RAAKS: multi-stakeholder learning in agricultural innovation systems

You are here: Home » KIT Information & Library Services » ILS Information products » RAAKS: MULTI-STAKEHOLDER LEARNING IN AGRICULTURAL INNOVATION SYSTEMS

KIT Dossier RAAKS: multi-stakeholder learning in agricultural innovation systems

Last update: Monday 01 January 0001

RAAKS: the resource


Project design for rural poverty reduction has shifted from top-down interventions to a more stakeholder-based innovation system perspective. RAAKS (Rapid Appraisal of Agricultural Knowledge Systems) is a methodology for facilitating agricultural innovation and rural development from this new perspective.

Paul Engel, Monique Salomon, and others at the Department for Communication and Innovation Studies of Wageningen University developed the RAAKS methodology, on the basis of fieldwork in four continents. Since then, RAAKS has been widely used for innovative capacity development and social learning processes at the community level among rural organizations and institutions and, more recently, in agricultural market chains.

Contents of the RAAKS box

The RAAKS methodology has been described in 'Facilitating innovation for development: a RAAKS resource box.' The RAAKS resource box contains a book with the theoretical background and a manual with tools for team use. It was originally published in 1997 by KIT Publishers, CTA, and STOAS. The second publication of 2002 has been out of print for some years, but the free online version has been available from the KIT website ever since. The book 'The social organization of innovation: a focus on stakeholder interaction' (Engel, 1997) details RAAKS’ foundation in scientific theory and development practice. It uses the agricultural knowledge and information systems (AKIS) perspective to look at the social organization of innovation. The manual 'Networking for innovation: a participatory actor-oriented methodology' (Salomon and Engel, 1997) explains and illustrates the methods, and outlines workshops and exercises that can be used for preparing a team, organizing the work, and carrying out an analysis. The full reference and links can be found at the bottom of this page.

A RAAKS action-research study is carried out in 3 phases: ( A) problem definition; (B) analysis of constraints and opportunities; and (C) strategy development and action planning. In each phase, different perspectives or 'windows' are used to explore the situation. Each window comes with one or more tools. The original RAAKS box contained a set of 34 laminated cards for all the windows and tools used in RAAKS. The tools provide practical means for gathering and organizing the relevant information. Every tool card provides information on the expected outputs, relevant questions, and the working procedure. In some cases the actual use of the tool is illustrated with a worked example. The window cards indicate the tools used and provide information on design, validity, use and applicability of the exercise. Direct web links to the tools and windows are tabulated below.

Click on windows or tools to learn more on how to use them. The links in below table provide direct online access to each of the windows and tools used in RAAKS.

Table 1: RAAKS Tools for different Windows


Window opens to the following subject

Tools for each Window


Problem definition and objectives

Problem definition exercise


Identifying relevant actors

Actor identification exercise


Tracing diversity of mission statements

Actor Objective Sheet


Environmental Diagnosis

Environmental limits checklist


Clarifying the problem situation

Prime mover septagram (or spider-web)

Approximation Exercise I: leadership & coordination

Approximation Exercise II: problems & diversities


Impact analysis

Impact Analysis Sheet


Actor analysis

Actor Analysis Checklist


Knowledge Network Analysis

Info-source-use Exercise

Communication Network Sheet

Source-intermediary-User Sheet


Integration analysis

Linkage Matrix

Linkage Mechanism Checklist


Task Analysis

Task Analysis Sheet


Coordination Analysis

Basic Configurations

Prime-mover septagram



Communication Analysis

Communication Analysis exercise


Understanding the social organization of innovation - Summing-up

Window Reporting Sheet

Understanding social organization of Innovation

Approximation Exercise I: leadership & coordination

Approximation Exercise II: problems & diversities


Knowledge Management Analysis

Knowledge Management Analysis Exercise


Actor Potential Analysis

Actor Potential Checklist


Strategic Commitments

Defining possible actions

Strategic Commitments

RAAKS: an overview

Stakeholder analysis

is a methodology to help stakeholders gain a better understanding of their performance as innovators. It can be used to focus on the present and potential social organization of actors (groups or individuals) in a situation where innovation is desirable. At the core of RAAKS lie the appreciations of the principal stakeholders. The RAAKS process helps to make these appreciations explicit by encouraging stakeholders to assess and re-assess their understanding of the problem situation and their own role in it.

Knowledge for innovation

RAAKS provides a way to improve the generation, exchange and utilization of knowledge and information for innovation. Men or women villagers, researchers, policymakers, extension workers, consumers, producers of inputs or services, industrialists and/or traders, guided by a team of specialists, can all be involved in a RAAKS study. In developing countries, its application has generally been directed at bottom–up policy formulation and planning, and at the organization and evaluation of agricultural research and extension.

Central elements of RAAKS are teamwork, focused collection of information, qualitative analysis, and strategic decision-making. RAAKS uses a variety of windows to achieve a fundamental analysis, a transparent problem definition and recommendations for action. The important issues addressed in RAAKS include forms of cooperation between actors, actors' objectives and their conflicting and/or shared interests, integration and coordination of activities, relevant knowledge and information networks, and the division of tasks (research, experimentation, training, farming and so forth).

Stakeholder platform

RAAKS promotes the development of a shared conceptual framework that can facilitate the exchange of ideas, experiences, and knowledge. Moreover, this establishes a basis for implementation: because people work together in the process, they tend to emerge with a joint commitment to change. They have identified their shared concerns and the networks that are most relevant, and can explore possible new alliances and begin to formulate action proposals that are feasible to implement

Pro-poor and gender-sensitive

As a participatory methodology, the use of RAAKS immediately suggests the inclusion of women and other groups of stakeholders who are often forgotten. Depending on the local situation, this might also include newer immigrants, young people, the elderly, or landless farmers. In many knowledge and information systems, it is important not only to understand their role as actors, but also to seek ways to build them into the information system – supplying as well as receiving information. If they have been defined as target groups, this is essential.

RAAKS differs from participatory rapid appraisal (RRA) and participatory technology development (PTD) by its focus on the social organization of innovation, which is the way actors (individuals and organizations) build and maintain relationships with each other to foster innovation. PRA focuses more on analysing local farming and livelihood systems and general conditions enabling and/or constraining their development. PTD helps to create a process of creative interaction between local community members and outside facilitators, to experiment with and develop technologies. RAAKS complements both PRA and PTD. In practice, RAAKS teams often combine techniques from these and other participatory approaches


is useful to: (1) governmental, non-governmental and private organizations who feel pressed to improve their performance with respect to innovation. They include extension, research or development agencies, exporters of agricultural products, agro-industries, and national or international policymaking bodies; (2) organizations or institutions that intervene on behalf of particular developments; (3) managers of agricultural development programmes, extension managers, researchers, and development professionals in general. To them RAAKS is a way of facilitating inquiry into the constraints and opportunities that affect networking, cooperation and communication for innovation.

RAAKS can be used by: (1) field workers to chart out the knowledge and information networks in which you operate; (2) trainers to encourage trainees to take a comprehensive, critical look at their performance as facilitators of innovation in agriculture; (3) managers to encourage teamwork, self-monitoring and the generation of ideas on how to improve collective performance related to innovation, with built-in feedback and follow-up; (4) researchers to develop an understanding of the social organization of innovation as a basis for proposals for action and/or further analysis; and (5) consultants to facilitate a shared understanding among stakeholders, to define what can be done and by whom, and to improve the way stakeholders function together.

RAAKS in Practice

The steps for designing of RAAKS action research are outlined below. Again, RAAKS is not a ready-made solution but, instead, offers a menu of field-tested methodological elements: windows, step-wise phases, tools and exercises. A RAAKS team can chose among these, deciding to leave out certain ingredients or add new ones, fitting their approach to local circumstances or to the problem situation at hand.


Generally, a RAAKS study has three objectives:

  • To identify opportunities to improve a knowledge and information system (the organization, decision making, and exchange of information among actors) in order to improve the potential for learning and innovation;
  • To create awareness among relevant actors (target groups or constituencies, managers, policymakers, producers, traders, researchers, and extension workers) with respect to the opportunities and constraints that affect their innovative performance;
  • To identify actors and potential actors who could remove constraints and take advantage of opportunities to improve innovative performance and to encourage their commitment to such changes.

Designing a RAAKS study requires that: (1) intentions are clarified; (2) a design for the analysis is made; and (3) procedures are agreed upon.


directs attention first to helping actors study the ways they have organized themselves for innovation, rather than immediately focusing on specific solutions. Strategic diagnosis is emphasized. To achieve the three objectives above, a RAAKS exercise combines three different intertwined learning processes:

  • joint inquiry, involving both the team and other stakeholders in exploring a shared concern with respect to innovation-related performance;
  • contrasting results obtained by using different “windows” to create a useful tension among different, but equally relevant and valid, interpretations of the same situation; and,
  • a task oriented path that leads participants from analysis and interpretation of the problematic situation to designing and committing themselves to potential useful actions.

Windows and tools

To answer questions such as 'what should be addressed?', the windows and tools provided by RAAKS can provide part of the answer, although building a good team and hard work are equally important. The windows are meant to open up possibilities, guiding a RAAKS team to seek information effectively and make sense of their observations.

After the initial preparation, which involves team building, getting acquainted with the methodology, and building relationships with relevant stakeholders, a RAAKS study consists of three phases:

Phase A: Defining the relevant systems and its problems

The broad objective of the first phase is to identify opportunities to improve a knowledge and information system. Click here for direct online access to the windows and tools used in phase A.

Phase B: Analysing constraints and opportunities

During the second phase, team members go into the field to more systematically gather information on the social organization of innovation. A RAAKS study generally means interviewing key informants. Windows for Phase B are numbered B1 to B8. The team’s choice of windows depends upon the problem situation and the priorities expressed during the first phase. Phase B results in a more detailed picture of how different networks of actors interact, the issues that dominate their debates, and the way they coordinate their activities or fail to do so. Click here for direct online access to the windows and tools used in phase B.

Phase C: Articulating policy and strategy/planning for action

During the third phase, propositions for policy or strategy, and plans for action, are formulated and debated. Three windows numbered C1 to C3, provide support in analysing the potential of different actors to carry out specific strategies. The opportunities and constraints identified in earlier phases provide a basis for preparing realistic action proposals. The involvement of some or all of the stakeholders in all the phases of the study helps to stimulate their commitment to putting recommendations into practice. Click here for direct online access to the windows and tools used in phase C.


Engel, P. G. H. & Salomon, M. L. (1997). Facilitating innovation for development: a RAAKS resource box. Amsterdam: Royal Tropical Institute (KIT). Available from http://www.search4dev.nl/nl/record/422848.

For more resources, see the Resources Section of this dossier.

What are dossiers?

Dossiers are thematic guides to selected documents, links, and work of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT). They cover sub-themes within the broader scope of a KIT information portal.

Search KIT portal

Rural Innovation Systems


For questions or suggestions about this dossier, please contact the editor, Sjon van 't Hof, at s.v.t.hof@kit.nl.