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FUTURAL: The Concept of Multi-Actor Approach

The multi-actor approach (MAA) refers to a collaborative and participatory method that involves various stakeholders or actors in addressing complex issues. In the context of empowering rural communities, the multi-actor approach recognizes the diverse range of individuals, organizations, and institutions that play a role in rural development. These actors can include government agencies, local communities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private sector entities, academic institutions, and other relevant parties.

The multi-actor approach ensures that projects focus on real needs and challenges that the end users (in our case rural communities) are facing and stress the active involvement of various stakeholders.  In this context, FUTURAL brings together scientists alongside rural community organisations, action groups or networks with a demonstrated ability to connect to a large number of local communities and disseminate and exploit project results.

Following a multi-actor approach, FUTURAL project partners have set the grounds to bring all key stakeholders in the value chain to the table and engage them in developing and implementing realistic solutions aimed at effectively addressing the difficulties faced by rural communities.

The importance of Multi-Actor Approach in FUTURAL

The multi-actor approach recognizes the complexity of rural development and emphasizes collaboration and inclusivity to create more effective, sustainable, and locally relevant solutions. By bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders, it ensures that the voices of rural communities are heard, and development initiatives are more likely to succeed in empowering these communities.

Diversity of Perspectives: Rural development is a multifaceted challenge that involves economic, social, environmental, and cultural aspects. Involving multiple actors ensures a diversity of perspectives and expertise, allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities in rural areas.

Local Empowerment: Engaging various actors empowers local communities by giving them a voice in the decision-making process. Local communities are often the most knowledgeable about their own needs and involving them directly in the development process ensures that initiatives are tailored to the specific context and are more likely to succeed.

Resource Mobilization: Different actors bring different resources to the table, whether they be financial, human, or knowledge-based. Collaboration allows for the pooling of resources, which can enhance the overall effectiveness of development initiatives in rural areas.

Holistic Solutions: Rural development is a complex challenge that requires holistic solutions. By involving a diverse set of actors, it becomes possible to address the interconnected issues facing rural communities, such as poverty, healthcare, education, infrastructure, and environmental sustainability.

Sustainability: The multi-actor approach promotes the development of sustainable solutions. When various stakeholders are engaged, there is a higher likelihood that projects and programs will be designed with long-term sustainability in mind, considering economic, social, and environmental factors.

Innovation: Collaboration among different actors can lead to innovation. The exchange of ideas, experiences, and expertise can spark creative solutions to challenges faced by rural communities, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and adaptation.

Policy Alignment: Involving various actors in the development process helps to align policies and initiatives with the diverse needs and priorities of rural communities. This can lead to more effective and contextually relevant policies that support sustainable development.

FUTURAL: The Multi Actor Approach in Practice

The MAA puts into practice the “interactive innovation model” which is promoted by EIP-AGRI (now EU CAP Network) and is primarily built on the six pilots which are active across Europe and in different contexts.

Based upon the LIAISON project Practitioner Handbook, a series of specific scenarios and tools have been identified to ensure interactive innovation and the multi-actor approach are utilized during the project implementation.

How diverse actors work well together is crucial for interactive innovation to deliver unique results and benefits. Interactive innovation typically involves different scenarios ranging from engaging relevant stakeholders to co-design and applying knowledge and up to evaluation & impact assessment.

Specific tools have also been selected to achieve the goals of each scenario the following range of identifiers:

FUTURAL engages actors and identifies particular roles, using specific scenarios & tools. Partners will utilize, for the selected scenarios, mainly the tool of WHAT, WHO, WHY, WHERE, WHEN & HOW (5W&H).

The tool is used for planning multi-actor tasks in advance, identifying:

• Which actors & stakeholders will be involved – Who?

• The tasks they will be involved in – What?

• Why would they want to be involved in such tasks – Why?

• The logistics and approach of the tasks – Where? When? and How?

It will ensure that the time of partners and stakeholders is well used and will minimize stakeholder fatigue and duplication of tasks.

This tool will be used throughout the implementation of the project.

An important innovation in FUTURAL is the so-called Metasearch Platform, which is intended to provide easy access to a wide range of rural area solutions from various platforms through a single portal, making it convenient and efficient for users to find and explore relevant options. With this knowledge, existing solutions can be improved, or new solutions can be co- developed co-creatively.

Equally important, the MAA promotes capacity building. Lessons learnt from the co-creation activities in MAPs are presented at Innovation Fora (EU-RIF) events in order to lay the groundwork for capacity building, knowledge and experience sharing by bringing together stakeholders not only from the FUTURAL ecosystem (MAP participants, policymakers and implementers) but also members of rural innovator networks.

Another element of FUTURAL’s MAA is the Open Call. The project’s Open Call will fund projects that will develop their own SS, based on the five FUTURAL SS domains, to be applied in other rural areas and be available on the project’s metasearch platform.