Wednesday, 28 May 2014

World café, multi-stakeholder platforms and knowledge generation

What happens when you mix world café with multi-stakeholder platform (MSP)? As obvious, the outcome is an innovative and sustained effort for sharing and creating knowledge among the actors. And if you are implementing it for a certain value chain – it works wonders bringing about significant changes in the sector.

If you are new to value chain, let me first talk about it. A value chain is a set of activities and actors involved from the production till the sales. In a nutshell: from farm to fork. 

The idea of mixing world café with MSP was deduced from the innovation system (adapted from Woodhill, 2011) that brings together service providers, entrepreneurs, associations, farmer organisations, government, researchers, educators, practitioners and policy makers through interactive knowledge processes like MSPs, action research, dialogues, action groups, knowledge networks and pilots for collective action and shared understanding to bring about a situation for change in a certain value chain.

The below diagram (click the picture to enlarge) sourced from the chapter “Knowledge development, innovation and learning in value chains by Piet Visser, Melat Getahun and Mogessie Fikrie” in the book Pro-poor Value Chain Development: Private Sector-led Innovative Practices in Ethiopia edited by Piet Visser, Marc Steen, Juergen Greiling, Timoteos Hayesso, Rem Neefjes and Heinz Greijn clarifies the concept. Read the review of the book in

We tried concocting these two processes at the High Value Agriculture Project in Hill and Mountain Areas (HVAP).  The producer groups and cooperatives, traders, input suppliers and service providers were bundled into groups so that they could discuss about the opportunities and challenges in the value chain with each other.

Each group then presented the challenges and opportunities including prioritising the pressing issues in the sector that provided a platform for open dialogue among the value chain actors, enabling institutions and service providers.

Following the presentation, a world café session was organised. The traders became the table hosts and the producers went from one table to another in groups. The groups spent around 20 minutes at each table and discussed on the issues concerning both the buyers and producers. Some even came up with buy-back arrangements with the traders, while the producers and traders were seen busy exchanging the mobile numbers.  A partnership was already taking place and links were being strengthened – guaranteeing both the producers and traders of selling their products and sourcing products respectively.  Similarly, a separate table was hosted by the enablers including scientists, agro-vets and representatives from district agriculture development offices of the government. The farmers were surprised to know about the services provided by the government.

For those of you who don’t know about world café, it’s a process of holding structured conversation in groups. The individuals or groups switch the tables and the table host gives a snapshot about the previous discussion to the incoming group or individuals. At the end the table host presents on the outcomes of the discussions.  Visit the site to learn about the world café method.

The world café and MSP helped build a consensus and ownership among the stakeholders. It would obviously help bring about changes in the sector.

To know more about the sessions and quotes from the participants, read my earlier post in IFADAsia portal.

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