Ag Innovations



Collaboration Focused

Our work is founded on the power of collaboration. We imagine, design, and convene powerful collaboratives that quickly develop the vision, strategies, and implementation plan to drive change.

Our focus on collaboration is driven by two principles:

  • Only a broad collaboration of participants can create the 360-degree view of complex problems that is necessary to discover systemic solutions.

  • Social change requires collective action, which we see as the deliberate and positive collaboration of partners who realize their individual actions alone will not create systemic change.

Objectives Driven

All our work, from the design of large multi-year systems change projects, to the creation of agendas for effective meetings, begins with a careful process of clarifying the outcomes that are hoped to be achieved. Working with project sponsors and participants we help clarify what exactly success means and how we will know we have achieved it. We never put process in front of outcomes. Our process recommendations are always based on what we believe is the best way to accomplish the group’s ultimate goal.

Thoughtful and Informed Research

We believe that effective change processes all begin with careful research and understanding of the problem to be solved or goal to be achieve. That is why almost all of our projects have a research phase designed to inform and support a collaboration’s ability to quickly move toward solution creation. This research can take many forms. We do:

  • Stakeholder and expert interviews to uncover issues and attitudes.

  • Literature and knowledge base reviews to identify important data.

  • Surveys and other quantitative research to gauge opinions and knowledge levels.

  • Qualitative research including focus groups.

We use this research to help develop an effective process that will deliver on the project objectives.

Facilitation that Unlocks Potential

Dynamic, engaging, and effective facilitation is the cornerstone of our approach. Working from a carefully designed process our team – all professional facilitators and content experts – create an environment that assures maximum quality participation, thinking, and creativity.

While we are neutral about what solutions arise from meetings, we are fierce advocates for effective process. We manage time, participation, power, and staying on topic with grace and diligence. problem: we take an interest-based approach to uncovering common ground and solutions.

Our style is engaging, high-energy, and listening-focused. We facilitate meetings that participants want to attend.

Processes Designed for Results

We are collaboration process experts and draw from a deep toolbox of methods and frameworks to create change processes that deliver results. Some of the tools we draw on include:

  • Modern system change models like Theory U and social innovation labs.

  • Group development and dynamics theories that tie process to the predictable stages of a collaboration’s development and address issues such as safety and power.

  • Facilitation tools ranging from appreciative inquiry to World Cafe.

  • Models for encouraging collaborative change such as collective impact and movement building.

  • Both in-person and virtual collaboration using the latest online tools such a Maestro Conference or Trello.

Behind all our designs is the belief that to create change we have to simultaneously engage both our analytic and aspirational capacities. We design to create breakthrough thinking.

Implementation that Creates Change

Good process and meetings is not enough. We work to help create change. To do that we partner with our groups to create meeting records, reports, and communications/engagement/action plans that turns good work into great change.

More About Our Approach

Image representing Systems Thinking for Intractable Problems: From Problem-Solving to Emergence-Seeking

Systems Thinking for Intractable Problems: From Problem-Solving to Emergence-Seeking

Where have all the simple problems gone? It seems that every group I work with these days is dealing with long-term, often intractable problems. Water management, ag land preservation, housing, climate change, and rural economic resilience all challenge the very way we think about problems and solutions. Multiple layers of complexity often obscure both the obvious and the not-so-obvious.

So what can we do? Clearly it is not enough to simply walk away from these complex challenges, nor is it enough to adopt simple fixes  that often have unintended impacts as damaging as the problem itself. One answer is to use some of the tools from systems thinking.

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Changes At Ag Innovations

I remember clearly the day I stepped into the role of president at Ag Innovations almost 13 years ago. My good friend and mentor, Michael Dimock, had handed me the reins so he could move to create great things at Roots of Change. I knew one thing then that is still true today. The work of Ag Innovations mattered and was worth fighting for. In the more than a decade since, Ag Innovations has worked at the heart of food and agricultural issues from pesticides to land use, from farm bill to farm stands--always with same promise, we help unstick stuck problems. Today I have the honor of passing the reins to the next generation at Ag Innovations.

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How We Create Lasting Change Youtube Presentation

How We Create Lasting Change

Our problems today are shared. They're complex, interdependent and systemic. Where we face challenges in our food system and natural environment, Ag Innovations brings leaders together to move the needle. 

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Image representing Designing for Uncertainty with Theory U

Designing for Uncertainty with Theory U

Groups often hire facilitators to help them find a sense of certainty and a clear path forward through terrain that, in reality, can offer neither. So how do we serve our clients while also being true to the conditions of the challenges they are facing? One tool that we at Ag Innovations find incredibly useful is the process described by Otto Scharmer of MIT in Theory U.

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