Inspiring kick-off meeting of the projects within the Food & Business Grand Challenges Programme

22 December 2014

In April 2014, the first five projects within the first call for proposals of the Food & Business Global Challenges Programme were awarded. In December 2015, most of the projects had taken off and joined the kick-off meeting at the NWO office in The Hague. Organising the kick-off meeting was a joint effort of NWO-WOTRO and the Food & Business Knowledge Platform (F&BKP).

The awarded projects include research into the adaptation of the production of porc to local conditions, the development of a system that makes pond farming more sustainable and predictable, a study into the development potential of Zambian traditional fermented foods, an examination of the impacts of commercially-driven investments in cash crop production and a study of inclusive business-smallholder partnerships in Ghana and South Africa. 

The goal of the kick-off meeting was to:

  • create awareness amongst project teams of being part of a broader Knowledge Agenda and as such the F&BKP;
  • gain knowledge on how to individually and jointly realise research impact, by stakeholder engagement, capacity building and communication including knowledge sharing.

The programme contained six sessions

  1. NWO-WOTRO presentation on Food & Business Research - by Corinne Lamain
  2. Food & Business Knowledge Platform Office presentation on Collaboration with GCP-project teams - by Frans Verberne
  3. Project pitches - by the five projects
  4. NWO-WOTRO Presentation on Research Uptake - by Han van Dijk
  5. Stakeholder analysis
  6. Joint activities within the F&BKP

1. NWO-WOTRO presentation on Food & Business Research - by Corinne Lamain

  • The Food & Business Global Challenges Programme (GCP) is part of the wider Food & Business Research programme, which consists of two funding modalities relating to the Food & Business Knowledge Platform, installed by DGIS.
  • GCP is aimed at enhanced understanding of food security issues, with a global focus. The five projects that are part of the kick-off meeting have been funded within the first call for proposals. The second call is currently running, two more calls are expected.
  • All projects funded within GCP are expected to interact with each other and with the Food & Business Knowledge Platform, as well as with projects funded within the Applied Research Fund, the other funding instrument of Food & Business Research.

2. Food & Business Knowledge Platform Office presentation on Collaboration with GCP-project teams - by Frans Verberne

  • The F&BKP has the objective to organise selection and articulation of research questions, to formulate a coherent and focused knowledge agenda, to improve the exchange of knowledge and to make knowledge work for policy and practice.
  • In their project plans the research teams have included various activities to generate impact of their research. Activities concern the three main components: Stakeholder engagement, Capacity building and Communication (the latter also including policy influencing).
  • The role of the F&BKP is to support these activities at different levels:
  1. The projects, progress, (intermediate) results, events, etc. will be published at the F&BKP-website and newsletters.
  2. Support will be given to individual teams at incidental base with contacts, suggestions, advice, etcetera.
  3. Project teams can be linked (thematically) with other networks, research programmes, conferences if this has added value for either side.
  4. Activities on joint topics related to impact (e.g. capacity to engage with private sector or to influence policy) by project teams can be facilitated.
  • The F&BKP also has the task to monitor and evaluate at GCP-level the incentives that aim at improving impact (making knowledge work).

3. Project pitches - by the five projects

Each team gave a clear pitch on its project in terms of motives, objectives and approach. Other project members successfully recapped most of the main points.

4. NWO-WOTRO Presentation on Research Uptake - by Han van Dijk

  • Research uptake requires strategies and plans (continuously updated), which should be developed right from the start of the project, as they should be integrated in the project execution. Many tools are available for developing strategies and plans, such as the RAPID Framework, projects are encouraged to make use of these.
  • Four main strands can be identified within Research Uptake: stakeholder engagement, capacity building, communication and monitoring & evaluation.
  • Research Uptake requires continuous attention, from the inception of the project onwards and is an iterative process with the identified stakeholders.
  • Project teams funded within GCP are expected to integrate activities to enhance research uptake in their projects and to engage with the F&BKP to enhance impact of the projects.

5. Stakeholder analysis

Participants jointly developed a stakeholder analysis of selected projects by making use of the ‘Alignment, Interest and Influence Matrix’ (AIIM). This joint effort offered insight in the actual position of actors in relation to the project. It became clear that many stakeholders had already been chosen by the project teams, mainly within the ‘inner circle’ of the project with the aim to strengthen the research itself (for example because private partners need to be part of consortia). The ‘outer circle’ of the projects (i.e. those stakeholders that may play a role in up-scaling of results to wider circles) were not so often taken into consideration.

Several ideas were discussed on stakeholder analysis focusing on impact improvement and on the strengthening of their capacity and an enabling environment. To achieve this, the following factors play a role: the desirable actors; the desirable position of actors within the matrix; and what should be done to move stakeholders to the desirable position.

The session gave the participants insights in the context they are working in and that the interest of various stakeholders varies as well as their interest in the project. Consequently, it became clear that these stakeholders need different approaches in order to improve their engagement such that mutual benefit can be reached in order to improve impact. As a result a concrete stakeholder engagement and capacity building strategy can be (further) developed. A next step would be the elaboration of a communication strategy, in which the various messages and means of communication are identified.

6. Joint activities within the F&BKP

Participants were asked to formulate ideas on specific research impact activities that could be of interest to several research teams and therefore be taken up either jointly or with other partners and possibly facilitated by WOTRO and the F&BKP Office. After writing down their ideas on coloured cards, each project member rated two sets of ideas: one set of main impact components and one set of specific activities under those main components. Those main components and related specific activities are provided in the Annex as well as an overview of the possible input of the F&BKP to the activities, in order of the height of the scores. As such, the scores have been used to give an indication of priorities, taking into account that the number of representatives per consortium was not equal and that projects are in different phases of project execution

A wide variety of activities has been proposed, on which follow-up can be given. Stakeholder engagement and communication but also policy lobby, capacity building and M&E were mentioned as important components. Participants considered those aspects to be urgent ones for which at present enough expertise is not always available. The list of the related activities also shows that there is a need for expertise on how to enhance capacity within the research teams to develop strategies and approaches, for which a joint approach seems suitable.

To follow up on this demand, during the session, the idea was developed that representatives of each project (e.g. a post-doc or the main applicant) would be part of a coordination team, in which WOTRO is represented as well, to jointly further plans for impact improvement activities. This ‘coordination team’ can meet for instance bi-annually to discuss priorities in impact activities and, eventually in cooperation with the F&BKP, organize those activities. The team can also discuss (preliminary) results, bottlenecks in the execution of research, and tips and tricks for improving impact and other issues. Wherever possible the GCP-1 projects will be linked with GCP-projects from other calls as well as ARF-projects. Attention will be paid continuously to activities that enable links to other networks within the F&BKP.

Source: NWO