Dilemmas in brokering within innovation processes and innovation systems: training and empowering African agricultural innovation coaches

R. Pyburn, L.W.A. Klerkx, P.R. Gildemacher

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic

Abstract

Objective Given the foregoing tensions with the broker role in developing countries’ AIS, a pertinent question remains: how can this role of broker in innovation process and systems be made independent and who should fulfill this role? Is the European example of independent innovation brokers adaptable to a developing country context, or is an approach in which people who are organizationally attached to other kinds of organizations more feasible (Klerkx et al., 2009)? A related challenge is how to design appropriate incentives, courses and training materials (Kristjanson et al., 2009). By examining the experience of several individuals who have chosen to function in the ‘boundary space’, we reflect on the future for this role in Africa and consider in more depth how to shape and fulfill this vital brokering role in AIS in developing countries. We conclude by distilling points for research and policy making. Originality and main contribution The originality of the paper lies in the link between reflection on the broker role and translation of this reflection into action for capacity building and the empowerment of actors aiming to function in this role. The contribution not only distills theoretical insights, but also aims to provide practical indications for building capacity and empowering individuals to play this role. Method The data for this paper is drawn from two week-long workshops: the first a reflections session that explored the role of such a broker in innovation processes and systems, using the term of Agricultural Innovation Coach (AI-Coach) as employed by the Royal Tropical Institute, which aims to support such brokers. This workshop, which had the form of an extended (5-day) focus group session, involved 10 African individuals who act as brokers in innovation processes and systems in their daily work. The cases were documented as was practitioner reflection on their roles during the 5-day workshop. This document, published as a workshop report, was peer reviewed by all participants to ensure validity of the results. The results of this practitioner workshop were fed into a training context for the CoS-SIS program (see www.cos-sis.org), providing tools for researchers who will play this role of AI-Coach, considering the terms of engagement, that is, positioning oneself as an AI-Coach – in both innovation processes and the AIS. Results The results are framed as dilemmas faced by AI-Coaches, including: * Positioning within an existing organization (e.g. a research organization) and vis-à-vis other brokers in the innovation process and AIS (both formal and informal). * Role of substantive expertise vs. process management knowledge and capacities. * Stealth nature of the broker role juxtaposed against the need for recognition in order to both be a credible broker and to secure funding. * Recognizing when to intervene and when to extract oneself from innovation processes. * Neutrality vs. stake: what is the nature of ‘neutrality’ in a broker role? A stake in the outcome of the process may be a necessary prerequisite for successful intervention. We examine and reflect on how de facto AI-coaches are dealing with these dilemmas through ‘learning-by-doing’ and how that experience can be translated into empowerment and capacity development for aspiring AI-coaches.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2010
EventISDA 2010: Innovation & Sustainable Development in Agriculture and Food, Montpellier, France -
Duration: 28 Jun 20101 Jul 2010

Conference

ConferenceISDA 2010: Innovation & Sustainable Development in Agriculture and Food, Montpellier, France
Period28/06/101/07/10

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