Local innovation platforms are used in several CGIAR Challenge Program for Water and Food-supported Basin Development Challenges – the Mekong, Volta and Nile as mechanisms to help bring about technological and institutional innovation in a more effective and participatory manner.
On 15 June, ILRI’s Beth Cullen, working on the Integrating technologies, policies and institutions project updated team members and other partners on progress so far with the local innovation platforms in the NBDC.
In her presentation, Beth covered several questions: Do these platforms bring much return against the time invested in them? How to facilitate them locally? How to ensure local and national platforms reinforce each other? How to balance the importance of a rich learning process with the necessity to demonstrate outcomes?
Among the challenges faced by the team:
- The local facilitation needs to be done well; is very time-consuming (especially as we are researchers who don’t usually have the needed skills).
- ‘We’ have been driving the agenda’s, our timescales, etc. How to match this with others’ agendas. Tension between moving at stakeholder pace versus ‘our’ timetables and the need to ‘see’ results.
- How do we incorporate existing knowledge from other (external) actors into local platforms?
- How do we meet all the expectations – local as well as in our own research teams – with limited resources?
- It is clear that process is as important as outcomes! But developing a good process doesn’t necessarily ensure impact…”
The presentation generated lively discussion … focusing on the different potential uses of platforms and the the danger that ‘platforming’ gets in the way of action. Some people wondered if there is a an effective alternative to all the meetings and processes involved … is it enough to just have someone who brings people together and brokers joint actions? The two key results/actions we need are: creating or catalyzing the linkages among people and ‘getting to action’ in which the people organize themselves.
In the end, nobody questioned the underlying value of such platforms, but the challenge remains how to make them truly useful in terms of their ultimate ‘end game’ – to deliver solutions that communities can benefit from.
In Ethiopia, these local platforms are complemented by a national land and water platform that, among other things, helps ensure effective links with policy-makers and financial partners. This platform already met in April and in December 2011 – a next meeting is planned in July 2012. These innovation platforms were also discussed in a dedicated session at the recent International Forum on Water and Food.