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Doctoral thesis, 2017

Sharing lifeworlds and creating collaborative cultures

Höckert, Jenny


Today’s agricultural advisory system in Sweden is poorly adapted both to supporting farmers in issues concerning long-term strategies and to contributing to sustainable farm development. This thesis claims that two interrelated reasons for this are the reductionist knowledge possessed by the advisors and the structural arrangements of the advisory system. While the challenges facing agriculture are systemic, the contemporary advisory services are built on compartmentalised knowledge and non-systemic models. Though different measures to change perceived shortcomings have been attempted, the desired changes have not materialised. The thesis reports a multi-method study of projects and change processes that have occurred in the advisory system over the past two decades. Data has been gathered through case studies, semi-structured interviews, literature reviews and discourse analysis. Based on eight cases analysed through the theoretical lenses of systems thinking, systems boundaries, loops of learning, orders of change, organisational culture and epistemology, this thesis has sought to explain why the desired changes have not materialised. To understand the context in which the cases have occurred, the thesis provides a historic narrative of the evolution of the system. The analysis examines the advisory system at three different levels–the advisory system at large, the advisory organisations, and the advisory services as they are delivered–and then discusses these in relation to sustainability challenges faced by agriculture. One reason shown here for the change processes not having the desired effect is the failure to make thorough problem descriptions and system boundaries around the problematiques. Moreover, the system is shown to have suffered from an unreflected idea of what is needed to change a culture from individual to collaborative. The thesis highlights the lack of spaces for reflection corresponding to higher loops of learning at all system levels as an obstruction to development within the system. To address issues of a long-term character such as sustainability in advisory services, this thesis advocates the need for broadening of the epistemology underpinning today’s advisory system from one based on explicit knowledge possessed by individuals to one that also includes the knower and the knowing. Such development would both demand and create the collaborative cultures needed to address the systemic issues faced by agriculture.


agricultural extension, advisory service, organisational culture, learning, systems thinking, epistemology, lifeworld, Sweden

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2017, number: 2017:106
ISBN: 978-91-7760-102-9, eISBN: 978-91-7760-103-6
Publisher: Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development

UKÄ Subject classification

Other Agricultural Sciences not elsewhere specified
Communication Studies

URI (permanent link to this page)