On Saturday 27 October 2012, the Livestock and Fish Program organized a pre-conference session on ‘Mobilizing AR4D partnerships to improve access to critical animal-source foods’ at the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD).
Twenty-five people including invited resource persons and the directors general of three of the CGIAR centers involved in the program wrestled with ways to make partnership work for the program – to answer Program Director Tom Randolph’s question: “What principles, processes, modalities help create healthy partnership?” (see his introductory presentation)
Following a strengths-weaknesses exercise, participants zoomed in on concrete experiences of different partners to identify R4D partnership critical success factors: What is really needed to make this Livestock and Fish research with development partnership really deliver?
Some of the messages emerging from the discussions were:
- Partnerships between research and development actors combine complementary talents, perspectives and resources to create sustainable solutions at scale
- Partnerships offer space for joint learning, connection and synergy for many actors to coherently stimulate change at scale
- Partnerships require actors to behave differently and adapt arrangements to foster trust, invest in relationships, and handle power carefully.
Participants also derived an initial set of ‘Partnership Principles’ from the conversation. These actions will be embedded into a partnership strategy for the program; as a set of values they could also be a basis for self-evaluation and mutual accountability. The initial set of action principles include:
- Work from a common domain of issues: jointly mapped and understood system of interest
- Clear roles: who does what is defined and agreed
- Work as a team: purpose expressed as a shared vision of success, working together, “your success is my success”, invest in relationships, open communication, full transparency
- Build culture: changing to institutional norms and practices that better enable partnerships
- Collective results: Reward total system performance and share attribution, and secure such space with funders
- Learn together: Invest in joint learning
- Regular partnership health checks: joint evaluation of performance and satisfaction
What does this mean for the wider community? In his presentation to the main sessions on 29 October, Tom Randolph called for GFAR to:
- Develop guidelines and standards as Good Practice for partnerships between research and development actors
- Frame these within an innovation systems context of partnerships needed to achieve changes at scale in national food systems
- Critical review of current practice, collective performance and partner satisfaction
- Working group with a mix of facilitators and implementers (avoid commissioned study)
- Promote funding arrangements that enable rather than frustrate these partnerships
- Review current arrangements and their impact on partnerships and their performance
- Formulate arrangements that mitigate potential power issues and are based on collective performance
- Create innovation funds that allow space to adapt to evolving opportunities.