Design Thinking & Multi-Actor Approach in NIVA 8th April 2020 

Authors, Christine O’Meara and Dave Hearne

Welcome to our new mini blog series which outlines how Design Thinking and a Multi Actor Approach has been employed to guide technology development in the NIVA project.

NIVA is a 36-month project which began in 2019 and it is funded under the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The project is led by Wageningen University & Research and the consortium includes 27 project partners including 9 Member State paying agencies.  New IACS Vision In Action (NIVA) aims to develop and implement technologies that will deliver a more seamless Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), in particular through improvements to the key administrative control platform (the instrument for CAP governance) – Integrated Administrative Control System. A key goal is to facilitate data and information flows to support objectives around sustainability, competitiveness, efficiency and transparency, thereby improving agricultural performance monitoring and reducing administrative burdens for farmers, paying agencies and other stakeholders.  Many challenges exist in achieving this goal including different levels of adoption of technology, 44 diverse implementations of IACS and the nature of the relationship and communication channels between paying agencies and farmers among others.

A series of use case demonstrations are being developed in different EU countries and led by local paying agencies. In Ireland, an interdisciplinary team led by the Department of Agriculture is working on Use Case 4a, working with TSSG (application development) and Teagasc (Socio economic research supporting adoption) to develop a geo-tagged photo mobile application which will be used to resolve claim queries. In the event of supporting evidence being needed to process a claim, farmers and their advisors will be able to use this application to take a geo-tagged photo of the land parcel in question and submit the evidence directly to the paying agency. Adoption of this application will reduce the need for department inspections and accelerate claim processing, offering significant benefits to claimants and administrators.

The challenges to adoption of such a technology are not insignificant. In a timely IFA Skillsnet report[1] of over 750 farmers it was revealed that 86% of farmers are or plan to use digital technologies. Furthermore, 84% of farmers use a smartphone. However, only 49% of farmers said that they feel comfortable using technology and 46% of respondents said that they currently use technology on their farm. Of the systems available to farmers currently, only 2 of them have 75% adoption rates. These are calf registration and GPS for machine guidance. The top obstacles to adoption cited by farmers include cost, access to support & training, poor quality connectivity and confidence in use. Drivers include cost reduction, access to data & insights and decreased administration burden.

From the outset, it was determined that a multi-actor approach would be employed to ensure that the needs of all stakeholders were considered before and during product development, ultimately maximising adoption rates. This multi-actor approach has been guided by Design Thinking, adopting core principles and following its general methodology. Design Thinking is an empathic approach to product development. Concept design is preceded by a human-led approach, i.e.  a structured phase of understanding the needs of various stakeholders involved and redefining the problem with a person rather than product focus. An example of how this difference in approach has led to product innovation is the home photocopier. The application of a product led approach might lead to copy shop machines being reengineered for greater speed or reduced costs. A user-led approach considers the experience of customers waiting in line to use machines located in various retail or educational environments and resulted in portable, cheap home devices. The empathic approach adopted recognises that humans are not always able to articulate their needs and so many techniques have been used to ensure a full understanding. The Design Process is broken down into 5 phases and the overall process is not strictly linear, allowing for an iterative approach to concept and product building work. The initial step [EMPATHISE]} is concerned with understanding the perspective and needs of key stakeholders. This leads to stage two [DEFINE] and allows for an informed definition of the key problems to address which in turn will guide the development of product ideas [IDEATION]. Ultimately, a collaborative approach involving key stakeholders along the way will lead to an early version of the product [PROTOTYPE]. This prototype will be further validated through rigorous lab and field testing [TEST].

This blog series, which will continue over coming months, will focus on how a multi-actor approach has been applied to guide the development of the geo-tagged photo app, illustrating tools used and techniques used at each stage and challenges and outcomes.

For more information on the NIVA project see here.

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