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Social learning in the CGIAR: a stocktaking exercise

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Presentation on theme: "Social learning in the CGIAR: a stocktaking exercise"— Presentation transcript:

1 Social learning in the CGIAR: a stocktaking exercise
Julian F. Gonsalves PhD.

2 Scope Innovative social learning related efforts in the CGIAR
Lessons we have learned along the way (the past should inform the future) Ensure no duplication with other CCAFS studies on communications, social differentiation

3 Activity Duration 25-day assignment October/November 2012
Commissioned by CCAF Theme 4

4 Process in a Nutshell Review of secondary literature, websites and extensive personal correspondence Center-specific review limited to website-research and survey respondent inputs Compilation of Illustrative Cases (128) Conduct of surveys ( one-to-one) and analysis - respondents (47) and personal correspondence (33)

5 PART 1 Reform in CGIAR





10 Do we have a more conducive environment in the CGIAR for Social Learning Approaches? (What the survey respondents say)

11 More conducive climate for SL
Wider recognition of the relevance of social learning approaches Acknowledgement of the need for engaging a wider range of stakeholders

12 Acknowledging diversity, complexity and multiple-scales
Awareness of the diversity and complexities of the challenges. These complex problems need knowledge intensive approaches, does not allow for a “one size fits all” approach not embedded in easy to disseminate and adopt technologies We increasingly focus on more complex challenges characterized by multiple stakeholders with often divergent perspectives and competing goals (2.6)

13 Prevailing R & D gaps Still a prevailing concern about integrating R&D: “Somewhere on the continuum between R and D lies the current reality” i.e. a Gap How can we build processes that integrate both research and development from the outset, around common issue rather than holing one on the other opportunistically (Mark Lundy)

14 Improved work arrangements
Better collaboration across centers (via CRPs than in the past More emphasis on a systems approach that includes interdisciplinary approaches A move towards negotiating shared realities of problems and solutions Research that ‘goes beyond’ biophysical and economic components

15 Improved collaboration, cooperation and communication
“ We are seeing better collaboration and cooperation among centers than had been the norm over my long full time involvement with the CGIAR---so I’m cautiously optimistic about improved uptake of such approaches. I think the relevance certainly remains as high as ever”. - Carol J. Pierce Colfer (2.9)

16 A greater emphasis on outcomes, theories of change and impact pathways
A clear push for showing research outcomes More recently a call for intermediate development outcomes The focus on outcome makes participatory approaches more relevant

17 CRPs and donor emphasis on impact create “pressure” for partnerships
Hope to reach the billion left behind by the green revolution through “new approaches” Will the pressures to bridge the R&D gaps remain?

18 Challenges remain Limited communication between scientist and partners on the Solutions sought in a “linear” manner Cumbersome working modalities of CRPs Difficult coordination of CRPs Communication limited mainly to institutional focal points How serious is the commitment to development outcomes (big change in mindset for some) Recognition of SL/PM is limited within scientific research community (struggle for SL proponents to be recognized) Mechanisms to link CRPs (focused on global public goods) to national partners are lacking

19 The Consortium is working on a new concept of management for results with concrete and measurable outcomes for the assessment of the CRP activities. Is there a risk of result orientation leading back to old productivity and breeding orientation of CG? What do we do when we know that social learning and institutional work does not show “direct” impacts?

20 CGIAR scientists are now swamped with design and coordination of CRPs, and seem to be working pretty independently in this – making it, again, difficult "coordinating" among these differing, if all valuable, implementation methods (2.3)

21 Yet we are hopeful: The goal is to work for a CGIAR better able to reach the billion left behind by the Green Revolution through the broader use of such approaches. (2.14)

22 Relevance of research will improved greatly if CRP and CG scientists spend quality time with the target groups, talk less, listen more and create enabling environment so that farmers can make self directed decision making. Before that they need to question themselves “whose lives we would like to change?” and once they are crystal clear on that success is not far behind. (1.9)

23 PART 2 The Relevance of Social Learning to Deliver on CCAF’s Theme 4 Objectives

24 Social Learning: What definitions work for us?

25 Participatory forms of knowledge creation as social learning
Shared or dialogical approaches to knowledge production Encouraging discussion amongst various voices within a community Loops of action and reflection Awareness and skills learned acted upon by multiple participants (CCAF IDS/IIED Study)

26 The IDS/IIED study states that “Social Learning approaches help facilitate knowledge sharing and joint learning experiences between stakeholders… through working together to better understand their situation, new shared ways of knowing are generated”.

27 Keen (2005) defines “Social Learning as the collective action and reflection that takes place amongst both individuals and groups when they work to improve the management of the inter relationships between social and ecological systems…”.

28 Kruijssen et al. (2009) discuss the importance of social learning for collective action in the context of smallholder market participation. Dialogue and social learning foster collective cognition and social capital formation, both of which are necessary for effective joint action.  Social learning and social capital formation are also key features of innovation processes.

29 A different terminology
Steve Waddel preferred not to use Social Learning when he described large-system change processes. “When formalised into new patterns of working together – often through the creation of new umbrella organisations with participants from diverse parts of society – these mutually beneficial outcomes represent societal learning”.

30 “Societal learning is a process of changing patterns of interactions within and between adverse organisations and social units to enhance society’s capacity to innovate. Large scale problems – such as poverty and environmental degradation – require substantial societal learning in order for lasting change to occur”. Steve Waddel (

31 A social learning definition that relates to CGIAR work?
Social learning is defined as the process through which groups of people learn, by jointly defining problems, searching for and implementing solutions, and assessing the value of solutions for specific problems (Koelen and Das, 2002). Social learning brings about a shift from ‘‘multiple cognition” to ‘‘collective cognition”. Individuals involved in social learning processes begin with quite different perceptions of their current situation and the potential for change; as they interact, they develop common, shared perspectives, insights and values.  Source: Personal exchanges ( Andre Devaux, Nov 9th 2012)

32 What do the survey respondents tell us about the relevance of Social Learning for work in CCAFS climate change adaptation research Addressing climate change, whether mitigation or adaptation, is going to require changes in people’s behaviour. Suggesting or mandating change from on high has long proven fraught with difficulties and fatal errors. The human variability (along with the environmental variability) globally means we simply cannot decide what the answer is and apply across the board. That doesn’t work. We really need to be tailoring both mitigation and adaptation efforts to local contexts, and that will necessitate the help of local people – a shared learning approach that analyzes, plans, mitigates/adapts, monitors what happens, and improves on initial results, in an iterative manner.  - Carol Colfer Climate change is one among many problems faced by the poor smallholder farming communities. Participatory research involves analyzing existing problems and looking for solutions together with a range of stakeholders. (1.7)

33 Lets be reminded The research community is recognizing the need to go beyond technological fixes... Governance is an overarching factor. Non-technological factors have remained "invisible for too long” (Wale Adekunle)

34 Source: Wale Adekunle. Working with National Innovation Pilot Learning Sites and Inter-regional Innovation Platforms. Sub-Saharan Africa Challenge Program. GCARD 2. October 28-November 1, Uruguay.

35 Source: Wale Adekunle. Working with National Innovation Pilot Learning Sites and Inter-regional Innovation Platforms. Sub-Saharan Africa Challenge Program. GCARD 2. October 28-November 1, Uruguay.

36 Source: Wale Adekunle. Working with National Innovation Pilot Learning Sites and Inter-regional Innovation Platforms. Sub-Saharan Africa Challenge Program. GCARD 2. October 28-November 1, Uruguay.

37 "There are many implementing groups, facilitators, and communities of practice experts as there are methods" Even if in isolated pockets - not coordinated or mainstreamed into programs – there is rich array of field tested social learning related approaches within the CG system We need to recognize that the diversity as it meets different needs of researchers. Researchers might become engaged in social learning for different reasons. We need to grant that this accounts for the range of approaches.

38 INDIVIDUAL FARMER LEVEL: Farmer engagement in diagnosis (PRA typed) or in evaluating technologies, to more complex participatory breeding programs   COMMUNITY LEVEL: Community-based biodiversity management, adaptive co -management, co-management, etc. MULTISCALE LEVEL: Innovation platforms, learning alliances, multistakeholder platforms, etc.

39 At whatever scale we work a learning framework should apply
At whatever scale we work a learning framework should apply... should be relevant...

40 Need for learning framework
Source: For a full discussion refer to “Integrating research, development and learning to improve the livelihoods of the rural poor in LAC” by Mark Lundy

41 At the heart of it is the development of methods, tools and approaches that facilitate learning and skills development. Then comes knowledge management (“improvement of information backbone”) . Elements of process: Begin at the beginning Measure what matters consistently Invest in relationships Cultivate an organisational-support network

42 Innovation development should include methodological development
Regional innovation platforms should be promoted and eventually facilitated by CG center to play useful roles in fostering R&D methods and strengthening national innovation capacities for promoting pro-poor innovation processes. (2.13)

43 Methodological diversity
What the stocktaking exercise came up with

44 Check out the cases recommended by respondents in this survey

45 Social Learning for Climate Change Research
BUILDING ON CG EXPERIENCES TO SHAPE SL APPROACHES FOR CCAFS CLIMATE CHANGE RESEARCH Social Learning for Climate Change Research Participatory Communications (ICT, participatory video, etc.) Participatory Plant Breeding, and Participatory Varietal Selection, Community Biodiversity Management Impact Pathway Approaches, Horizontal Evaluation Multi stakeholder dialogue platforms Farmer Field Schools/ CIALS Innovation Platforms Participatory Market Chain Analysis/Value Learning Alliances Adaptive Collaborative Management, CBM, and Co-Management and Conflict Resolution Mechanisms Gender analysis/ Gender differentiation Decision-based approaches eg. Adaptation Pathways- WorldFish J.F. Gonsalves 2012

46 Recognize that communities and individuals are already adapting and coping with climate variability and associated change Recognize that scientists will use different entry points for bringing in SL perspective Participatory assessments have to be deepened (e.g. superficial vulnerability assessments won’t help) to understand how communities cope with adversity

47 We should celebrate this diversity in social learning related approaches in the CGIAR

48 What about the question of different scales (local national?)

49 “Addressing climate change, whether mitigation or adaptation, is going to require changes in people’s behaviour. We really need to be tailoring both mitigation and adaptation efforts to local contexts, …with the help of local people – a shared learning approach that analyzes, plans, mitigates/ adapts, monitors what happens, and improves on initial results”. - Carol J. Pierce Colfer

50 Relevance of local scale engagement in climate change work
We have to deal with location specificities: Agro-ecological, climatic, culture, etc. Climate change scenarios must get close to reality and on the other challenge in bringing locally derived solutions to scale

51 Important considerations in strengthening local-level action
Capacities of local level institutions need to be built Strengthening capacities to innovate is just as important as technological solutions Farmer-to-farmer linkages are a critical factor for horizontal communication ultimately influencing outscaling

52 There has been extensive past work on community-level learning approaches: Farmer Field Schools, CIALS, Adaptive Co-Management remain relevant as “tools” for enhancing learning, fostering cooperation and as mechanisms for lower-level outscaling

53 But working at the local level alone wont suffice: vertical upscaling approaches are needed
Social learning is essential at these different levels

54 Going to scale is always the challenge (the need for research on partnership processes)
We need platforms and networks which encourage learning about methods as well. We need to have more action research on partnerships and how methods actually play out with feedback loops to learning. Mechanistic blue prints won’t work… This is always the challenge as we go to scale. (2.10)

55 Partnerships and associated platforms offer possible solution
Source: Working with National Innovation Pilot Learning Sites and Inter-regional Innovation Platforms -Sub-Saharan Africa Challenge Program by Wale Adekunle

56 A critical role for participatory communications
Indeed, one of the challenges I see is how to integrate participatory communications into scaling up strategies that are both effective and sustainable. All of this is deeply embedded in social learning theory and practice. - Kevin Kamp 

57 Synthesis: Fostering cycles of learnings is crucial
Stakeholder participation processes will (help) introduce perspectives and insights that researchers would not otherwise. The challenge is how do we synthesise the knowledge that we acquire from stakeholder networks and feed this into the action process. (1.4)

58 Outcome based participatory approaches –theory of change for planning, evaluation and organisation building- can help teams within centers and CRPs stay on track in delivering on the consortium goals and agenda (knowing where we want to head, why and how). Source:

59 CGIAR consortium CEO on Partnerships
While there are no doubt many excellent partnerships in the system, as a whole we need to improve massively on this front;  We need to share both budgets and program responsibility more generously with our partners, both upstream and downstream. …Aligning our internal research priorities with those of the countries and regions we serve is both a need and an opportunity  Now that our budgets are growing we need to become less defensive and more open as a system, learning from the good examples we do have. We also need to become much more outward facing – now that we have made very good progress on working better among the Centers, we also need to work better with partners. (from Frank Rijsberman reflections on GCARD, Nov 5th)

60 Towards an Enabling Environment for Social Learning (Survey Results)

61 What does the CGIAR have to do to support and help such approaches (Social Learning related approaches) Social Learning process should allow for the incorporation of lessons from the past- the challenges to not re-invent the wheel and learn from past experiences – Personal correspondence: Simone Staiger, Nov. 2012

62 Emphasis on the importance of institutional culture that:
Recognizes social science as having its own legitimacy (“not a hand maiden of biophysical sciences) Values collaboration and understanding of philosophical differences Has a commitment to learn from previously demonstrated work Understand the need for more experienced social scientist: “We are good at bringing in young researchers and students…”

63 Change will happen if there are a few “champions”
Need for a critical mass of like minded professionals in every organisation Also need for a balanced composition of interdisciplinary research team members (return of former CG staff to the fold) Diversity implies more representation of southern researchers more especially so if social learning is our focus

64 “We need partners from the countries in the south who have a more detailed understanding on context. If capacity is a constraint we should build that... it strengthens our capacity to understand a place...“ - Ruth Meinzen Dick

65 How much of the change is donor driven and how will a bigger buy-in take place
Senior management have a key role in fostering a new environment for change in emphasis, approaches and commitment to development outcomes

66 The incentives structure must be in place
The incentives structure must be in place. The requirement to deliver outcomes in term of development is a key step. Scientific publications must be considered as only one contribution to agricultural knowledge for development. Other knowledge products and its effects must be compensated. (2.5)

67 What results are valued? What about development outcomes?
Question: Will the way result management is implemented discourage participation? What results are valued? What about development outcomes? Social learning is difficult to track after all Will the recent emphasis on intermediate development outcomes provide new windows of opportunity?

68 "Top priority that all of us can work on is to put in place a system of managing and monitoring CRP performance against agreed and prioritized development outcomes, reported in a timely and harmonized fashion. This is in essence what the SRF Action Plan lays out and this is now widely endorsed and the top priority for implementation in (From Frank Rijsberman reflections on GCARD, Nov 5th)

69 Overall respondents were fairly upbeat about new prospects for social learning methods
They felt that Senior Management center support is warranted Incentive, recognition and reward mechanisms need to be more explicitly assured New work-modalities and focus on outcomes have made a difference

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