Choice-making in facilitation of agricultural innovation platforms in different contexts in West Africa: experiences from Benin, Ghana and Mali
Keywords:innovation platforms, value chains, facilitation, institutional change, small farmers, West Africa, Benin, Ghana, Mali
AbstractPlatforms provide an increased capacity for learning and coordinated innovation. The value of platforms for innovation is widely recognized, but more understanding is needed of the choices made in facilitation, to enable platforms to perform effectively within varying value chain contexts. This paper applies a comparative case study analysis of four innovation platforms in West Africa that aim to create institutional change for the benefit of smallholders. Each institutional context (emerging or developing value chain, a well-established value chain with more or less distortion by politics and rent-seeking behaviour) constituted a specific type of constraint and required different facilitation choices. Comparison showed that it is imperative for facilitators to have a clear platform purpose and design criteria, and good situation and actor analyses, and to interactively design small platforms, fit to create institutional change in a given context. Platforms need actors with capacities relating to the issue at stake, but also communicative qualities. Then there are situational facilitation choices: local level platforms need more structuring of deliberation, data-gathering, networking, and advocacy than higher level platforms. However, what emerged as essential for all was delicate mediation and dynamic agenda-setting. This created trust, relationships, and momentum for mutually supportive team action and institutional change.