The ‘innovation platforms approach’ is an effective way of establishing systematic interactions among stakeholders in the agricultural sector by stimulating technical, institutional and organizational innovations in agricultural value chains. In an innovation platform, different actors with different backgrounds and interests in a value chain come together not only to diagnose problems but also to identify opportunities and find ways to achieve their goals.
As innovation platforms are increasingly used, the importance of evaluating their impacts also becomes a major concern of both researchers and development practitioners. In 2013, Jo Cadilhon, an agricultural economist formerly with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), developed a conceptual framework to address the impact assessment of innovation platforms, and proposed a field method for its empirical validation.
To test the effectiveness of this framework, researchers from ILRI and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) selected Pham Ngoc Diep, a young Vietnamese woman studying at the University of Bonn, Germany, for an ILRI Graduate Fellowship during which she investigated a dairy innovation platform that is trying to improve farmers’ access to cattle feeds in Tanzania. The platform was set up by the MilkIT dairy development project, to intensify smallholder production through feed enhancement and value chain approaches. Diep’s study was made possible with funding from Humidtropics, a CGIAR Research Program that aims to develop new opportunities for improved livelihoods in a sustainable environment.
Communication between platform members is fundamental
Newly published findings from the study show that ‘the structure of the platform (how it is organized) affects members’ conduct (how they communicate and share information), which in turn influences the overall performance of platform members (feed availability and accessibility)’. Thus, it is paramount that the platform facilitators invest in fostering communication between platform members, because this communication contributes to platform members reaching their goals.
The more specific to needs of members, the better
Additionally, innovation platforms should be needs-specific: innovation processes should be compatible with the needs of individual members because the characteristics of members and their production systems play a significant role in reaching stated productivity goals.
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Read a blog post on the rise of innovation platforms and ILRI’s work in this area.