Strategy and approaches
The RIU Sierra Leone strategy focuses on developing relationships and linkages between organisations which will lead to knowledge flow and utilisation. It focuses particularly on the intermediary function, i.e. those actors operating within or with influence upon the rural service economy, whose interactions with each other and with other actors provide a conduit for knowledge linkages and flows. Its operational mechanism will be to support the emergence of gap-filling 'knowledge services' to facilitate these interactions, focusing on critical areas where the existing system is currently weak:
- Demand support facility
Enhance effective demand for knowledge-based services
- Knowledge brokerage
Match this demand with sources in Sierra Leone and elsewhere
- Innovation finance facility
Match good ideas with appropriate finance
The use of the knowledge services will support a virtuous circle; organisations will use the services to help identify and work up innovative ideas (new products, technologies, ventures, processes, etc.), and develop them through action research activities - lessons learnt during this process will result in institutional developments which feed further demand for knowledge.
These organisations are represented by the Partnership for Agricultural Innovation and Development (PAID). This partnership, broadly representative of the Sierra Leone agricultural system, operates essentially as an open, membership based social business network - accessing, exchanging and utilising information and services, and undertaking other mutually supporting activities to build opportunities and capacity for delivery of knowledge-based services into agriculture. In effect the PAID of Sierra Leone is a 'knowledge marketplace'; it has straightforward, inclusive and democratic membership arrangements. Organisations will participate in their own best interests to the extent that they benefit from interactions with other participants.
The provision of knowledge will be focused upon three theme areas:
- Making markets work for the poor and increasing their effective participation in value chains
- Engaging youth meaningfully in the development process in a post-conflict environment
- Rebuilding and managing relationships between the research system and the production/agribusiness system.
A policy platform will provide a new 'space' to focus on areas of policy that require more evidence and more advocacy in the Sierra Leone context. It is envisaged that this will improve the position and performance of rural services and entrepreneurs as essential intermediary actors within the Sierra Leone innovation system. Members of the PAID will effectively be operating as a 'self-interested' lobby to influence and advocate for change. Additionally, there are concrete opportunities for linkage and learning between the RIU Sierra Leone programme and the DFID Country programme, specifically relating to DFID's support for the decentralisation process and for strengthening business development services provision.
A communications plan will address the quality of communications, best practices in the use of relevant media, and the packaging of information to meet the needs of different target audiences. RIU Sierra Leone will operate at the leading edge of opportunities to develop and use mobile phone, web and related content services for agricultural knowledge provision. At the same time, the currently constrained communications environment requires that approaches used will also make 'joined-up' use of other relevant media such as community radio.
The criteria, and process for developing specific initiatives, will include livelihoods analysis to identify and validate opportunities that are (i) broadly accessible amongst rural communities and not exclusive or liable to capture by elites and (ii) generate economic linkages into poorer households. While the strategy has a focus on youth, it will also pay explicit attention to gender issues, which are serious and important in Sierra Leone, and to environmental sustainability.
The operating assumptions for the work programme include:
- political stability and positive economic direction is maintained in Sierra Leone
- conductive environment prevails for partnership of different organizations to come together
- political, economic, policy and institutional context remains supportive in Sierra Leone
- Sierra Leone remains committed to 2015 Millennium Development Goals no new external shocks (global economic crash, natural disasters and civil war etc.)
- innovation system thinking is adopted by the government and partners
- organizations are motivated to be part of PAID.