illustration Mourad Hannachi, a catalyst for collective dynamism

Society and regional strategies 5 min

Mourad Hannachi, a catalyst for collective dynamism

A research scientist at INRAE since 2013, Mourad Hannachi focuses on coopetition – a mixture of cooperation and competition – and the common good. Collective dynamics and transdisciplinarity underpin both his scientific work and his efforts at the service of others.

Published on 02 July 2021

Mourad Hannachi qualified initially from the National Institute for Agricultural Research in Algiers and is now an INRAE Senior Research Scientist. He specialises in the field of management sciences, working in the INRAE-AgroParisTech Joint Research Unit Sciences for Action and Development - Activities, Products, Territories (SAD-APT), where he is also Deputy Director. We take a look back at his career so far.

Coopetition for the common good

Because he felt that “feeding the world” was a management and resource sharing issue rather than a problem of resources, after qualifying as an agricultural engineer Mourad turned towards the economic and social sciences which enabled him to study the relationships between humans from the standpoint of managing common goods at the sectoral and territorial levels. How is it possible to manage a collective resource when it is competing actors who hold all the cards? Cooperating while in competition means coopetition for the common good; these concepts of “coopetition” and “common good” have been underpinning Mourad’s research for many years.  

From technical to organisational innovations

Mourad Hannachi’s PhD thesis in management sciences focused on the socioeconomic impacts of introducing GMOs into different French sectors and agricultural production regions. His work enabled the development of collective management scenarios for coexistence at the regional scale that could feed thinking in other areas: the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable management of varietal resistance or reductions in pesticide use.


Social sublimation as a response to technical imperfections

Between varietal resistance – often too short-lived – and plant protection products – frequently criticised – Mourad Hannachi proposes a new view of plant health, considered as being a common good that requires collective management. While he observed the emergence of coopetition in previous case studies, he has focused more recently on driving its emergence, seeking to establish new rules and ensuring they are acceptable to stakeholders.

He has addressed this challenge in the context of several projects in which he participated or coordinated. One example was the project entitled “Eternal Rice – the sustainability of resistance in a traditional cropping system: a case study of the rice terraces of YuanYang in China”, supported by the Institute’s SMACH metaprogramme, which was followed by the SEED project on the effects of the management of durum wheat seeds by Tunisian farmers on the sustainability of disease control.

He was also involved in the FONDU project – Territorial strategies for the sustainable use of antifungal agents – which was followed by the Magnificent7 project on the modelling of support for the new and integrated management of fungicides and herbicides, supported by the Institute’s SuMCrop metaprogramme, for which he is also a member of the management unit.
The cinema has its seven mercenaries and science has its seven partners, the scenario being the co-construction of multi-actor territorial dynamics to manage plant health as a common good while reducing the use of plant protection products in the context of role play where the actors – farmers and cooperatives – seek to find collective solutions at different agroecological scales over an accelerated timescale and in a virtual territory.  

Finally, the FAST  project – Facilitate public action to exit from pesticides, which was retained in the context of the Growing and Protecting Crops Differently priority research programme aims to provide organisational and political solutions that will enable large-scale transition towards pesticide-free agriculture.

At the crossroads between different disciplines and communities

Studying and implementing the emergence of multi-actor collective strategies

In line with his role as a “crosser of borders between disciplines”, Mourad Hannachi is a member of a think-tank managed by INRAE’s Directorate for Science and Innovation on interdisciplinary practices (defined as synergy between several disciplines) and cross-disciplinarity (defined as participative synergy between scientific knowledge and that of different actors). Both approaches are essential to dealing with the complexity of the global challenges that face the Institute and its teams.  

And Mourad does not hold back from defending his scientific ideas. In the spring of 2020, he published with several colleagues, and then with directors of research institutes, members of the French COVID Scientific Council, associations and professional bodies for actors in civilian society, two opinion pieces in the newspaper Le Monde on how the COVID crisis was being managed. Faced with a complex situation, far from a simple opposition between economic and medical arguments, this group wished to question public opinion on the need to implement cross-disciplinary actions and improve science-society dialogue in order to supplement the management arrangements for the COVID crisis that were being developed at that time.

Inspiring a cross-disciplinary collective dynamic to control diseases

Collective strategies are important to Mourad Hannachi from both the scientific and personal points of view. In his professional environment, he is particularly keen to inspire collective solidarity and dynamism.

Until recently, he was a union representative and participated in INRAE staff representative bodies such as the Joint Commissions responsible for supporting individual employees and examining changes to working conditions and community life in the Institute. Mourad and some of his colleagues were also behind the initiative that created clubs for PhD students and young researchers; cosmopolitan and informal groups of young recruits working in laboratories at the Thiverval-Grignon site who meet for a drink to freely discuss their daily activities. Since he became Deputy Director of his unit in January 2020, Mourad has to admit that he has had to hand some of this work over to others but he remains convinced that it is essential to “ensure we encourage young people who are starting out in research because a great deal of courage and self-confidence is necessary to be creative, take risks and blossom in the profession at the start of their careers”.
He is also certain that such community interactions are essential at all ages, saying without irony that “Because you are looking so hard, sometimes you lose yourself.  Others can help you find the way”.

And what about the future? “First of all, I want to obtain my accreditation to supervise research” Mourad says immediately. To some extent, he sees this as recognition for his skills, because he is so keen to train young people in research and above all to transmit his experience in transdisciplinary approaches “which require more effort than you might think”.

Mourad Hannachi’s future is also central to the dynamism of Paris-Saclay. He has already invested a great deal in this institution, whether as a teacher – he is an elected member of the Graduate School for Economics and Management – representing his colleagues, unit or INRAE’s ACT Scientific Division or contributing (through the upcoming move of his unit) to creating a calm and professional environment that will benefit both his colleagues and scientific research.

Find out more
- Garin P. et al. Réfléchir l'interdisciplinarité à INRAE. Nature Sciences Société, in print.
- Hannachi M. et al. 2020. Vers une gestion collective à l'échelle des paysages : les enseignements du projet Magnificient7. Phytoma 733 : 21.
- Hannachi M. et al. 2020. The “new agricultural collectivism”: How cooperatives horizontal coordination drive multi-stakeholders self-organization. Journal of Co-operative Organization and Management 8: 100111.
- Dedeurwaerderea T & Hannachi M. 2019. Socio-economic drivers of coexistence of landraces and modern crop varieties in agro-biodiversity rich Yunnan rice fields. Ecological Economics 159 : 177.
 - Hannachi M. & Dedeurwaerdere T. 2018. Des semences en commun pour gérer les maladies : Étude comparative de rizières dans le Yuanyuang (Chine). Etudes Rurales 202 : 76.

Catherine Foucaudtranslated by Vicky Hawken


Mourad Hannachi Joint Research Unit for Activities, Products, Territories