LIAISON glossary

Defining the key project terms

This Glossary of Key Terms has been developed by the LIAISON project partners in order to facilitate their common understanding and to improve our internal and external communication.   We have included references for some of the specific definitions we have used, but please let us know if you have any additional feedback or comments.

A - D


An actor is a partner taking part in project activities, contributing to project outcomes.


AKIS is the organisation and interaction of actors, organisations and institutions who use and produce knowledge and innovation for agriculture and interrelated fields. The main players of the AKIS are: farmers, advisors, researchers, (farmer) organisations, retailers, media, services, ministries: they all produce and need knowledge. The aim is to create a regional/national innovation ecosystem by enhancing knowledge flows between the AKIS players as well as strengthening links between research and practice. [1]


Individuals, groups or organisations that benefit directly or indirectly from the development intervention, whether targeted or not.


This Directorate-General of the European Commission is responsible for EU policy on agriculture and rural development and deals with all aspects of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).


This plan is a mandatory requirement for all Horizon 2020 projects and maximises the lasting impact of the project in five ways: (i) Ensure the conversion of scientific excellence into evidence-based policies and practical action; (ii) Reach out and connect with potential end-users; (iii) Extend and sustain the impact of project outputs as much as possible; (iv) Anticipate and react to the evolving institutional context; (v) Fine-tune and validate all project outputs.


Groups of people who are involved in innovation projects and initiatives in the agri-food or forestry sector - farmers, farm workers, agricultural educators, researchers, non-academic experts, public, independent and  private advisors, supply chain actors, and other actors in agriculture - to harness knowledge and information from various sources for improved livelihoods.

E -H


The socio-economic change resulting directly or indirectly from an implemented intervention. This can be direct effects e.g. the effects of a public intervention on its direct addressees, excluding all repercussions on other groups, or indirect effects e.g. the effect which spreads throughout the economy, society or environment, beyond the direct addressees of the public intervention. Effects can also be unexpected e.g. a change revealed by evaluation that was not foreseen when an intervention was launched.


These are individuals who ultimately use or are intended to use a product or service [1].


Three main types of end-users will be targeted by the LIAISON Dissemination and Exploitation Plan. The primary target group will be all policy-makers, administrators and practitioners actively involved in promoting and implementing the interactive innovation approach at local, regional, national and EU level. The secondary target group will be the direct (and potential) beneficiaries of the policies and initiatives promoting interactive innovation. This will include participants in EIP-AGRI Operational Groups; H2020 Thematic Networks and multi-actor RIAs, and where appropriate, LEADER Local Action Groups, members of co-operation approaches, professional clusters or networks and advisory services, as well as FAO, World Bank, smart specialisation platforms and others. The third target group will be the academic and educational community. LIAISON will involve cutting edge scientific research which will advance thinking in the agricultural and forestry, social and economic sciences. In particular, the work on measuring the impact of scientific efforts should be of interest for academics, as well as for research and educational institutions.


This contest is part of the LIAISON project and aims to enhance the diversity of the data-base of interactive innovation case studies at local, regional, national and EU level, and to foster the building of a multi-actor community of practitioners who will contribute to the analytical process, knowledge exchange and dissemination. The incentive for projects to enter the contest is thus non-monetary but an EU-level recognition of their innovation activities and the possibility to interact and share learning with other rural innovators as well as receiving analytical and facilitation services. From a potential pool of 900 cases 15 Rural Innovation Ambassadors will be selected, recognising the projects that offer the best lessons for others.


The EIP-AGRI is the European policy instrument for interactive innovation for agricultural and rural development. The purpose of the European innovation partnership is to promote a) the productivity and efficiency of the agricultural sector and b) the sustainability of agriculture (securing soil functionality at a satisfactory level by 2020). The EIP-AGRI is about creating synergies between existing policies, most notably the EU’s 2014-2020 rural development policy and its research and innovation policy which is known as Horizon 2020. The EIP-AGRI focuses on forming partnerships, using bottom-up approaches and linking actors in different types of interactive innovation projects such as the Operational Groups under national / regional Rural Development Programmes (RDPs) and multi-actor projects under Horizon 2020. EIP-AGRI Focus Groups are a multi-actor networking activity organised at the EU level.


The European Network for Rural Development was established in 2008 by the European Commission to help member states implement their network in an efficient manner. The network provides a forum for connecting rural Europe. It also serves as a platform for sharing ideas and experiences as to how Rural Development programmes work in practice and how they can be improved. Its main stakeholders include national rural networks, member state authorities, Local Action Groups and other Rural Development organisations having an EU perspective. The network shares information with stakeholders in a variety of ways, including through its publications and its participation in events and fairs across Europe.


An evidence-based judgement of the extent to which an existing intervention is useful, effective, efficient, relevant to the current needs, coherent both internally and with other interventions and has achieved added value. Evaluation goes beyond an assessment of what has happened; it considers why something has occurred and how much has changed consequently. There are several types of evaluation such as: Ex-ante evaluation performed before the implementation of an intervention, Mid-term evaluation performed towards the middle of the period of implementation of the intervention, Ex-post evaluation performed directly after an intervention has been completed, Impact evaluation performed several years after an intervention has happened to assess its long terms outcome, as well as its sustainability and unforeseen effects. Evaluation can have a variety of objectives; to measure outcome, to understand causal pathways generating changes and to stimulate learning processes. The objective of the evaluation affects the method chosen and type of evidence collected, from quantitative cohort studies, randomised control trails and models, to qualitative case studies and interviews. Evaluation can provide an independent external viewpoint on the interventions or provide an internal reflection process designed and conducted by those who are part of the intervention.

HORIZON 2020 (H2020)

Horizon 2020 is the largest source of public funding for research and innovation from the European Union. Around one third of the funding available is dedicated to answering societal challenges. One of the identified challenges is "Food Security, Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry, Marine, Maritime and Inland Water Research and the Bioeconomy". It has a budget of around 3.7 billion euros for 2014-2020, out of which at least 1.5 billion euros will contribute to the research area agriculture and forestry. Horizon 2020 supports research and innovation which answers farmer's and forester's immediate needs, in particular multi-actor projects and thematic networks.

I - L


The process whereby individuals or organisations bring new or existing products, processes or ways of organisation into use for the first time in a specific context in order to increase effectiveness, competitiveness, resilience to shocks or environmental sustainability of agriculture. Innovation in agriculture cuts across all dimensions of the production cycle along the entire value chain – from crop, forestry, fishery or livestock production to the management of inputs and resources, to organization and market access. Innovation is not just about technology, it is also about social, economic, institutional/organizational and policy processes [4].


Positive and negative, primary and secondary long-term effects produced by an intervention, directly or indirectly, intended or unintended. Three categories of impacts, economic, social and environmental, that should be taken into account when carrying out a qualitative assessment.


While agricultural innovation refers to the process whereby new or existing products, processes or ways of organisation are brought into use for the first time, the plural term innovations refers to the products, processes or ways of organisation that are brought into use [5].


An invention can be defined as a novel idea that has been given form (e.g. as a diagram, model or technology) which has potential for application. The term ‘innovation’, on the other hand, refers to the actual implementation of the invention into society. Only when successfully implemented, does an invention become an innovation [6].


The interactive innovation model in the EIP-AGRI context is the collaboration between various actors to make best use of complementary types of knowledge (scientific, practical, organisational, etc.) in view of co-creation and diffusion of solutions/opportunities ready to implement in practice. Interactive innovation includes existing (sometimes tacit) knowledge which is not always scientific. The innovations generated with an interactive approach tend to deliver solutions that are well adapted to circumstances and which are easier to implement since the participatory process is favourable to speeding up the introduction, dissemination, and acceptance of the new ideas [3].


A LIAISON project specific web-based information system for innovation actors and institutions, to access good practices. The Interactive Innovation Tool Box will present in a single integrated web-based platform all outcomes and knowledge gathered in the project. It will include impact assessment tools as well as an interactive online knowledge base and online story map, showing interactive innovation projects. The tools include participatory tools for co-creation and co-learning, networking tools, tools for dissemination, impact assessment tools, and methodologies and tools for self-evaluation.


See interactive innovation toolbox


Any planned effort that is designed to produce specific changes in peoples’ thoughts, feelings or behaviours. For example, projects often have a clear intervention logic to show how activities will lead to the outputs, intended outcomes, and ultimately the project impact.


Innovation is made possible by knowledge. Generally speaking, the knowledge involved in innovation may be entirely new or it may be new knowledge combined with existing knowledge. This knowledge can come from one or a combination of different sources - from farmers and other individuals; formal scientific research institutions or other kinds of public or private organisations, including civil society organisations [7]. In interactive innovation, building blocks for innovations are expected to come from a diversity of types of knowledge, from science and from practice and intermediaries, including farmers, advisors, NGOs, businesses, researchers, etc. as actors in a bottom-up process.


The LIAISON project 'light-touch' review will take the form of a desk survey of published materials plus a structured interview with a key actor from each case. Through this exercise LIAISON will look for both success and failure conditions, which will be traced and analysed.

M - P


Four macro-regions are defined to ensure geographical coverage of the LIAISON project. This clustering of countries aims to enhance knowledge exchange between regions and to ensure the socio-cultural differences (and common values) between the regions are considered. The four macro regions are: Nordic-Baltic, Danube/Balkan, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic/ North Sea.


A continuing function that uses systematic collection of data on specified indicators to provide project management and the main stakeholders of an ongoing development intervention with indications of the extent of progress and achievement of objectives and progress in the use of allocated funds.


Multi-actor projects are a key part of the EIP-AGRI. They are international projects funded by the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, but do not just involve researchers. They also involve the practical users and ‘multipliers’ of the research results. This can include farmers and foresters (and/or their representative organisations), advisers, service providers, NGOs, agri-food businesses, start-ups and all other forms of rural enterprise. These non-academic partners co-operate closely with the research partners throughout the entire period of the project in order to: clearly identify real problems and opportunities faced by practitioners; contribute knowledge and experience to the co-creation of solutions, and; play an active role in the dissemination and exploitation of these solutions. The multi-actor approach creates “co-ownership” of research results which greatly helps to speed-up their acceptance and uptake [8]. A full list of multi-actor projects funded by Horizon 2020 can be found here.


Networks are the status-quo of the interconnections between persons and/institutions; networks follow an overarching goal; networks have a driving force (person, institution, project etc). Networks can include a wide range of individuals and organizations (e.g. farmers, scientists, advisory services, consumers, SME’s, NGO’s and local policy makers), they can be formal or informal, territorial or sectoral, horizontal or vertical integrated, and research shows innovation networks are dynamic in nature (their composition can change over time as priorities and access to resources of actors change), vary in shape and size and in the strength of their relationships between actors [9][10].


Operational Groups are a key part of the EIP-AGRI. They are funded at national / regional level by the rural development funds available under Pillar 2 of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Operational Groups are diverse partnerships of different actors, such as farmers, researchers, advisers, businesses, environmental groups, consumer interest groups or other NGOs, that form specifically to implement a project that aims to develop and test an innovative solution to a clearly defined problem or opportunity faced by the group. This may include innovative practices, processes, products, services or technologies. The composition of an Operational Group is tailored to the objectives of the specific project and varies greatly from project to project. Operational Groups may also work at cross-border or European Union level, as well as through cluster initiatives and pilot and demonstration projects [11]. A full list of Operational Groups supported with EU rural development funds can be found here.


Changes or benefits resulting from activities and outputs. Short-term outcomes produce changes in learning, knowledge, attitude, skills or understanding. Intermediate outcomes generate changes in behaviour, practice or decisions. Long-term outcomes produce changes in condition.


The products and services that result from the completion of activities within an intervention.


A family of approaches, methods, attitudes, behaviours and relationships, which enable and empower people to share, analyse and enhance their knowledge of their life and conditions, and to plan, act, monitor, evaluate and reflect. It combines an ever-growing toolkit of participatory and visual methods with natural interviewing techniques and is intended to facilitate a process of collective analysis and learning.

Q - T


Rural development is a vitally important policy area in the European Union Predominantly rural areas make up half of Europe and represent around 20 % of the population. In order to help rural regions grow and raise employment and living standards, the European Union’s rural development policy has set three overarching objectives: improving the competitiveness of agriculture, achieving sustainable management of natural resources and climate action, and a balanced territorial development of rural areas [12].


European Rural Development policy is implemented through the Rural Development Programmes (RDPs), documents drawn up by EU Member States and regions setting out priority approaches and actions to address the needs of the specific geographical area they cover. In the 2014-2020 programming period, there are 118 national and regional RDPs whose implementation is co-financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and national contributions.


In the LIAISON project 15 experienced practitioners from selected project approaches from different European regions and fields of expertise were selected as Rural Innovation Ambassadors to contribute to the project’s analyses and outcomes. They  became members of the wider LIAISON community and their participation in project activities contributes significantly to the grounding of LIAISON’s analyses, and vice versa, the project’s impact on the actors’ level in European regions.


Individuals/persons or groups served by, affected by, or with a legitimate interest (or stake) at a certain moment in time in the project.


About 170 projects from the European Rural Innovation Contest (EURIC, see definition above) will be presented in an online Story map; a GIS application which combines a map with narrative text, data, images and multimedia content. See the map here.


Thematic Networks are multi-actor projects which specifically collect existing knowledge and best practices on a given theme to make it available in easily understandable formats for end users such as farmers, foresters, advisers and others.


[1] VAN OOST 2018 Setting the scene and outlook on EIP and AKIS in the post-2020 CAP. EIP-AGRI Seminar: From Operational Group project to impact, Spoleto, Italy.

[2] UNHCR Innovation Services date unknown A brief innovation glossary Available from:

[3] FAO 2018 website. Available from:

[4] FAO 2018 website. Available from:

[5] FAO 2018 website. Available from:

[6] FAO 2018 website. Available from:

[7] EIP-Agri 2017, Brochure on the “multi-actor approach” Available from“multi-actor-approach”

[8] Brunori, G., Barjolle, D., Dockes, A. C., Helmle, S., Ingram, J., Klerkx, L., Moschitz, H., Nemes, G. & Tisenkopfs, t. 2013. Cap reform and innovation: the role of learning and innovation networks. EuroChoices, 12, 27-33.

[9] Moschitz, H., Roep, D., Brunori, G. & Tisenkopfs, T. 2015. Learning and innovation networks for sustainable agriculture: processes of co-evolution, joint reflection and facilitation. Taylor & Francis.

[10] COM 2014 Guidelines on programming for innovation and the implementation of the EIP for agricultural productivity and sustainability. Retrieved from:

[11] EC website Rural Development Available from:

[12] COM 2014 Guidelines on programming for innovation and the implementation of the EIP for agricultural productivity and sustainability. Retrieved from: