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Tapping into our creative potential: Humidtropics writeshop on innovation platform case studies

Humidtropics Innovation Platforms Case Study Writeshop

Writeshop participants spent a week reflecting on actions, achievements and failures with innovation platforms for agricultural development in the world’s humid tropics.

By Sara Quinn, regional communications specialist at CIP Sub-Saharan Africa regional office, Nairobi.

Twelve individuals gathered at the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) from 24-27 February 2015 to spend a week focused on writing­–an often complex, challenging and isolating process. However, thanks to a facilitated writeshop, participants had the opportunity to engage with others involved in the writing process, which encouraged discussion, reflection and feedback. Although the writeshop participants were competing against each other for the best case study, the collaborative writeshop process helped them to work together to produce stronger, more reflective and more cohesive cases.

The group was brought together under a case study competition organized by the CGIAR Research Program on Humidtropics (Humidtropics) to document stories of innovation platforms from various countries in the developing world.

The lead editors’ team comprising of Iddo Dror and Jo Cadilhon from ILRI, Marc Schut from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Michael Misiko of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), provided an energetic, productive and insightful week. This cross-CGIAR collaborative effort was enhanced by the communications expertise of ILRI’s Susan MacMillan and Sara Quinn from the International Potato Center (CIP).

The case study
A case study is a stand-alone record of the evolution of an organization, project or situation over time that is designed for use as teaching material in classrooms or workshops. Students and practitioners in the field of innovation platforms should be able to understand the key challenges and solutions explored in a particular case, which should also provide enough new and important trends, lessons and frameworks to generate a lively classroom discussion.

The case study authors in this competition were encouraged to reflect candidly on their innovation platform’s achievements and failures, to refine their articulations of what works and what does not and to provide insights and lessons from other similar initiatives. The writeshop helped to train the authors in the ability to think and write critically, as well as engagingly, about the impacts of their innovation platforms.

Distilling the essence of your story

‘You are in charge of the writing process and creating the story. Your story will be unique’

Shreya Maheshwari, a consultant writer based in New Delhi, provided the participants with comprehensive tips and resources for improving their writing and gave illustrations to remind the participants to focus on ‘the reader’.

Some of the tips she shared with the group included:

‘If in doubt, come back to what is the compelling human story because people connect with people.

‘Your conclusion is your time to shine! It is your opportunity to condense your thoughts, reflections and analysis. Provide the big picture, the context.

‘Distill your hundreds of meetings, conversations and events into a cohesive story. Involve the reader. Distill the essense of the process. Focus on your readers and what they want to learn.

Highlights from the writeshop

  • Five-minute pitches were delivered by each author to a panel of three communication experts followed by five-minute feedback
  • Ten-minute poster presentations of each case study to a group of five peers
  • 30-minute one-on-one writing sessions with the lead editors or communicators

The participants (authors) spent one afternoon pitching their case studies, in five minutes, to a panel of three communications experts. The pitch was to include a catchy opening line, an outline of the problem and how their innovation platform is addressing it and why their platform was worth exploring and investing in.

The pitch session was a fun and active way to give immediate feedback on the ‘big’ concepts that the authors were grappling with. It forced the authors to focus on big ideas and deliver the human story in a few minutes, followed by immediate communication experts’ feedback on the clarity and cohesion of their presentation.

The 5-minute pitch session in action

See photos from the writeshop

Keep your eye out for future blogs, publications and photos about the Humidtropics case studies and the learning and capacity development aspects of the writeshop process. Results of the competition will be announced later this year (2015).

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