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Contribution of action researching to institutional innovation: a case study of access and benefit sharing (ABS) mechanisms in the participatory plant breeding (PPB) in Southwest China

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This article investigates the contribution of action research to systemic institutional innovation, through a case study of access and benefit sharing (ABS) mechanisms developed in the context of a participatory plant breeding programme in Southwest China. The processes of purposeful change are examined as critical events, in eight episodes. Evidence is presented in these episodes of the role of action research in fostering conducive interaction between local innovation and regime level change. The analysis elaborates the value of action research in supporting multi–level institutional evolution and networked governance of seed systems. The importance is highlighted of regime actors in boundary spanning during these processes. The article concludes that although ABS legislation in China is not yet adequately formulated, ABS can still be addressed in local practice in terms of procedural approaches, such as ABS contracts and market–based geographical indications because the legal basis for these mechanisms already exists.

Keywords: action research, institutional innovation, access sharing, benefit sharing, ABS, participatory plant breeding, PPB, Southwest China, networked governance, seed systems

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