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Linking development actions at different levels through 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.

This ninth brief discusses ways to facilitate learning and problem solving across innovation platforms at different levels (vertical linkages) and between initiatives located at the same level (horizontal linkages).

Linking innovation platforms vertically and horizontally.


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 typically operate in a limited area: their own village or district. But agricultural constraints may exist at wider levels making local changes ineffectual. Introducing new agricultural practices in a village, for example, may not be enough if national policies prevent farmers from getting inputs. Improving farmer incomes may mean persuading a national supermarket to change its buying policy.

Complex natural resource management problems involve interactions and trade-offs at different levels (farm, watershed, basin, landscape), which cut across administrative levels and require actions from each.

Similarly, national level innovation platforms may lack the ability to intervene at the local level: they lack the information they need to develop appropriate policies, and the local contacts they need to put them into effect.

Download the brief

See all the briefs

More on innovation platforms

Related ILRI materials on innovation systems

This brief is authored by Josephine Tucker (ODI), Marc Schut (Wageningen UR) and Laurens Klerkx (Wageningen UR). 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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