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UVG researchers present a project carried out with a Participatory Design approach to strengthen agri-business in the region

On Thursday, July 28, ASPIRE held a virtual Learning Exchange entitled “Participatory Development for Teaching Food Safety in Fresh Produce”. This event focused on a project implemented by the Center for Agricultural and Food Studies of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG) Research Institute, with funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

During this exchange, which was attended virtually by 27 participants, UVG researchers Ana Alicia Paz Pierri, Ana Silvia Colmenares, and Adilia Blandón, presented their experiences using participatory design techniques to create materials and guides for use by producers on the best practices for safely handling fresh vegetable products post-harvest.

The researchers stated that in their work, representatives from academia, members of various export value chains, and representatives from the food production sector all participated in the Participatory Design process, which facilitated the adoption and use of the final materials. Ana Alicia Paz emphasized that the didactic approach used in this project is available for producers and trainers in Guatemala and the rest of Latin America to learn about and potentially adopt into their practices.

This project highlights the ways in which technical content can be co-created in an accessible and practical fashion with end-users, ensuring that producers are able to incorporate the information into their practices, and is a good example of how to encourage research and innovation in the agriculture sector.

The presenters commented that in order to carry out this type of project, it is essential to identify key contributors to engage in the Participatory Design process. Additionally, starting the project by creating a common language around the work while validating and adapting the materials along the way are necessary elements for success. Ana Silvia Colmenares recognized the valuable participation of academia, the private sector, local farmers, and the USDA for their contributions.

It should be noted that although this research project was not originally conducted as part of the ASPIRE project, it is a practical example of how  key concepts important to ASPIRE – co-creation, participatory design, and collaboration between sectors –  can be successfully applied.

ASPIRE will continue to conduct these Learning Exchanges to facilitate knowledge transfer on topics related to  innovation, research, and entrepreneurship. To learn more about the Exchanges and the future schedule, please contact Alix Van Zandt at akvan@uvg.edu.gt.

About the ASPIRE Project

The Achieving Sustainable Partnerships for Innovation, Research and Entrepreneurship (ASPIRE) Project is a five-year, $15 million project funded by USAID and implemented by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG) and the Guatemalan Exporters Association (AGEXPORT). The goal of the project is to create a world-class, replicable model for how Latin American universities and their collaborators can respond to local and regional development needs. The project implements a collaborative approach to research, teaching, innovation, entrepreneurship and tech transfer, based on the combination of local assets and knowledge with MIT’s experience in the innovation ecosystem.

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