ILRI / Intensification / Livestock / Livestock Systems / Opinion piece / Research

Partnerships and participation key to effective research for development

For the November 2011 ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ event at ILRI, Bill Thorpe, a former staff member, reflects on the key role of inclusive partnerships… …

In his contribution to the ‘LiveSTOCK Exchange’ Tim Williams highlights “the triple challenge of improving food and nutrition security, reducing poverty and enhancing environmental sustainability” (and stresses the need to strengthen core expertise in livestock production within ILRI).

In his video presentation John McDermott elegantly describes how ILRI has progressed to meet these triple challenges, addressing not just the ‘public goods’ of livestock but also the ‘public bads.’

They and other contributors draw attention to how collaborative partnerships and capacity building are central to ILRI’s R4D successfully impacting on poverty and environmental sustainability. In their contribution Keith Sones and Alan Duncan show how partnerships through multi-stakeholder networks can be an effective mechanism to implement innovation systems approaches to increase the likelihood of research outputs having development outcomes.

They stress the need for a new breed of professional with wide-ranging facilitation and brokerage skills. These will be critical, for example, to ensure the closer collaboration and sharing of expertise across CGIAR centres in the delivery of research outputs from the CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) and their impacting on development. Effective facilitation and brokerage will be imperative to reduce the often high transaction costs incurred while developing and sustaining collaboration amongst key stakeholders in complex settings.

In the same way, in a science-based institute it is important to keep reminding ourselves that the impact pathways that link research outputs to the delivery of development outcomes invariably include policy and/or institutional change. A familiar example within ILRI is the milk marketing value chain in eastern Africa and South Asia. Related challenges are the production and marketing of beef and small ruminant meat in West Africa and of pork in East and Southeast Asia. Their R4D challenges demand not only new technologies but policy and institutional innovations which, in turn, will require targeted efforts to ensure inclusiveness amongst the complexity of private and public sector stakeholders ranging from the humblest livestock keeper to key policy makers.

I suggest that if the CGIAR generally and ILRI specifically are to be more effective in contributing to significant development outcomes that deliver livestock public goods and address livestock ‘public bads’, then increased attention needs to be paid to ensuring that the key policy makers participate fully in the design, governance and implementation of R4D programmes and projects.

In that context a topic meriting review is how the institute’s partnerships have developed and changed over the last ten years, how these are expected to evolve over the next ten years and what lessons can be learned and applied to strengthen the effectiveness of the ‘new’ ILRI and CGIAR and the linkages that will determine if research effectively impacts on development. How to manage internal and external expectations is likely to be an important output of such a review.

Contributed by Bill Thorpe, former ILRI Regional Representative in Asia.


On 9 and 10 November 2011, the ILRI Board of Trustees hosted a 2-day ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ to discuss and reflect on livestock research for development. The event synthesized sector and ILRI learning and helped frame future livestock research for development directions.

The liveSTOCK Exchange also marked the leadership and contributions of Dr. Carlos Seré as ILRI Director General. See all posts in this series / Sign up for email alerts

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