My name is Carla Rhyant and this research project is part of the requirement for a Master of Arts in Leadership at Royal Roads University.  My credentials with Royal Roads University can be established by contacting Dr. Brigitte Harris, Director, School of Leadership Studies: Brigitte.3harris@RoyalRoads.ca or 250-391-2600 ext. 4467.

Purpose of the study and sponsoring organization

The Agriculture and Food Council of Alberta, herby referred to as “Council”, is an industry led, provincial, non-profit organization that serves agriculture organizations and businesses across the value chain as “a catalyst for the agri-food industry to encourage growth, sustainability, competitiveness and profitability” (Agriculture and Food Council of Alberta, 2013).  The purpose of the research project is to better position Council to fulfill its mission as “a sustainable breakthrough organization that connects and serves the Agriculture & Food sector” (Agriculture and Food Council of Alberta, 2014).

The objective of this organizational leadership project (OLP) is to investigate how Council might better develop its collaborative relationships and networks within the agriculture industry in Alberta.  This project will develop a model for building strong collaborative relationships which to carry out activities aimed at fulfilling organizational goals that will enable Council to become strong and self-sustaining.

The primary research question for this inquiry is: How can the Agriculture and Food Council of Alberta develop sustainable collaborations within the agricultural industry? Further examination of the inquiry will utilize these subquestions:

1.      What do existing successful collaborations look like?

2.      What elements would make collaborations more successful?

3.      What are the potential barriers to successful collaborations within the agriculture industry?

If you wish to participate in the interviews or World Café session, please phone or email myself directly at Carla.Rhyant@royalroads.ca.  If you know of any other individuals or organizations that may be interested in participating, please forward this email to them with the attachments.  


Your participation and how information will be collected

My role in this process of action research will be that of observer, interviewer, developer of research design, facilitator, and resource of information (Huxham, 2003; Stringer, 2007).  My intention, as both a Council board member and a researcher, is to work with the organization to “build a supportive network of collaborative relationships that provides them with an ongoing resource” (Stringer, 2007, p. 21).  The research will consist of an online survey, one-on-one interviews, and a large group World Café session.  The online survey is anticipated to last five minutes, one-on-one interviews thirty minutes and the World Café is anticipated to last up to four hours. 

Benefits and risks to participation

Benefits to the sponsor: Board and staff will be able to interact with participants that are interested in Council and the outcomes of this project, gain knowledge on the experiences of the participants and learn from those experiences, gather information that could help the organization to become more sustainable, and more able to fulfill its mission and goals.

Benefits to the participants: develop a better understanding of what collaborations are, an opportunity to network and build stronger alliances with other people in the agriculture industry, share their experiences to help others create successful collaborations, and gain insight from participants that are from outside of the industry.

Benefits to society: other organizations within the industry will be able to access the written recommendations and integrate them into their operations, more successful collaborations, successful projects mean that can help to improve the agriculture industry over all, and funding will be better spent if projects are successful.

Benefit to researcher: gain experience, improve leadership capacity, gain knowledge from the project data and experience that can be transferred to other work within the industry, fulfillment of MAL-Leadership degree requirements.

The only risk that has been identified is that participants may potentially, in the World Café session, be in the same room as people who supervise them. To mitigate the risk they will not participate in the same table groups.  The benefits of this activity outweigh the potential risks.

Inquiry team

The inquiry team is comprised of individuals that are engaged in organizations working in collaboration with other industry groups and have the experience to overview compiled data and give meaningful feedback to the project throughout its executions.

·         Bryanna Kumpula, Executive Director, Agriculture and Food Council of Alberta

·         Marci-Hewitt-Fischer, Strategy and Business Integration Division with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development and Secretariat for the Next Generation Advisory Council.

·         Tom Lynch-Staunton, Director, Industry Relations, Livestock Gentec, Department of Agricultural Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta

·         Debbie Walker, Project Director, Jerry Forbes Centre, AFC Board member

Real or Perceived Conflict of Interest

I disclose this information here so that you can make a fully informed decision on whether or not to participate in this study.

I am a Director at Large on the AFC board of directors.  I am an employee of West-Central Forage Association, and as such I represent their interest to AFC. Since I am the primary interviewer in this project, I will not be conducting any one-on-one interviews with individuals in organizations that collaborate on projects with West-Central Forage Association. This is to prevent any potential issues of power over.  I do not have any power over any other individuals that would be potential participants to this inquiry.  I am not employed, nor have I been in the past, by any of the potential participants of the study. 

Confidentiality, security of data, and retention period

I will work to protect your privacy throughout this study.  All information I collect will be maintained in confidence with hard copies (e.g., consent forms) stored in a locked safe at my primary residence. Electronic data (such as transcripts or audio files) will be stored on a password-protected computer on my home computer.  Information will be recorded in hand-written format and audio recorded and, where appropriate, summarized, in anonymous format, in the body of the final report.  No personal identifiers will be attached to interview transcripts.  At no time will any specific comments be attributed to any individual unless specific agreement has been obtained beforehand.  All documentation will be kept strictly confidential. 

Data collected in the project will be retained for one year, as per Royal Roads University policy. Upon the completion of this retention period, all electronic data will be deleted, all paper materials will be shredded, and all audio data will be deleted or physically destroyed.  All data that is collected via electronic survey platform will be stored on a Canadian server.  The data pertaining to an identifiable individual who has withdrawn from the interview process will not be retained at any time.  Due to the nature of the World Café method, it is not possible to keep identities of the participants anonymous from the researcher, facilitator, or other participants.  The comments from participants who choose to withdraw the large group session will remain as anonymous data in the inquiry data set for interviews. Participants will be asked to respect the confidential nature of the research by not sharing names or identifying comments outside of the group.

Sharing results

In addition to submitting my final report to Royal Roads University in partial fulfillment for a Master of Arts in Leadership, I will also be sharing my research findings with the Agriculture and Food Council of Alberta.  This report may be published on the AFC website, in newsletters, journal articles, conference presentations, and shared with other industry stakeholders.  The research participants will all receive a copy of the report.  The report will be distributed through electronic and print copies to external organizations that are interested in the recommendations.  The Executive Summary may be posted on the School of Leadership Studies website as a means of promoting the work of students and the school.

Procedure for withdrawing from the study

Participants can withdraw from the study by contacting Carla Rhyant at Carla.Rhyant@royalroads.ca or via telephone at: 780-218-8890.  Withdrawal from the online survey can be done at anytime during the online study by closing the browser tab.  Participants who wish to withdraw from the interview process may do so for up to two weeks after the interview is completed in which case data collected can be destroyed.  After two weeks a participant can withdraw but data can withdraw but the data cannot be removed from the study.  For data collected in the World Café group format, participants can withdraw anytime during the process, but it will not be possible to identify individuals’ comments in order to remove them.  

You are not required to participate in this research project. By replying directly to this e-mail request for participation, or signing the in-person consent form, indicates that you have read and understand the information above and give your free and informed consent to participate in this project.