A Knowledge Broker's Story
Case Study - Knowledge Brokering in Action
Will Cleasby of the Eden Rivers Trust in Cumbria describes how he's playing a knowledge broker role as part of the Demonstration Test Catchments programme, which is working with farmers to reduce polluting run-off from agricultural land.
I was already working for the Eden Rivers Trust, providing advice for farmers, when I was appointed intermediary for the Demonstration Test Catchments initiative. I’m from an agricultural background myself and I know the Eden catchment and its farming community extremely well. That meant I was perfectly placed to act as the point of contact with local farmers as the initiative got under way and gathered pace. Farmers naturally have more trust and confidence in someone they know.
My brief doesn’t just involve acting as the programme’s ‘front man’, managing the all-important initial contacts and putting farmers’ minds to rest about potential disruption to their operations. It’s about encouraging farmers to recognise the benefits of actively taking part and highlighting the financial savings achievable by reducing nutrient run-off into water courses.
But knowledge brokering is very much a two-way process.
A key priority is to channel a range of essential local information to the research team – about which farms would be most suitable for monitoring, the practicalities of working there and all kinds of local issues, concerns and developments. For instance, it’s vital to understand the subtle differences between different types of farm here. Tenant farmers have a very different outlook to farmers who own their land.
Above all, it’s my job to enable the research team to engage with the community in a way that maximises their ability to achieve results.
To take one example, I advised that the initial meeting with farmers from the Pow Beck sub-catchment area was held in a local pub as I knew a more formal venue would deter them from attending. 15 of the 17 farmers invited turned up, which was excellent, and all agreed to be involved in the programme. We’d also got the National Farmers’ Union involved very early on, which really helped to deliver this excellent outcome.
My overall aim is to provide a constructive and productive interface between the world of academia and the hard-nosed world of farming – not least by ensuring the research team communicates clearly and comprehensibly without using scientific jargon, such as ‘diffuse pollution’.
In the final analysis, it’s about enabling the programme to establish itself as a welcome fixture in the Eden catchment community.