ASSP / Ethiopia / HUMIDTROPICS / ILRI / Innovation Systems / Report / Research

Understanding power dynamics essential to ensure impact of innovation platforms

Innovation platforms are widely used in agricultural research to connect different stakeholders to achieve common goals. To help document recent experiences and insights, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) recently published a series of short innovation platform ‘practice briefs’ to help guide the design and implementation of innovation platforms in agricultural research for development.

Skilful facilitation is needed to overcome difficult power relationships (Credit: ILRI/Alfred Ombati)

Skillful facilitation is needed to overcome difficult power relationships (Credit: ILRI/Alfred Ombati)

This fourth brief explores issues around representation and power in innovation platforms and ways these can make or break an intervention.

An innovation platform is defined as ‘a space for learning and change. It is a group of individuals (who often represent organizations) with different backgrounds and interests: farmers, traders, food processors, researchers, government officials etc.

The members come together to diagnose problems, identify opportunities and find ways to achieve their goals. They may design and implement activities as a platform, or coordinate activities by individual members.’

Innovation platforms bring together less powerful people (such as farmers) with more influential actors (such as government or big traders). The combination of these different actors can be a catalyst to develop solutions to common problems or to achieve a common goal. If their interests are harnessed effectively, innovation platforms can be a powerful mechanism for change.

In theory, members of the platform are equal and have a chance to articulate their needs. Practice is often different. Unless this is recognized and dealt with, a platform can reinforce these inequalities.

Failure to resolve power and representation issues may seriously harm the functioning of an innovation platform. It can affect the priority given to issues, the selection of entry points, as well as the design and adoption of interventions. If some voices are ignored or if a group is not represented, they may disengage leading to inappropriate interventions that exacerbate rather than solve problems.

Download the brief

See all the briefs

More on innovation platforms

Related ILRI materials on innovation systems

This brief is authored by Beth Cullen (ILRI), Josephine Tucker (ODI) and Sabine Homann-Kee Tui (ICRISAT). It is a contribution to the CGIAR Humidtropics research program. The development of the briefs was led by the International Livestock Research Institute; the briefs draw on experiences of the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food, several CGIAR centres and partner organization.The series comprises 14 briefs:

  1. What are innovation platforms?
  2. Innovation platforms to shape national policy
  3. Research and innovation platforms
  4. Power dynamics and representation in innovation platforms
  5. Monitoring innovation platforms
  6. Innovation platforms for agricultural value chain development
  7. Communication in innovation platforms
  8. Developing innovation capacity through innovation platforms
  9. Linking action at different levels through innovation platforms
  10. Facilitating innovation platforms
  11. Innovation platforms to support natural resource management
  12. Impact of innovation platform
  13. Scaling and innovation platforms
  14. Addressing gender dynamics in innovation platforms

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