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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Program

Education (also CAGS)

Year Degree Awarded

Summer 2014

First Advisor

Cristine A. Smith

Second Advisor

Gretchen B. Rossman

Third Advisor

Daniel S. Gerber

Subject Categories

Adult and Continuing Education and Teaching | Civic and Community Engagement | Climate | Community-Based Learning | Community-Based Research | Environmental Education | International and Comparative Education | Interpersonal and Small Group Communication | Rural Sociology

Abstract

The goal of this research was to study the effectiveness of field facilitators’ (FFs) community of practice in improving ways in which FFs and farmers communicate and work together to strengthen farmers’ climate change preparedness through identifying locally suitable adaptation strategies in drought-prone districts of Andhra Pradesh State in India. In development initiatives like the one studied, FFs are often the key liaison person with each community—farmers in this case. FFs interact regularly with farmers, with whom they establish and sustain critical relationships over time. Further, they take the lead in building farmers’ capacities by contextualizing technical information that professionals provide to the farmers. Thus, they are uniquely positioned to directly interact with and broker the communications between farmers and technical professionals. One way to improve exchanges between FFs and farmers is through FFs cultivating a community of practice, defined as a group of people with a shared interest pursuing common activities and learning to do them better.

The research addressed the question:

What happened to (a) farmers’ ownership of groundwater management and weather monitoring, and (b) FFs’ and farmers’ communications and work together when project staff used the concept of communities of practice to initiate new project interventions?

The study took place between August 2011 and October 2012 in the Strategic Pilot on Adaptation to Climate Change (SPACC) project. With a sample of eight FFs and seven farmers, I used interviews, field observation, review of FFs’ reports, and focus group discussions to collect data to answer the research question. I analyzed the data using Wenger, Trayner, and Laat’s (2011) framework on ‘value creation in communities and networks’. The study found that the FFs’ community of practice led to development of a shared repertoire of skills and resources, improved their training skills, and strengthened relationships amongst themselves. Also, the FFs’ collective practices (planning, observing, reflecting, and documenting) showed promise in engaging farmers in a sustained manner to influence farmer ownership of groundwater management and weather monitoring. This study confirms the value of taking an action research approach to enable a community of practice to solve problems within a project.

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