Revealing power dynamics and staging conflicts in agricultural system transitions: Case studies of innovation platforms in New Zealand

J.A. Turner*, A. Horita, S. Fielke, L. Klerkx, P. Blackett, D. Bewsell, B. Small, W.M. Boyce

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Innovation platforms (IPs) that support agricultural innovation to enable transition processes towards more sustainable agriculture provide a space where conflicts of interest among actors in the existing agricultural system (the so called incumbent regime) may play out. Sometimes these conflicts over how actors will benefit from an action are not revealed until actors are brought together. However, a barrier to change occurs when IP actors use their existing power to mobilise resources to influence if and how individual and collective interests are aligned. In the context of agricultural innovation and transitions, this paper uses the power in transitions framework (Avelino and Wittmayer, 2016), along with analytical perspectives on conflicts and role perceptions, to understand how consciously staging or revealing conflicts of interest among IP actors changed role perceptions and power relations among these actors. The paper explores this topic in two IPs addressing agricultural production and sustainability challenges in New Zealand's agricultural sector. Conflicts were staged in IPs when one group of actors mobilised resources that enabled them to move existing power relations from one-sided, to synergistic or a mutual dependency. This enabled conflicts to be acknowledged and solved. In contrast, conflicts were not staged when actors mobilised resources to maintain antagonostic power relations. Our cases demontrate that staging conflicts to change actors' role perceptions is an important intermediary step to forming new power relations in the agricultural system. Our findings highlight the need for IP theory to conceptualise power relations in IPs as context specific, dynamic and a force shaping outcomes, rather than solely a force exerted by actors in the incumbent regime over IP actors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-162
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2020


  • Conflicts of interest
  • Dairy sector
  • Innovation platforms
  • New Zealand
  • Power relations
  • Role perceptions
  • Sustainability transitions

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