Responsibility needs to be accompanied with authority for partnerships to work in fostering innovation process. Innovation, collaboration, partnerships and interactive learning have become the new buzz words in the recent past that dominate meetings, workshops, plans, and proposals and suffice to say, virtually every aspect of development discourse. It can be argued that innovation and the need to innovate is the driving force behind any initiative taken towards promoting development and improved livelihoods. For innovation in rural development to be successful, there needs to be integration of perspectives, knowledge and actions of different stakeholders around a common theme. To effectively manage and implement this interactive learning and promote innovation among the diverse actors in rural development requires skills and capacity to organize and facilitate a multi-stakeholder engagement among the different actors.
In the month of November last year (2012), I had an amazing opportunity to participate in a professional course on Design and Management of Interactive Learning for Rural Innovation, offered by the International Centre for development oriented Research in Agriculture (ICRA), in Wageningen – the NETHERLANDS. The course targeted at mid-career agricultural professionals from research, extension, or farmer organisations and the private sector exposed me to new approaches and tools for designing and managing stakeholder participation.
I should have written this blog more than three months ago, but only until recently did I experience a situation that begged me to employ my memory to retrieve some of the points I took home from the course. During the training we covered a wide range of topics including issues on facilitation and competencies needed for facilitating innovation processes, partnerships and creating dynamic stakeholder networks, facilitating learning in multi-stakeholder organisations among many more; get more information about the course here.
I have observed that in the recent past, there has been emphasis on collaboration and the call to carry out joint multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional research. Most donor agencies and foundations have made collaborative research an imperative for projects to get funded. In Kenya, the National commission for Science Technology and Innovation has equally adopted the ‘collaborative research’ concept, and it funds projects based on multi-institutional approach. In the wake of this new trend it can be argued that now more than ever, researchers and other stakeholders in the value chain need to be familiar with issues pertaining to networks and partnerships. When two or more actors come together for a common goal, therein becomes a collaboration of partners.
One key take home message I took from the module on partnerships and networking was “the need to accompany responsibility with authority” in partnerships, to achieve progress. Most of the time, there are situations in which a partner or stakeholder is given the responsibility of accomplishing a certain task, but not the authority to make decisions concerning that same task. Can a partner fully execute a task/responsibility without authority over that same task and other aspects related to it?
The course offered by ICRA aims at enhancing participants’ competencies to facilitate, trigger and coach collective learning in rural innovation. It is offered annually and the call for applications is still open. I recommend it for all actors in rural innovation and multi-stakeholder processes!