Farmers know what’s right, or what might be right, for their business, but they often don’t have access to the right people to make their idea happen, capacity to try something new and fail, or time to bring a project together. Funded by the Scottish government, RISS stepped into that gap and enabled farmers to connect and find solutions together.
The farmer, land manager or crofter may have been part of an existing group or come to us with a new idea. We allocated a facilitator from our partner organisations who would scope existing work, bring in the right people, organise meetings and get the group to an actionable project plan, at which point RISS would bow out. The facilitator would be open-minded as to the best course of action and take the group through a process of exploring options and collaboratively deciding how to proceed.
This approach brought great results, particularly for groups that existed already but were stalled, such as the Hill Sheep group. This large group across Scotland and Ireland had been unable to decide on a course of action, until facilitator Poppy Frater of SAC created a survey that brought consensus and allowed them to move forward. Farmers are best-placed to have ideas about agricultural innovation, but they don’t have time to develop an idea, or access to the people they need to refine it and take it forward. Often a well-connected and expert facilitator is the key to turning an idea into an innovation.
Innovation doesn’t just mean lots of money and technology. It means people working together, testing ideas to get to the heart of the problem and going through a process to find feasible, sustainable solutions.
At Soil Association Scotland we are proud to have led the Rural Innovation Support Service, to have worked productively alongside our partners, and to know that so many innovative groups and projects are continuing thanks to start they got from RISS.
Colleen McCulloch, previous senior farming programmes manager