Considers the changes that are afoot with regard to learning, research and extension within agriculture in developing countries. Decentralization, participatory approaches and such methods are gradually becoming less marginalized, with the professional rewards of their adoption rising compared with the risks. For change to be rapid and sustainable requires the mutual reinforcement of participatory methods, new learning environments, and institutional support. The paper contains sections on the following: changing phases in agricultural research, extension and development; a vision for the future; the role of governments and state institutions; non governmental organizations; international agricultural research and the CGIAR; local institutions; education and learning organizations; and institutional and policy implications for the new professionalism. It is concluded that a sound strategy is steady lateral spread through alliances, mutual support, networking, training and sharing, stressing not only methods and learning environments, but also personal behaviour and attitudes. This paper begins with the perspective that "the dominant positivist and modernist frameworks have singularly failed to help poor people and reduce inequity." It proceeds to consider the options and alternatives to the dominant paradigm considering common uniting themes. Some of these themes are: the affirmation of individuals and their perspectives, the importance of context and therefore limitations on the whole notion of transferability and replicability and the importance of participation.