In 2015, the GFRAS Strategic Framework 2016 – 2025 was developed to help plan and measure change, learning, and progress in extension and rural advisory services (RAS) reform over the next ten years. The 10-year strategy is accompanied by a 5-year operational plan; a medium term document that guides the GFRAS community. The GFRAS secretariat then uses an annual work plan that specifies products, activities, partners, timelines, and human and financial resources needed to operationalise the GFRAS strategy in 2016.
The GFRAS operational plan identified the main focus of all its activities to be strengthening the regional networks. All activities mentioned below are driven by the networks, undertaken in a participatory manner together with the networks, and respond to network demands.
Capacity Assessment of GFRAS Regions and Country Forums
An important part of the new operational plan is a baseline capacity assessment of regional networks and the country fora in the areas of information and communication technologies (ICTs), knowledge management, professionalisation, and advocacy. Activities include a capacity needs assessment of AFAAS and three country fora to identify critical areas where organisational capacity development is needed.
Advocacy and policy (strategic field 1)
Together with a number of partners, including the Modernizing Extension and advisory Services (MEAS), GFRAS produced a policy compendium based on a survey and discussions in 2013 in Berlin. This will be further developed in 2016. In addition, RELASER will hold a series of policy dialogues at national and regional level on the new extensionist in 2016.
Annual Meeting (as transversal activity, but mostly strategic field 1)
Face-to-face meetings are an important event in a global network, to raise awareness and visibility, and advocate for rural advisory services. The flagship GFRAS activity is the Annual Meeting. The GFRAS Annual Meeting 2016 will take place in Cameroon. Side events will allow thematic working groups, the partners, and regional/sub-regional networks the opportunity to take advantage of the global gathering for sharing and discussing the progress or topics of interest. The Annual Meeting will provide an opportunity to disseminate and share results and experiences with a global audience, and to refine, adapt, and validate them. RESCAR-AOC and AFAAS will host together with the Ministry of Agriculture from Cameroon.
Professionalisation (strategic field 2)
In 2016 GFRAS will continue to work on the New Extensionist Learning Kit. The “new extensionist” is a global view of rural advisory services (RAS) that reinvents and clearly articulates the RAS role in the rapidly-changing rural context. Building on the new extensionist, GFRAS initiated a Consortium on Extension Education and Training to strengthen capacities of individuals and organisations through the identification, development, testing, and open-access sharing of learning materials. The Consortium identified core competencies needed by RAS to operate effectively in innovation systems, and started to develop training materials on the topic. RELASER will use the new extensionist for their policy dialogues at country and regional level. The New Extensionist Learning Kit will be finalised, tested, and implemented to contribute to continuing education of extension agents. The materials will be made available for the GFRAS network and translated and adapted where necessary.
As per the operational plan, the GFRAS Consortium on Education and Training will also work on issues related to professionalisation and guidelines, standards, incentives, and certification for RAS (including vocational training and higher education) through a scoping study on professionalisation in RAS.
Knowledge generation and exchange (strategic field 3)
In 2016 GFRAS will continue work on the Global Good Practices Initiative. The global good practices initiative is a multi-partner initiative to identify and analyse effective extension approaches across five RAS dimensions (governance structures, policy, capacity and management, advisory methods, and cross-cutting issues). This initiative is a user-oriented knowledge platform on RAS practice. The aim is to develop the platform into a one-stop-shop for practitioners, policymakers, and development organisations, providing quick and easy to read information on approaches and experiences in RAS, together with a comprehensive set of links for further reading. GFRAS will continue to elaborate Good Practice notes, based on the demand and priorities of members as well as available funding. Regional networks and country fora would test and refine these materials in the field. Good practices from the programme countries will be scaled out in Africa and to other regions worldwide. Together with INGENEAS we launched a special call on gender and nutrition. All notes will be funded by INGENAES but part of the global good practices initiative.
In 2013 GFRAS formed an interest group of regions and affiliates interested in ICTs. They have taken the work further with partners and formed a working group. The ICT4RAS Working Group will continue to produce and share experiences and good practices in tools and methods using information and communication technologies (ICTs) for RAS throughout the global network. Opportunities for further collaboration on knowledge management will be undertaken where demand exists (together with AFAAS, CTA, and other partners). The idea of having an ICT4RAS training at the 7th GFRAS Annual Meeting will be pursued.