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Governance and Management
The existence of a well-working coordination body (core group, board or committee) which is accountable towards platform members (and donors where present) makes the innovation platform more transparent and trustworthy. These can be rotating functions, so to allow actors to change roles throughout the process.
Platform members need to be kept up-to-date, and they need to know what other members do. This is a challenge when activity implementation is in the hands of many individuals/organizations. It can be improved through the following activities:
- Making sure platform members feel part of planning, implementation and discussion of achievements.
- Holding regular meeting in which partners report on their activities. There is a risk of overburdening the platform members, so keep it simple and pragmatic. Asking platform members to write reports every month is simply not realistic.
- Circulating information through e-mail/text messages, visits to platform members.
- Organizing a meeting with platform members’ managers once in a while (if appropriate).
- Organizing joint field days to see what other platform members are doing.
In Tanzania, the Research Into Use (RIU) programme selected indigenous chicken as its main focus because it requires minimum resources for investment, is kept by both men and women of all ages, is less dependent on agricultural seasons and provides quick returns throughout the year. A private advisory services company - MUVEK Development Solutions Ltd - was hired by the RIU programme to co-ordinate the initiative. Though the intention was to establish an innovation platform, initial difficulties in getting partners to work together led MUVEK to change its strategy. Instead, it moved towards acting as a broker of bilateral contacts and interaction in what they found to be a more flexible and efficient set-up .
Platform members have different interests and different means to exercise influence and power. Marginal groups are easily overlooked, and it requires effort to make innovation platforms socially inclusive. Facilitators need to mediate between the different interests, and in some cases may need to advocate on behalf of less powerful members. Participatory videos, role playing, and meetings in informal spaces can be effective ways to deal with power issues .
Capacities required of providers and participants
A key factor of success for innovation platform is that of good facilitation. The facilitator (sometimes called “innovation broker”) needs to have some degree of neutrality. The facilitator can be an individual or an organisation; from either a research organization, an NGO, an advisory service provider, a farmer. S/he should be knowledgeable of the concerned topic or theme addressed, and should have convening power to bring stakeholders together. The facilitator also needs to have the right attitude: being patient and culturally sensitive, open-minded, and empathic .