The paper first briefly sketches the origins of the system of innovation (SoI) concept and the need it was seen to fulfil in agriculture. It then illustrates the different ways it has been employed as a framework to explain how change in agricultural practices and outcomes happens and is sustained. At its heart is “innovation”, which can be understood both as an outcome – a new or improved product, process or organizational form (Niosi et al., 1993) – and as the process by which innovations are generated. The SoI concept focuses on the systemic nature of that process.
The SoI concept recognizes that all these actors are capable of innovation, that this is not just the purview of research and that actors relate to one another in more than a passive or hierarchically determined fashion: interactive learning is central to the functioning of SoI. Also important is the notion of a shared direction or coherence to actors’ innovations.
This paper is concerned with the extent to which the direction of innovation in agricultural SoI furthers nutrition objectives, what will be referred to as their convergence on nutrition. Convergence, like the degree of coherence in actors’ innovations and the interactive nature of their relationships are a matter of degree, amenable to assessment and, we suggest, subject to influence by carefully designed interventions.