In 2008 LINK published A Tourist Guide to Systems Studies of Rural Innovation, authored by Maija Hirvonen.
The ‘Tourist Guide’ was intended as a resource document charting the emerging landscape of systems studies on rural innovation. The term ‘rural innovation’ was used rather than ‘agricultural innovation’ in recognition of the wider scope of knowledge applications that are important in contemporary rural livelihoods. There is an ever-increasing body of literature dealing with rural innovation, with some research groups developing ideas over the last 20 odd years on the topic. Contemporary literature has also drawn inspiration from diverse fields of scholarship, and with these a rich diversity of interpretations and perspectives have emerged in the form of a number of distinct schools of study with their own epistemological origins.
While not exhaustive, our Tourist Guide reviewed and provided an annotated bibliography of what we at LINK consider some of the key publications contributing towards the current outlook on rural innovation.
Tourist Guide Online
During the process of compiling the Tourist Guide, we were forced to admit its (and our) limitations, the most glaring of which was the issue of relevance. The original report was based on material compiled and interviews conducted during the period 2005-2007. By the time the report went to print, it already seemed out-dated, even to us. The last few years have been witness to the rapid emergence of the field of rural innovation studies in agricultural research. Almost every day there appear to be new organisations working on issues dealing with rural innovation and researchers bringing out new reports. These often expand current thinking and allow for new schools of thought to emerge. In the face of this constant flux of ideas and the shifting nature of current discourse around the field our report may have appeared dated, although hopefully not obsolete.
We hope to correct for some of the original document’s limitations through this experiment — the Tourist Guide Online. This online version is intended to be a work in progress. As new research — and publications relevant to rural innovation — emerges, we plan to add to the Tourist Guide. We will use the themes and documents featured in the original report as a take-off point.
Themes of Research
The semi-structured interviews and review of literature in the original Tourist Guide pointed to six apparently distinct schools, traditions, or themes of debate. These provided us with a useful, albeit artificial, way to organise the interview findings and the annotated bibliography we featured. This categorisation of literature is by no means set — indeed, considerable overlap exists between the various groups of material, indicating the high degree of interconnectedness among factors that characterise rural innovation. While we are open to expansion or even reconsideration of these themes, we still turn to them to start us off. The six themes are:
Social Learning and Communication
Local Innovation Processes
Institutional Learning and Change
Market Systems and Innovation
Science and Society
This section provides information and contact details of research groups involved in systems studies of rural innovation.