Capacity assessment in multi-stakeholder agricultural innovation platforms: A review of literature and experiences
This review is an information resource for development practitioners, development agencies and funders of development activities who have an interest in assessing capacity for agricultural innovation in developing countries, including the developing regions of sub-Saharan Africa. In the context that further investment in the agricultural capacity of developing countries is recognised as a development priority, the review explores what is known about the “tools” (i.e. concepts and methods) which are available to guide assessment of innovation capacity in these countries. Given the perceived limitation of past investments focused mainly on developing agricultural research capacity, the review specifically explores tools for assessing the capacity of multi-stakeholder initiatives which include a wider range of “innovation actors”, including agricultural researchers.
The methodology for the review was a two-stage literature search using the Google search engine to identify the available published information. This was complemented by interviews and/or email exchange with practitioners working in or managing multistakeholder agricultural projects in sub-Saharan Africa focused on promoting innovation and with a capacity development component. The author’s direct experience of undertaking capacity assessment and capacity development work in SCARDA was a further information source.
The search for available literature revealed an abundance of information on capacity assessment tools and also a useful body of literature on approaches to supporting agricultural innovation in a multi-stakeholder setting. Strong support for the idea of investing in agricultural innovation capacity was evident in the literature, even when there was no clear consensus on definitions of capacity. There was very limited information on capacity assessment tools specifically designed for multi-stakeholder agricultural innovation in a developing country context.
A conceptual framework and approach for diagnosis of national agricultural innovation system capacity developed by Hall and co-workers (2006), expanded in a subsequent World Bank publication, was identified. However, it was not clear if this has been empirically tested in one or more developing countries. The forthcoming World Bank source book on agricultural innovation proposed a chapter on capacity diagnosis/assessment, but this was not included in an early draft of the source book seen as part of this review. The interviews with practitioners found that capacity gaps addressed in a range of large agricultural innovation projects were not, by and large, informed by use of a specific recognised capacity assessment methodology. Rather than using a specific capacity assessment methodology, these projects addressed capacity strengthening issues during project appraisal and incorporated these into the activity design, or identified capacity issues constraining implementation and impact during project progress review meetings, and incorporated capacity strengthening into subsequent work plans. In projects where there was a strong focus on targets and the approach was to contract in additional capacity in order to meet targets, rather than strengthen the capacity of existing partners.
While the absence of a proven methodology for assessing capacity in a multi-stakeholder agricultural innovation context is a major gap, the review identified some useful information to inform the development of such a methodology. This included general principles of capacity assessment, concepts relating to agricultural innovation capacity and capacity assessment, and more specific capacity assessment methods.
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