real life face-to-face interaction. Practical Implications: Communities of Practice can be a useful tool for knowledge sharing between research and advisory systems, but should have a degree of flexibility in terms of the topics they address and should accommodate new members when appropriate. ICT is supportive, but should be complemented by real life meetings. Originality/Value: The paper connects recent frameworks of the use of Communities of Practice with literature on ICT in agriculture and adds insights on the contribution of combining virtual and non-virtual interaction in Communities of Practice aimed at knowledge sharing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-218
JournalJournal of Agricultural Education and Extension
Volume21
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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