Ideas That Grow: Rebecca Hyde, 2017 Nuffield Scholar and 2021 Kellogg Scholar
Lynsey Stratford has discovered farmers make a few assumptions that aren’t very helpful – like accepting the fact that work might be dangerous and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. As Lynsey explains, “There are changes we can make, but those assumptions and those mindsets have been deeply held for quite some time.”
As a consultant, Lynsey helps the primary sector with people management and development services and training. And, when it comes to health and safety she says, “We shouldn’t expect people to just know this stuff, but rather teach them and support them as they develop skills.”
Lynsey’s research report unpacks the paradox that while farmers care about their people, farms as workplaces are overrepresented in fatal accident and injury statistics. So, what can be done to improve this?
Bryan Gibson – Editor of Farmer’s Weekly.
I’m Bryan Gibson, Farmers Weekly Editor. And with me today I have Rebecca Hyde.
Rebecca Hyde – 2017 Nuffield Scholar and 2021 Kellogg Scholar, Oxford, North Canterbury.
Bryan: So, where are you calling in from?
Rebecca: I’m based at Oxford in North Canterbury.
Bryan: And what keeps you busy down there?
Working with Catchment Groups.
Rebecca: I’m a Farm Environment Consultant, so I spend a lot of my time dealing with farmers and actually at the moment I’m working predominantly with a catchment group. It’s great to be dealing with farmers in the same area and focusing on the catchment within that region.
Bryan: And with catchment groups, it’s a system that really seems to be working quite well in a lot of places.
Rebecca: Yes, it is. What I’m enjoying about it is you’re getting a good idea of what farmers are really facing, the challenges within the catchment or sub-catchments, and then you’re able to be quite tailored and specific to those areas. So, you see a lot of common themes coming through when you’re talking to farmers in the same area, which then allows you to be quite specific and help the catchment group or farmers in the best way possible, all working together.
Bryan: Yes, and all for positive outcomes, really, isn’t it?
Rebecca: Yes, absolutely.
Nuffield research into collaboration.
Bryan: Now that kind of works in quite nicely with your Nuffield Scholarship, doesn’t it? Because you looked at collaboration for environmental gains.
Rebecca: Correct, yes. So actually, the catchment group I’m now working on, we’ve had an MPI funded project for the last two-and-a-half years, but that was established back in 2016. It came off the back of a plan change for the Hurunui District Landcare Group. It was a plan change for the Hurunui regional area. It was through that the collaboration or collaborative process was being worked through.
At that time, I was working across other areas in Canterbury, but they had the zone groups set up and the word collaboration kept coming up a lot. It was often used in the frames of how do we collaborate better, or why aren’t we able to collaborate on this? So, this word continued to come up and at the time I was involved in a few other things with Beef+LambNZ as well, and I thought, well, what’s happening globally and how can we better understand this? So that was really a key trigger for me to look at Nuffield.
Same, same but different.
Bryan: So what did you find when you went around the globe looking at this issue?
Rebecca: I looked at a lot of places within land use, but also outside of it. I met with some people in Silicon Valley, for example, because collaboration isn’t something that’s unique to agricultural land-based activities, it is something that is right across the board. What I found was there was often a common good or a common purpose, that people were trying to achieve.
The other thing that was common was that often there was sort of a burning platform, so some decisions were needing to be made and that was where collaboration was being used. But the other thing that stood out quite a lot was the word collaboration gets used regularly or often, but it might be partnership or cooperation that might be needed.
It’s understanding how you’re needing to work together and then working in the most appropriate way. There are some key differences between, say, a partnership, collaboration, and cooperation. So even though they’re just words, there is quite a difference there.
Bryan: Yeah, I guess in some ways people might need to work together to reach a singular goal and in other cases there are people doing the same thing who could get efficiencies if they work together.
Rebecca: Exactly. So, for example, cooperation might be working together for those efficiencies, but you’re working in isolation still. Whereas collaboration really is about coming together for a common good. So, let’s say you’re a catchment group with some dairy farmers and sheep and beef farmers and maybe some Iwi there as well – you might be all representing your certain areas, but once you start collaborating, it’s about that mutually beneficial area.
Let’s say a water body, that becomes the key purpose as opposed to what you might have been representing. That’s often where we get it a bit wrong because we’re still strongly aligned to what we were representing. It’s a change of focus.
Bryan: I guess if you bring other stakeholders into a situation, then what success looks like changes, doesn’t it? Because you’re sort of ticking boxes that you wouldn’t have ticked on your own.
The foundations of successful collaboration.
Rebecca: The other thing too is that is quite time consuming – collaboration. One thing I noticed was where there were some good examples of it abroad, a lot of time put into building the relationships, the understanding, getting on that common ground.
Often in New Zealand we were just rushing through that foundation piece and then with human nature, we’re very good at focusing on what you don’t agree on rather than what you do agree on.
We tend to get into the stuff we don’t agree on a bit too soon because that sort of foundational trust and understanding is not there yet. That was one of the key things we saw when it was successfully happening – there was a good base understanding of what was all agreed on and then sort of reflecting back on it as well. Like, are we still on the same track? Are we still trying to achieve the same goal? Has the goal changed? Because things can change when you start a project. It’s that conscious effort of reflecting and reviewing on the process.
Bryan: Is it just a matter of taking the time and getting an understanding of all the players involved? Or are there frameworks or structures you can put in place to help you along the way? Or both?
The importance of neutral facilitation.
Rebecca: Yeah, both. The other thing too was having someone that can facilitate it. A couple of examples that I saw where the facilitator worked effectively – they had government backgrounds, so they had been quite familiar about how the structure works within government. These were in areas like environmental regulation so that facilitator knew what needed to be bundled up to get it back to government.
They were very neutral with the parties that they were all dealing with. Having that person as neutral as possible in that Facilitation process – that was something that I observed coming back home. I’m just talking about the Environment Canterbury (ECAN) examples that I was dealing with at the time. But the Facilitators were often ECAN staff members, so they weren’t neutral in the process. There again, that trust piece wasn’t quite there with the stakeholders. The person that’s trying to pull together everyone’s thoughts and help with the direction of the group is pretty key as well.
Bryan: Catchment groups seem to work because you have the common goal. You have support from people who are like you, and they face the same challenges. You also have that kind of almost friendly competition thing going on. You don’t want to be the one who’s not doing the work, I guess. Is that fair?
Rebecca: Are you meaning like peer pressure?
Bryan: Sort of, yeah.
The strengths of Catchment Groups.
Rebecca: Yes but hopefully in a positive way. We’ve noticed that in the project that I’m working on now in the Hurunui, we’re doing a one-on-one approach. We’ve found that once we got to that critical mass, there were farmers that were just wanting to be involved because everyone else was and they didn’t want to be the odd ones out.
There’s absolutely that effect that catchment groups can have. I suppose it’s a bit of FOMO – people do want to be involved and it’s a good thing to be involved with as well, because to me, it’s sort of about putting all the pieces to the puzzle together. It’s a real strength of catchment groups as well, because you are across a common area, say a sub catchment – you can then work with everyone within that and that’s a real strength.
Bryan: Yeah, I guess it’s also a way of switching things from having to live up to regulations or expectations and turning it into, here are some goals we want to reach, and it will help us in these ways and so it’s more of a positive mindset, I guess.
Rebecca: It is. I think the beauty of a catchment group and working with the community is that you’re working with the people that live there and they want the best for the environment that they’re living in. Often there’s generational farmers there as well, or people living within those catchments, they’re not necessarily doing things intentionally wrong, but there’s some tweaks or improvements that can be made to get a better outcome.
That’s the beauty of a catchment group as well, because farmers are very good at dealing with what’s in their farm gate, but sometimes struggle beyond the farm gate. Where a catchment group also has a real strength, is around pulling together all those pieces of that puzzle to get an overview, to then help those farmers understand what occurs beyond the farm gate and how they can help to minimise those risks or improve the environment around them.
On Nuffield and Kellogg.
Bryan: Now, I think you are one of the first two-time scholars we’ve had on the podcast because you did the big one first at Nuffield, then you went on and did a Kellogg sometime later. Can you tell me about why you wanted to do that?
Rebecca: Sure. When I did my Nuffield, I was at a bit of a crossroads. Do I want to look more high level on New Zealand and its place in the world? I certainly felt at the time a Nuffield was more appropriate for what I was wanting to do than a Kellogg and so I was fortunate to get my Nuffield. That was 2017.
Fast forward about three years and I’d started my own business and we went into COVID, and I’d been an Associate Trustee on the New Zealand Rural Leadership Trust as well. So, I got a bit more exposure to the Kellogg Programme and I was particularly interested in the second module, which is Wellington based, looking at how Wellington operates.
I thought it was a great opportunity to have a go at a Kellogg because I had started my own business – I knew the value of a network. And the cohort you have on Kellogg is a very broad network within Food and Fibre in New Zealand. That was appealing to me. Understanding Wellington or getting a bit of a front row seat into Wellington for a week in a sort of post COVID environment.
Professional and personal development.
Things have changed quite a lot and I’ve always been quite big on personal development, so I saw Kellogg as a great opportunity for me to do that within my own business. That was one of the key reasons I looked at a Kellogg and I did have people go,” …is this not (a step) backwards?” A few people made comments like that – and it’s like, no, they’re just very different programmes. They absolutely complement each other – they are standalone programmes.
I thoroughly enjoyed my Kellogg, and (as part of my research) I was able to collaborate between Iwi and Farmers in the Hurunui District where I’ve been working. So that was just an opportunity as well. I do quite like the research aspect as well in these programmes. I suppose, looking at a specific topic that I could do a bit of a deep dive into.
Bryan: As I was going to say, you came back for a second crack. So, you must really value the Rural Leaders ethos and programmes?
Rebecca: I absolutely do. I’m a big believer that if you ever put yourself into something, you will only get as much out of it as what you put into it. I think certainly the Kellogg is such a well put together programme, and that it was really appealing for me at the time. And having, as I said, started my own business and wanting to expand some networks into other areas as well – it was great.
Is the food and fibre sector collaborating well?
Bryan: So do you think in the last five or six years, that word collaborate, is it being used as intended now? Are we doing a better job at it in the Food and Fibre Sector?
Rebecca: I think we are. I must admit, every time I hear a news story or something like that and the word collaboration comes up, my ears certainly prick up. I think we are getting a lot better regarding how it’s being used, when it should be used, and what we need to do to make it effective. I do see improvements. I think we’ve still got a wee way to go, though, in ag. I think the last 18 months, probably twelve months, we’ve got a bit fragmented again.
That was another comment that came from people I was meeting abroad (on Nuffield). They’re like, “God, New Zealand is so small, how can you all not be on the same page together?” And you would think that, but we do seem to be quite good at that fragmentation within the sector. Hopefully 2023 might see us a little less fragmented. I think what’s good for the Food and Fibre Sector is good for New Zealand. We need to remember that.
Bryan: Thanks for listening to Ideas that Grow, a Rural Leaders podcast in partnership with Massey and Lincoln Universities, AGMARDT and Food HQ.
This podcast was presented by Farmers Weekly.