In this section, the terms and conceptual tools that will be used for analysing and identifying the types of social processes or forces that existed in the surveyed villages are introduced.
There are countless factors, characteristics, and circumstances, that affect farmers who participate in a field school. The object of the conceptual framework is to reduce the bewildering variety of factors to a few key ones, thus visualising the main social changes that occur as a result of the field school programme.
Which key topics should be studied? In order to assess social impact, the study looked into changes in the way farmers:
For the purposes of this study we will label these key factors: knowledge, collective action, and level of decision-making; and it is in terms of these three features that changes in skills and capacities will be assessed. Improvements in these three aspects are crucial, in order to distinguish between 'regular' farmers and the supposedly more critical and capable farmer field school graduates.
The next step was to investigate in what direction changes had occurred in terms of these key factors. Such a move transforms the key factors into dimensions with a desirable end and an undesirable end. With the social impact study, this results in the following grid for analysis (three-dimensional because we have three key factors). In the following sections, these dimensions will be discussed in detail. It should be emphasised, however, that they are not actually used to measure; rather they present the changes and serve to determine the direction of change.
Figure 1: Three Social Dimensions of IPM
It is obviously interesting to identify the new, enhanced, or more widely available, knowledge that is assumed to be the outcome of a farmer field school. In terms of social impact, however, there is more that can be said about knowledge. The study looked for changes in the way farmers see their own capabilities, and the opportunities to put these to use. Here, for the purposes of clarity, the type of knowledge that does not have this effect will be called information.
The hypothesis tested in the first dimension is that:
IPM activities induce a shift from information, the plain resource, to knowledge, the attitude-transforming capability.
This will occur if farmers reflect on the information; introspectively on what they did and mastered in the field school and, in context, on their information and skills relative to other actors.
Visually represented, the shift through reflection amounts to:
Along with the IPM experience, background features influence the key factors. Among these are the dynamics of existing information channels, education, ideology, perception and acceptance of authority, and the degree of bureaucratic thinking on the part of the external actors as well as by the farmers themselves.
It is assumed that working together is a beneficial thing for farmers both individually and as a group, at least in the context of irrigated agriculture. If nobody has the intention to work together, this is referred to here as anomie (an old term coined by the French sociologist Durkheim). If people do work together towards common goals, it is called collective action. The second dimension in Figure 1 is about shifts between anomie and collective action at village level.
The hypothesis tested in the second dimension is that:
IPM enhances the chances of mutually beneficial collaboration on specific IPM topics, and possibly also on other issues.
Collective action is a key variable in the framework, first because it expresses social capital which is, in turn, determined by a whole range of contextual factors. Some of these contextual factors are well known: gender, ethnicity, and class. Others are the state of the irrigation and drainage system of a particular village - this may or may not provide incentives for collective action  - and the way different farmer groups are linked into the economy of rice production and marketing. Collective action effectively funnels these factors into one variable that we can use for further analysis.
Collective actions appearance as a dimension in the framework is due secondly to its link with the decision-making process (treated in the next subsection). It is assumed that decisions are taken by groups, or on behalf of groups by their representatives. The way this happens will depend on the way that groups manage their collective action processes.
There are several direct indicators of collective action:
Number of collective activities;
Mobilisation of time, effort, and resources to sustain collective action; and
Structure and agreement on roles and objectives of collective action (this does not necessarily require formal organization).
There are also some related indicators on the broader context of collective action. These do not measure collective action as such but do provide indications of its quality and ultimately the social impact of IPM:
Number and type of farmers engaged in collective action (or conversely: willingly or unwillingly excluded);
Sense of solidarity, co-operation and creativity;
Diffusion of the methodology and techniques, or the generated knowledge, to other crops and cropping systems, or extended to fellow farmers.
The analysis starts with an inventory of the decisions that matter, the formal arrangements for (participatory) decision-making, and the actual practices. This allows shifts along the decision-making axis to be characterised against the baseline situation. The main point is that decisions can be taken locally - by farmers or within their sphere of influence; or centrally - by the State, or in the private sector beyond the farmers sphere of influence. One of the things to look for is whether there is more local diversity, both in terms of rules for decision-making, and in the norms and values that underpin these structures.
There are some participation and empowerment concepts that are helpful in the characterisation of the decision-making situation:
Classifications which help clarify how participatory a decision-making process is, distinguishing among passive learning, i.e. being informed consultative decision-making, joint decision-making, and autonomous decision-making;
Making a distinction between the decision, the execution of activities that follow from it, and their financing.
Analysis of the rules that underlie decision making, at different levels and distinguishing different kinds of rules.
Together with the characterisation of the decision-making processes, we also want to analyse how the other two dimensions influence them. The previous subsection explained how the collective action dimension brings in important contextual issues. The subsection on knowledge development clarified how farmers may gain confidence and how attitudes may change. It is in the decision-making process that these are assumed to be put to use - provided all goes well.
Decision-making practice takes place in a framework of formal rules in which the authority to take decisions is distributed among different players. From an evaluation perspective, it is shifts of practice that are interesting, rather than the participatory qualities of the formal decision-making framework as such. Whether other players, notably the State, accept farmers' knowledge and authority is a rule of decision-making. This is probably the area where the impact of IPM on decision-making is felt the most.
A lot comes together in this study when decision-making is analysed. The hypothesis tested in the third dimension is that:
IPM induces a process of positive feedback: enhanced knowledge provides incentives for collective action and shifts the locus of decision making towards farmers; this in turn incites the farmers to go out and enhance their knowledge even further.
In terms of IPM specifically, we want to look at crop and pest-management decisions, whether they are taken on the basis of local knowledge, and whether information from outside is actively assessed and processed.
Can it be said that such a process has started in the Office du Niger? Section 3, that follows, discusses the case study in some detail.
 Bressers and Hoogerwerff
 Introna 1997, a theorist on management information, argues that information exchange is about the creation of understanding or meaning, which can only take place in a context and in relationship to that context.
 Uphoff 2000, Serageldin 1996.
 i.e. Social norms and co-operation networks that facilitate collective self-help action.
 Wade 1988.
 Uphoff 2000, Chambers in Nelson and Wright (1995).
 Ladders distinguish levels of participation, such as being excluded, being informed, being consulted, taking decisions jointly, taking decisions autonomously. See Arnstein 1969, Pretty 1995.
 Cohen and Uphoff 1980.
 Ostrom 1992, Coenen & Hoffmann & Huitema 1998.