These emerging lessons are drawn from across the RIU portfolio. They reflect current thinking and will be updated and refined as further evidence is generated.
- Research products are just one element needed to 'enable innovation in agriculture'
Addressing other pressing constraints, such as access to markets, credit and appropriate inputs and information, and establishing more supportive policy and institutional environments can, however, create effective demand for appropriate research products. These include new and improved crop varieties, better ways of managing pests and diseases, and more effective agricultural practices.
- Brokering networks and alliances is a critical role
- New types of entrepreneurs are emerging in poor countries
which could be the key to enabling innovation in agriculture. These 'bottom billion businesses' are starting to supply goods and services to poor farmers and other consumers. Naturally the goods and services supplied need to be accessible, affordable and acceptable by the poor, which can be achieved by providing low-cost small packs/units. With relatively modest short-term investments by development partners, these entrepreneurs can unlock potential (including from publicly-funded agricultural research) and remove barriers to enable sustainable and responsive businesses to become established. As such they might represent attractive and more sustainable alternatives to investment through NGOs. The private sector is, however, unevenly developed amongst African countries and measures to enhance entrepreneurial skills and capacity are required.
- RNRRS legacy
A significant number of RIU's activities are building on research undertaken during the RNRRS. Relatively small additional investments, often with private sector partners, appear to be effective way of putting this research into use.
- Innovation champions
Under the RNRRS, whilst much of the research undertaken succeeded in developing innovative approaches, usually these did not become institutionalised and failed to displace existing approaches. To put research into use requires a champion who is able to navigate complex political and institutional landscapes, building networks of practitioners and policy actors willing to advocate and promote the approach – and this is unlikely to be the originator of the research. It appears that, to be successful, champion need limited ownership of the research; a stronger ownership of outcomes; strong networks with policy and entrepreneurial actors – and they may work in a private company. Although these finding are preliminary, a clear implication is that for research to be put into use, creative ways need to be found to transit from scientific champions to innovation champions. Understanding the motivations of champions under different circumstance will help develop better ways to deploy championing as a research into use strategy.
- Flexible, fleet-of-foot and bold management
An important feature of RIU is its management style and general approach which enables it to be flexible, fleet-of-foot and to take calculated risks. For example, in 2009 the Africa Country Programmes were made more antonymous and flexibility funds were established to enable them to pursue promising opportunities and try things out as pilots with a minimum of bureaucracy. At programme level, the Commissioned Work strand serves a similar purpose. This organisational flexibility is now paying dividends: some of the most promising initiatives in the Africa Country Programme have emerged from the flexibility funds and programmes supported through the Best Bets initiative continue to evolve and adapt, responding to new opportunities, overcoming constraints and adapting their approach and models in the light of emerging lessons and experience.
- Emerging lessons from RIU on Gender
- Emerging lessons from RIU on working with disabled people and vulnerable groups
- Emerging lessons from RIU on partnerships with universities
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