31 March 2010

GCARD part 2, Partnerships

2 p.m. March 30

My session in the afternoon was on partnerships. This is a big theme in the reformed Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). But few have a clear idea of partnership for what. My take on this is that just as the CGIAR was a response to a market failure (the underprovision of technology for crops grown by the poor), there is a collective sense that partnerships for development are underprovided in by current incentives. But partnerships for doing what? I would suggest the partnerships should be for generating better international public goods (bringing a wider range of skills together at the international level) and for making it easier to contextualize research at all stages in the process (working with national partners). This should increase the breakthrough potential (working with those from lateral fields and lateral sectors) and increase the relevance potential (working with those along the value chain).

Another issue bubbling under was the reality that partnership with organizations outside the CGIAR will mean fewer resources captured by CGIAR institutions. If the centres spent less energy lobbying to keep the CGIAR funds ring-fenced, they could work with non-CG partners to increase their capacity to raise funds outside the CGIAR and have a bigger impact on poverty and food insecurity.

One group that tends to be left out of partnerships is farmers (and farmer organizations). My talk was about how genuine partnerships could be formed with farmers through direct farmer feedback systems for the assessment of implementer, donor (and farmer) performance. The presentation can be found here.

My parting shot was that the donors are the key agents of change—if they show the kind of leadership that sets up feedback systems for the greater good which may prove inconvenient for them at a later date then they can begin to create real partnerships. The hallmark of a genuine partnership is, after all, to be able to give honest feedback without fear of reprisal.

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