Abstract for: Learning as conceptual change during community based group interventions. A case study with smallholder farmers in Zambia

Food and farming systems are both complex and dynamic in nature. While smallholder farmers hold great intuitive and experiential knowledge, rapidly changing and ever more challenging framework conditions require them to constantly learn and adapt to change. Understanding knowledge change is important to improve the design of shared learning experiences, especially as they are one prerequisite for the effective implementation of adaptive policies. This paper studies knowledge change within smallholder farmers in Zambia as a result of systems thinking group interventions. We report on the design, implementation and preliminary analysis of two group workshops with ten smallholder farmers each and follow-up interviews with some of the participants. Our results so far suggest that the use of system maps and collaboratively unfolding them seem crucial components in the process of knowledge change. Thanks to the system map, participants display a fairly high degree of convergence on systemic issues and policy considerations during post-workshop interviews. Their explanations of challenges and possible options to overcome them are not limited to the available visual components of the collaboratively developed system map. Instead, participants extend the discussion of options beyond the system map while remaining able to reason in a concise, systemic way.