Multi-stakeholder platforms have been hailed by some as a promising approach to address research in development issues; but others are more sceptical pointing to some inherent flaws.
In the Africa RISING program, innovation platforms have been identified as a mechanism to ensure that research is put into use and contributes to solving real problems based on real demands.
Innovation platforms in theory
The platforms will design, implement and evaluate project activities and disseminate and communicate research findings. In this context, R4D platforms will operate where the supply of improved technologies meets the demand from farming communities to solve important constraints to sustainable intensification.
In the Ethiopian highlands context, these platforms are referred to as ‘innovation platforms’, as they build on existing experiences of the Nile Basin Development Challenge and other projects.
Wider experiences working with innovation platforms are nicely summarized in a series of practice briefs. In the East and Southern African context of the program, Per Hilbur (IITA) has written a useful project about research on institutional innovation and scaling issues in Africa RISING project.
And as Paul Sillitoe of the department of anthropology at Durham University pointed out, theory is key to innovation systems and particularly for such platforms to flourish in practice.
Three years into the program, all the target regions of Africa RISING have a set of innovation platforms.
From that practice, the Ethiopian highlands team has developed a set of guidelines for establishing these innovation platforms. And for the team in charge of facilitating innovation platforms, there is also a manual for innovation platform facilitators.
In each of the three regions, people are busy setting up and running these platforms, dealing with typical challenges of power dynamics, facilitation, incentives, participant turnover, and monitoring the effects of the platforms. This photo trip report from the Endamehoni site in Ethiopia shows some of the activities and results registered through working with innovation platforms.
Read more about the practice of innovation platforms In the Ethiopian highlands project:
- RISING voices: Mohammed Ebrahim, Africa RISING site coordinator for Endamehoni, Ethiopia (April 2016)
- RISING voices: Temesgen Alene, Africa RISING Research site coordinator for Basona Worena Woreda in Ethiopia (December 2015)
- Engaging with farmers: Experiences from Africa RISING in the Ethiopian Highlands (November 2015)
- Capturing most significant change stories from the Africa RISING project in Ethiopia (October 2015)
- Social learning for farming systems – Insights from Africa RISING in Ethiopia (September 2015)
- Ethiopia innovation platform meeting reports document progress and partnerships (June 2015)
- Measuring innovation platform contributions through participatory monitoring and evaluation (April 2015)
- Innovation platforms – scaling research findings in Lemo, Ethiopia (April 2015)
- Local innovation platforms to enhance system integration and take innovations to scale in Africa RISING Ethiopia (February 2015)
- Manual for innovation platform facilitators (February 2015)
- Guidelines on establishing innovation platforms for Africa RISING partners in Ethiopia (February 2015)
- Bale farmer field day assesses results of Africa RISING farmer-based crop trials in Ethiopia (video, January 2015)
- Building local capacity to innovate: tools, methods and approaches for effective innovation platforms in Ethiopia (December 2014)
- Africa RISING partners in Ethiopia trained on innovation platform facilitation, coordination and M&E (December 2014)
- Innovation platform facilitation, coordination and monitoring and evaluation training: Report of a workshop, Addis Ababa, 5-7 September 2014 (September 2014)
- Training on commodity-based innovation platforms enhances understanding of concepts key to Africa RISING success (August 2014)
- Innovation platforms established in Basona Worena woreda (July 2014)
- Innovation platforms to improve the productivity of mixed farming systems in Ethiopia (May 2014)
- Innovation Platforms established by Africa RISING in Sinana woreda, Ethiopia (April 2014)
- Report on Africa RISING strategic and operational innovation platform establishment workshops in Basona Worena, Endamakoni, Lemo and Sinana woredas, Ethiopia (April 2014)
- Building partnerships: Establishing Woreda, Kebele and farmer-based innovation platforms (March 2014)
- Photofilm documents establishment of innovation platforms in Lemo woreda in Ethiopia (March 2014)
- Innovation Platforms established by Africa RISING in Maichew Woreda, Ethiopia (March 2014)
In the East and Southern Africa project:
- Research-for-Development (R4D) platforms—A multi-stakeholder initiative for integrated farming towards sustainable intensification (presentation, September 2015)
- Update on Babati District Research-for-Development (R4D) Platform, Tanzania (presentation, July 2015)
- Tanzania’s Babati District R4D platform sets priorities for 2015 (February 2015)
- R4D platform promotes technology adoption in Babati District, Tanzania (January 2015)
- Babati R4D platform: Great expectations (May 2014)
- Africa RISING establishes a partnership platform to facilitate uptake and adoption of innovations by farmers in Babati District, Tanzania (May 2014)
- Opportunities for adoption and institutional innovation (presentation, March 2013)
In the West Africa project:
- Innovation platforms and technology parks to boost technology uptake launched in southern Mali (July 2015)
In the West Africa project (and in Malawi), platforms were set up later and have not been documented as systematically.
The 2014 program learning event in Tanzania put some emphasis on innovation platforms. It is likely that this interest will be sustained and perhaps even grow.
In the Ethiopian highlands, innovation platforms are connected with a wider national platform that the Humidtropics program aims to set up. In Mali and Ghana, these platforms should also help connect all the project teams better.
As the learning event revealed, the need to document the processes unfolding around these platforms has never been as crucial as it is now, so watch this space for more updates.
(This post was last updated on 31 May 2016).