RAS dictionary of competences - Executive summary

The report “RAS dictionary of competences” presents the results of the output O1 - “RAS dictionary of competences” of the Erasmus + project “RAMONES- PL”. The project aims at strengthening rural advisory services (RAS) by developing a monitoring and evaluation system that could support more targeted training programmes and the establishment of a quality certification scheme.

A RAS competency dictionary is needed in order to pinpoint the competences requested to perform specific tasks, according to a set of capacities to be acquired at the level of the individual advisor and/or of an organization, i.e. teamwork; adaptability; communication, IT, management etc. and to define professional standards in the interest of all stakeholders. From a project-wise perspective, the dictionary of competences will serve as a fundamental building block for the provision of an effective monitoring and evaluation system. The report therefore provides for a first identification of the main output indicators for the evaluation of advisory performances. This will allow tailoring training plans for advisors (precision learning) in the next steps of the project.

In order to get to a list of key competences for the implementation of the advisory work tasks, and to define the cross-functional competences required to fulfil transversal responsibilities, data and information coming from a desktop research over relevant literature, national legislation and other documents on advisory activities have been combined with the results of the surveys run targeting three different groups: Rural Advisory Service Providers (RASPs) and advisors in the target countries (Hungary, North Macedonia & Slovakia ) and RAS clients in all project countries (Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, North Macedonia and Slovakia).

The survey addressed to RAS providers and RAS organizations in target Countries has shown specificities that are heavily shaped by the socio-political context in which advisors operate. For instance in Hungary most of the technical assistance on production is traditionally left to the internal consultants of the input trading companies, while in Slovakia a strong demand for specific competences dealing with the technical aspects of crop production, animal husbandry and forestry is still in place. Also whether a Country is a member of EU or not it is likely to affect local advisory services, since from that depends, for instance, a stronger focus on CAP funding and compliance with European rules, in the provision of advisory services.

The relation between Farmers and advisors have been investigated across the partner Countries by the means of an online survey. Despite national differences in farms structures, opinions and needs, the survey found that the relationship between farmers and consultants is very much stuck on traditional models, not only in the ways farmers access to service, but also in the nature of services themselves. These are in fact mainly linked to administrative matters and to policies, while management and marketing aspects are somehow neglected. This is partly due to the characteristics of the farms, often family-run businesses that do not perceive certain issues as priorities, but also for cultural reasons, according to which management and marketing take second place compared to other, "more urgent " issues such as technical-agronomic issues, for instance.

Once information coming from direct surveys have been merged with the finding of a desktop research, a systematic progressive approach has been adopted for the comprehensive identification of the tasks that RAS providers can carry out in their everyday practicing and thus obtain a list of the activities required for their accomplishment so to get to the definition of performance indicators. Starting from the main business processes, according to an incremental specification approach the thematic areas falling within the competences of rural advisory service and, therefore, the elements of the farming /rural domain that are specifically addressed by them have been identified in order to pinpoint the activities that are expected to be performed to reach professional tasks.

Once a solid set of advisory activities has been defined, specific indicators have been developed to show the generally expected outputs from the performance of advisors. For each of the proposed indicators an indicator fiche describing quantification methods, sources, and relevance to main professional areas has been elaborated.

According to the workplan, the report on the first step describes the theoretical framework on which the whole work will rely, taking into account the main elements that are needed for the assessment of advisory performances.  The main results of the surveys are used as they act as a basic source for the identification of the core competences and deliver insights for the performance evaluation. Therefore, a discussion and updates on the main competences will be provided along with their implementation according to homogeneous business processes and keeping in mind the set of skills that are needed to pursue them. Lastly the information coming from the previous steps are used to arrange a set of indicators fiches.