Output of IAPS round table discussions on 7 May 2009


During the paper presentation and discussion on the six themes, several issues were flagged for further discussion. These issues were then clustered into six main questions to be discussed on the 7th (the closing day of the symposium) using a world cafe format. Six participants were identified by the organising committee to be table leaders. All of them accepted the invitation and facilitated the discussions at their table. In the first round, participants picked a table of their choice, keeping in mind fair distribution across the tables. Each table discussed their question for about an hour with the facilitator capturing the discussion on flip charts. After the first round, the participants picked another issue they would want to discuss and moved to a different table. The table leader then gave the new group at his/her table a short briefing of the discussion that had already taken place after which the new group brought in their ideas and perspectives. At the end of the second round, each table leader presented the findings of his/her group to the plenary. A short discussion at the end of each presentation allowed those who had not been at that table to provide input. Â The following questions were dealt with by the round table discussants:

  1. What is the role of intermediaries/facilitators in innovation systems?
  2. How do we bring about change in research to foster innovation?
  3. How do we ensure that the benefits of innovation reach the poorest of the poor? How do we measure change in innovation systems (beyond income/production)?
  4. How do we bring about institutional changes that enhance innovation processes? How do we learn to unlearn? How do we build capacity for this?
  5. How does policy enhance or hinder innovation? Examples? What needs to be changed? (including IPR issues)
  6. How can market-driven innovation benefit the poor? Consider the role of incentives/subsidies.

The discussion notes were captured on flipcharts by each of the table leaders.

Table 1: What is the role of intermediaries/facilitators in innovation systems?

Table leader: Noel Magor

By Innovation we mean technological, social and institutional processes. The process is iterative and multi-dimensional.

Who are they (intermediaries/facilitators)?

  • Enablers depending on the context
  • Can be any agent concerned with primary stakeholder (may be farmer, small manufacturer, excluded group etc.)
  • Can interchange between being an institution or person(s)

Roles of intermediaries/facilitators:

  • Broker linkages with stakeholders
  • Facilitate/build innovation capacity
  • Broker knowledge
  • Open new opportunities (technological/processes)
  • Bring evidence of information/knowledge from the ground to policy makers/ institutions and researchers
  • Accelerate knowledge exchange
  • Troubleshooters and solvers
  • Negotiate
  • Build consensus
  • Organise and network
  • Raise funds (Identify resources and)
  • Generate resources
  • Be spokesperson
  • Advocate
  • Link to markets
  • Institutionalise innovations
  • Coordinate (strategic)
  • Maintain relationship harmony when staff/people change


a.When is facilitator/ intermediary no longer needed?

  • Exit plans need to be built into process
  • Exit timing needs to be clear to all involved

b.Degree to which intermediary overuses their role (to exclusion of others)

  • Empowerment vs. disempowerment
  • Caution to create dependency
  • Can depend on internal vs. external facilitators

c.Massively influential position

  • Needs to be careful and/or recognized. Supporting resources for intermediary position
  • Where from?

e.Delineation of several intermediaries in a project scenario

f.Legacy planning for ongoing activity post project

Table 2: How do we bring about change in research to foster innovation?

Table Leader- Rajeswari Raina

Address the constraints

1.Society shapes research

  • National policies, political power, price incentives
  • Donors dictate research content
  • Private sector/multinationals driven research influence public-sector research
  • Economists – weak and not enough support

2.Organisation and management

  • Rigid mandates
  • No integration
  • Mechanisms for institutional memory capture and management weak or non-existent
  • Limited opportunity for inter-disciplinary research (within organizations) leave alone multi-organisational research
  • Existing hierarchies, egos, mindsets
  • Limited dialogue with policy
  • Acknowledging and promoting knowledge and research various forms, multiple sources and outside centralized science; formal S&T is once source of knowledge
  • Research agenda should recognize and respond to the complexity of development policy in ethics and values
  • Disconnect between human resource, skills need and innovation
  • Education paradigm/system is instructionist – works against innovation and learning
  • Inability to understand and relate to each other’s language
  • Interaction with relevant partners is difficult/ limited/ not permitted
  • Infrastructure/ administrative and financial support is limited
  • Scientists not exposed to systems thinking for inter-disciplinary research
  • Scientists not evaluated for systems benefits, for lessons learnt from the field, for social relevance of research, for development impact of applied research (not enough incentives to show such impacts of work)
  • Research devalues all outputs other than research publications and patents

BWork on possible solutions

1.Find ways of changing the politics/ decision-making :

  • dialogue with politics and policy (needs good social science support); donors and governments should support need-based research;
  • social scientists should preferably be outside of agricultural research institutes and should include anthropology, sociology, history, geography and politics, and be well informed about field realities

2.Changing structures and ways of doing research

  • Flexible mandates (reviewed regularly and written with stakeholders)
  • Integrated approaches in R&D (across levels – local, national, global), across sub-sectors bio-physical and socio-political)
  • Learn to do need-based research
  • Good communication/ dialogue with policy
  • Encourage coalitions in research with non-research science partners (inter and muti-disciplinary) with new mind sets acknowledging indigenous knowledge
  • Donors and governments support infrastructure investments (labs, roads, cold stores etc.)
  • Finance and administration tuned to research needs (not the other way around)
  • Scientists trained in systems thinking and work/learn with coalitions
  • Â Major changes in evaluation of scientific research

Table 3: How do we ensure that the benefits of innovation reach the poorest of the poor? How do we measure change in innovation systems (beyond income/production)?

Table Leader: Dannie Romney

1.Understand the system and actors

2.Understand why people are poor within the context: subsets of the poor and power dynamics within these subsets

3.Employ different approaches for different subsets

4.Understand the ripple effect across the value chain: identify incentives/disincentives; greater buy-in with interests of poor maintained

5.One possible approach make inclusion of poorest mandatory initially and strategies to make this voluntary

6.Identify and include change agents supporting agents at various levels (social and institutional); across the value chain (choose level at which to intervene carefully)

  •  Before targeting poorest of poor, need enabling environment where they can benefit. If it does not exist you may have to target poor first-
  • Market or payment for environmental services can provide incentives
  • Subsidies may provide a solution
  • Recognise innovations from poor and support improvement and scale up (note “ poorest do not always find it easy to innovate)
  • Trickle down must be a conscious process and not an assumption
  • Could target entrepreneurs that can bear risk while creating opportunities for the poor
  • Support risk taking by subsidizing failure not success (does not mean making failure more profitable

How to measure?

  1. Transaction costs
  2. Changes in attitudes and behavior (voluntary participation, increased interaction, articulation by themselves)
  3. Degree of change on how it has spread to others; expansion of the area of influence (outside the community, replication and propagation)
  4. Right to access resources and equitable distribution
  5. Innovation capacitystill needs clarifying
  6. Changes in institutional processes and policies at all levels
  7. Actors rearticulate views on what constitutes success to be more inclusive. Recognition of other sources
  8. Are people taking care to articulate story differently for different audiences
  9. Ability to send child to school, start new enterprise, altering ways of participating in other market chains (scaling out personal experiences) qualitative indicators
  10. Type of activity as a result of education
  11. People taking up new things in absence of facilitation
  12. Changes in form, function and feature of technologies, practices, ways of doing
  13. Changes in household responses to income generation
  14. Changes in boundaries (eg, NGO and research working together with people/organisations outside comfort zones/traditional roles)

Table 4: How do we bring about institutional changes that enhance innovation processes? How do we learn to “unlearn”? How do we build capacity for this?

Table Leader: Frances Kimmins

Define institutional change

Systemic changes that incorporate perceptions, attitudes and cultures of formal and informal institutions.Â

What influences change? (political, social and economical)

  • Evidence and exposure (not always – keep power issues in mind)
  • Challenged on ground realities (important for unlearning)
  • Incentives/motivation
  • Mutual respectÂ

Importance of space (realistic?)“ how? Challenges?

  • Power dynamics!
  • Project mode?
  • Leadership informal and formal

 Critical factors for change

  • Coalition of people’
  • Capacity building/empowerment
  • Champions
  • Partnerships (common shared goals)
  • Understand peoples working conditions, mandate and context

How to build capacity?



Table 5: How does policy enhance or hinder innovation? Examples? What needs to be changed? (including IPR issues)?

Table leader: David Grimshaw

How does policy enhance innovation?

  • Framework for availability of finance
  • Framework for incentives: to engage in research/inter-disciplinary scholarships; to protect IPR; empowerment (community building); training; exchange visits/learning; authority
  • Consider local policy not just national
  • Promote/empower champions (fulfil responsibilities)
  • Shift from policy to “policy process”
  • Policy re-inforcement
  • Policy regulation (eg. GM crops)
  • Radical policy
  • Governance (pre-requisites): freedom of information; government transparency; institutional building

How does policy hinder innovation?

  • Policy only recognizes “formal” sector
  • Active vs. passive hindering (forbidding stem cell research active; ad-hoc implementation - passive; not a topic in policy passive)
  • Lack of access to information
  • Social inclusion
  • Lack of grassroot involvement
  • Policy not reviewed/monitored/implemented
  • Lack of political will
  • Keeping control/power at the centre (vested interests)
  • Too much dependency on national/external policy

What needs to be changed?

  • Awareness
  • Responsive, responsible, representative, reflexive communities of learning
  • Emphasis on policy making process
  • Independent judiciary/open constitution
  • Education system
  • Participative monitoring and evaluation
  • Increase accountability
  • From closed to open information
  • Support for developing STI policy
  • Identify role for private sector
  • Align government policy/priorities with STI
  • Increase national ownership of policy (reduce donor influence, collect evidence to support policy)
  • Recognise role of advocacy in policy making
  • Make science more locally relevant
  • Challenge the implicit priorities in policy
  • Make beneficiaries of policy explicit ALL OF THIS NEEDS GOOD GOVERNANCE!!


  • Often a block to innovation
  • An open local register could help
  • Is IPR just a protective measure
  • How to protect local knowledge?

Table 6: How can market-driven innovation benefit the poor? Consider the role of incentives/subsidies.

Table leader: Luis Osorio Cortes

  • Profit motives profit margin
  • Link producers (poor) to markets (mainstream) and final consumers
  • Income: sustainable mechanisms are built in the markets
  • Social capital networks
  • Access to food food security
  • Achieving scale
  • Creation of sustainable markets
  • Pro-poor economic growth “ contribution of SMEs
  • Integration of SMEs in mainstream markets (?)
  • Question of sustainability (resiliency) vs. volatility
  • Overuse of resources: can create the problem but also the solutions
  • Benefits also to other poor actors in the chain
  • Role of governments (subsidies, policies)
  • Fair trade (private sector policies)
  • How poor innovators can benefit?
  • Participatory innovation – reduce costs and increase effectiveness
  • Co-innovation – (multi-stakeholders) + demand
  • Diversification of agro-enterprises
  • Empowerment of the poor to innovate
  • Holistic approach to SME’s promotion/development
  • Social enterprise (?)
  • Lobby/advocacy
  • Sub-sector (market system) selection
  • Target areas
  • Hard business principles
  • Access to affordable and appropriate financial services
  • Subsidies must be based on business principles
  • Social incentive to be “green” (green can be different in different contexts)
  • Herd mentality
  • Values be sensitive to them ($ is fundamental + other values)
  • Subsidies to sustain firms – shoot myself in the foot
  • Subsidies for skills, networks, knowledge and technology
  • Not subsidies for operational costs (as it is not a precondition for competitiveness and innovation)
  • Subsidies for services?
  • Subsidies to reduce perception of risk for first wave of innovators
  • How to target the early innovators? They show initiative, risk and some level of entrepreneurship
  • Adoption and participation in design of standards (also food quality starndards – organic standards)
  • Money is what drives (expectation of profits)
  • Non-linear approach
  • Open to complexity and unexpected processes – flexibility
  • Going after the money triggers other skills, connections
  • Bring other actors throughout the process
  • Property rights + IPRS
  • Trade related property rights (TRIPS)
  • “Bad”subsidies are disempowering, distort markets, treat the poor in a patronizing way
  • Geographic identification of products (eg. Parma ham)
  • Not everybody is an entrepreneur
  • Moving up the chain: possible? Desirable?
  • Participatory standard building: how?
  • “The poor” is a very broad term – not all are entrepreneurs/innovators
  • How to be sensitive to women?
  • Different types of innovation and how inclusive they can be
  • There is good lobby (by the poor) and bad lobby
  • Long-term subsidies: lower interest rates
  • Producers associations have multiple roles: advocacy, social capital, information services
  • Very political issue: power - empowerment
  • What kind of incentives for what?
  • Savings better than credit for the poor
  • Innovation cannot be predicted – we do not know when or where it will happen
  • Venture capital can we learn some lessons from it? Business incubators
  • Bargaining power lobby/advocacy
  • Competition within the poor
  • Limits of markets?
  • Some actors are buffer mechanisms for small-holder farmers – or poor consumers
  • Evolution of advocacy groups into business to solve the problems of their “constituents
  • CSR – can it be brought to all actors not only “big corporations”
  • Policies to promote CSR (tax breaks)
  • Different types of CSR (more or less effective or strategic)
  • Quality: good entry point
  • Religious/cultural values (honour, pride, family)
  • Big corporations driving small farmers off their lands (India)
  • Market driven elimination of high quality rice varieties
  • Make benefits of market-driven innovation pro-poor