News | 21 Feb 2023

New CAP evaluation guidelines set to address unknowns facing AKIS assessments

A new Thematic Working Group on the Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS) has been set up to produce guidelines that Member States may use to evaluate the AKIS strategic approach in the context of CAP Strategic Plans.

To what extent does the Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS) strategic approach contribute to the achievement of the CAP’s Cross-Cutting Objective of modernisation? A new Thematic Working Group on AKIS aims to answer this question with a new set of non-binding guidelines currently under development – and its insights are already revealing the path ahead.

The European Evaluation Helpdesk for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has organised a new Thematic Working Group on Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS), in which various stakeholders are exploring the scope of needed evaluations in the new programming period, including representatives from Managing Authorities, CAP networks, DG Agri, researchers, advisors, evaluators, farmers and NGOs.

Around 50 of these experts participated in the first three meetings and collaborated to develop key evaluation elements such as possible evaluation questions, factors for success, indicators and data recommended for Member States when evaluating the AKIS strategic approach, which refers to the combination of AKIS interventions.

Despite having a long history, AKIS only entered the CAP for the first time in the 2023-2027 programming period: Member States now describe the strategic approach for AKIS in their CAP Strategic Plans. This will provide a solid basis on which to carry out related evaluations in future. AKIS is in fact one of the mandatory elements of the CAP Strategic Plans to be assessed. This evaluation may demonstrate how the AKIS strategic approach contributes to the cross-cutting objective of modernisation by assessing elements such as the design of the AKIS strategic approach, implementation, knowledge flows and links between research and practice, farm advice and the interconnection of advisors. The evaluations may also look at the contribution of the AKIS strategic approach to the other nine specific objectives of the CAP, where relevant.

The group has discussed potential evaluation approaches for the AKIS strategic approach and identified that the theory of change is among the most suitable ones given the varied structure in each Member State, from stakeholders involved to different desired outcomes. This approach should touch upon the analysis of the organisational set-up of AKIS and assess how advisory services, research and the national CAP networks collaborate to provide advice, knowledge flows and innovation support services. Several methods and tools were also proposed that adequately fit the purpose of system analysis, review of theory of change and collective learning.

The final outcome of the working group will be non-binding methodological guidance that may be used by Member States to evaluate the AKIS strategic approach in the context of CAP Strategic Plans. During a consultation in October 2022, draft guidelines were already discussed with a variety of stakeholders and, based on their feedback, they are currently being finalised. In the coming weeks, the final guidelines will be published and will provide a number of recommendations to consider when evaluating the AKIS in Member States.

Evaluations in each Member State should be tailored to the specificities of their CAP Strategic Plan intervention logic and how these systems are organised. Managing Authorities and evaluators will therefore find inspiration in the guidelines when planning their assessments of the AKIS strategic approach.