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Agricultural research in the Global South: steering research beyond impact promises

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Abstract

Applied research is under increasing pressure to demonstrate its social utility Agriculture is at the heart of many burning global issues, and agricultural research for development (AR4D) is increasingly called upon to address multiple social challenges related to demographic, food system, ecological and climate transitions. However, funding for AR4D is shrinking. Funders and policy makers are asking researchers and their institutions to demonstrate convincingly not only how public investments in research generate excellent scientifi c results, but also how they contribute to producing innovations that have tangible impacts on development. Such impacts may relate, for instance, to food security, sustainable development or climate change adaptation. This expectation is explicit in funding calls, and has led researchers to promise to deliver short-term impacts in their proposals. However, such promises oft en tend to be a rhetorical exercise, since impacts are seldom monitored over the long term. To respond to this issue, CIRAD has decided to invest in developing a " culture of impact " that aims to persp ctive e June 2017 42 change research practices lastingly, increasing the ability of research to achieve development impacts. ImpresS: a participatory method to assess research impacts In order to better understand its contribution to innovation processes in the Global South and to measure its impacts, CIRAD developed the ImpresS evaluation method (IMPact of RESearch in the South), which aims to answer the following questions ex post: > What are the lasting changes in society catalysed by research interventions? > How did these changes come about and why? > What was the actual contribution of research? > How diverse, intense and far-reaching are the impacts associated with these changes? ImpresS adopts a participatory approach that incorporates the viewpoints of the diff erent actors involved in a given innovation process. In 2015, the ImpresS method was applied to 13 case studies covering clusters of projects over the long The impacts of agricultural research for development are long-term and very diverse – positive, unexpected, sometimes negative. To assess and understand these impacts, ImpresS, a participatory evaluation method that incorporates the viewpoints of actors on the ground, was tested on 13 research case studies conducted by CIRAD and its partners in diff erent countries. The central conclusion is that research institutions and their funders need to change their practices if they wish to achieve long-term impacts at scale. For research, this means accepting to play multiple roles, collaborating with innovation and policy actors, fostering learning, and developing explicit hypothetical but plausible ex ante impact pathways. For sponsors and funders, it implies considering a wider range of impacts, planning action in the long term, fostering articulation between projects with similar goals, and supporting adaptive learning and management. Agricultural research in the Global South: 42 Agricultural research in the Global South: steering research beyond impact promises 42 steering research beyond impact promises Through Perspective, CIRAD provides the opportunity to explore new avenues for discussion and action based on research, without presenting an institutional position.
11
Applied research is under increasing pressure
to demonstrate its social utility
Agriculture is at the heart of many burning global issues,
and agricultural research for development (AR4D) is increa-
singly called upon to address multiple social challenges
related to demographic, food system, ecological and climate
transitions. However, funding for AR4D is shrinking. Funders
and policy makers are asking researchers and their institu-
tions to demonstrate convincingly not only how public
investments in research generate excellent scientifi c results,
but also how they contribute to producing innovations that
have tangible impacts on development. Such impacts
may relate, for instance, to food security, sustainable
development or climate change adaptation.
This expectation is explicit in funding calls, and has led
researchers to promise to deliver short-term impacts in their
proposals. However, such promises o en tend to be a
rhetorical exercise, since impacts are seldom monitored over
the long term. To respond to this issue, CIRAD has decided
to invest in developing a “culture of impact” that aims to
persp ctive
e
June
2017 42
change research practices lastingly, increasing the ability of
research to achieve development impacts.
ImpresS: a participatory method
to assess research impacts
In order to better understand its contribution to innovation
processes in the Global South and to measure its impacts,
CIRAD developed the ImpresS evaluation method (IMPact of
RESearch in the South), which aims to answer the following
questions ex post:
> What are the lasting changes in society catalysed by
research interventions?
> How did these changes come about and why?
> What was the actual contribution of research?
> How diverse, intense and far-reaching are the impacts
associated with these changes?
ImpresS adopts a participatory approach that incorporates
the viewpoints of the di erent actors involved in a given
innovation process. In 2015, the ImpresS method was applied
to 13 case studies covering clusters of projects over the long
The impacts of agricultural research for development
are long-term and very diverse – positive, unexpected,
sometimes negative. To assess and understand these
impacts, ImpresS, a participatory evaluation method
that incorporates the viewpoints of actors on the
ground, was tested on 13 research case studies
conducted by CIRAD and its partners in diff erent
countries. The central conclusion is that research
institutions and their funders need to change their
practices if they wish to achieve long-term impacts at
scale. For research, this means accepting to play mul-
tiple roles, collaborating with innovation and policy
actors, fostering learning, and developing explicit
hypothetical but plausible ex ante impact pathways.
For sponsors and funders, it implies considering a
wider range of impacts, planning action in the long
term, fostering articulation between projects with
similar goals, and supporting adaptive learning and
management.
Agricultural research in the Global South:
steering research beyond impact promises
Etienne HAINZELIN - Danielle BARRET - Guy FAURE
Marie-Hélène DABAT - Bernard TRIOMPHE
42
Agricultural research in the Global South:
42
Agricultural research in the Global South:
steering research beyond impact promises
42
steering research beyond impact promises
Through Perspective, CIRAD provides the opportunity to explore new avenues for discussion
and action based on research, without presenting an institutional position.
2
persp ctive
e
June
2017 42
term, illustrating the diversity of research conducted by
CIRAD and its partners in a variety of contexts and partner-
ship set-ups in Southern countries. These case studies span
three continents and a broad range of technical and social
innovations.
The ImpresS method starts by reconstructing the narrative
of the innovation process and identifying its dierent phases.
A timeline represents this narrative, while a map of key
actors shows their interactions all along the innovation pro-
cess. It then identifies the dierent positive or negative
impacts produced by the innovation process, as reported by
actors. Finally, based on the “impact pathway” concept,
ImpresS identifies research outputs and describes how actors
appropriate them, leading to changes in practices or orga-
nisations (outcomes) related to identified impacts.
ImpresS thus seeks to establish causal links by analysing the
contribution of research at every stage of the impact
pathway. This analysis emphasises capacity strengthening
for the dierent stakeholders, identifying learning situations.
Interactions with public policy actors are also of special
interest. Key actors involved in the innovation process or
aected by the changes it brings about contribute to the
evaluation at dierent moments. Participatory tools make it
possible to better understand the causal mechanisms and
to identify diverse, sometimes unexpected impacts. The
actors involved thus helped to identify more than 100
impacts for the 13 case studies. Each impact is characterised
by quantitative and qualitative indicators emerging from the
participatory process, and relates to one of 11 generic
domains of impacts proposed by CIRAD. An expert panel
grades the achievements of the case studies in each impact
domain based on the impact indicators.
Key lessons from ImpresS
Interacting with all actors is critical to generate impacts
The 13 CIRAD case studies have shown the importance of
researchers interacting with other actors at every stage
of the innovation process. In the impact pathway, these
interactions produce a series of outcomes representing
essential steps towards impact: changes in farming or man-
agement practices, coordination mechanisms, innovation
platforms, new organisations, the creation of companies, and
the draing of standards or policies. As with outcomes, many
outputs are actually co-produced in the context of
participatory research involving researchers and other
actors. This co-production implies that the researchers
operate within spheres that facilitate or structure such inter-
actions. Researchers are also expected to interact with a
range of political actors, who play a pivotal role in the
construction, appropriation and especially the scaling of an
innovation.
Capacity strengthening during the innovation process is a
catalyst for impacts • In order to understand how capacity
strengthening contributes to impacts, ImpresS identified the
formal and informal learning situations that play a part in
the construction of outputs and outcomes. Researchers
participate directly or indirectly in these learning situations.
The capacities thus built are diverse – technical, managerial,
the ability to experiment, learn, or interact with others –
and their importance varies according to the innovation in
question. They enable the actors concerned, including
researchers, to enhance their capacity to innovate.
Impacts are diverse and built over the long term • The
impacts identified and characterised for the 13 case studies
are manifold: an increase in production and income, better
natural resource management, improved access to remu-
nerative markets, new public policies, etc. Some impacts
dier from those anticipated by research and may even be
negative. In most cases, impacts appeared only in the long
term, aer 20 years or more, and resulted from the succes-
sive contributions made by several projects rather than by
individual projects.
Impact pathways are built over much longer periods than
research projects. Moreover, the impacts observed in the long
term are oen not those initially planned. This unpredictable,
long term process means it is neither possible nor advisable to
plan research based on the promised impacts of a single project
in isolation. Researchers’ and funders’ practices need to evolve;
they need to operate on longer timescales and to reflect a
better understanding of the mechanisms that generate impacts
in order to boost their ability to achieve them.
Food security and
product quality
Household and
farmer income
Culture and
living conditions
Production
and productivity
Capacity to innovate
Institutions and
public policy
Environment, natural
resources and biodiversity
Animal health
Quality of services
Economic opportunities
for firms and employment
Access and use
of information
Range of impacts for varietal improvement of rainfed
upland rice in Madagascar: ImpresS grading established
by the expert panel, according to 11 impact domains.
The length of bars represents impact intensity, from -5 to +5, and the width
of bars represents impact scope, from 1 to 3.
The 11 axes of the radar represent the 11 impact domains identified by
CIRAD; they correspond to five Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
responsible consumption and production (SDG 12); no poverty and zero
hunger (SDGs 1 and 2); partnerships for the goals (SDG 17); and life on land
(SDG 15). In the example, five impact domains are concerned, corresponding
to SDGs 1, 2 and 12.
3
persp ctive
e
June
2017 42
Implications for research institutes
Assuming the multiple roles of research and engaging in
innovation systems • The specifi c context in which an inno-
vation is developed means that research needs to assume
multiple roles in order to generate impacts, in addition to its
traditional knowledge production role. Based on the 13 CIRAD
case studies, we have identifi ed fi ve generic roles played by
research at di erent stages of the impact pathway: produ-
cing and disseminating knowledge; co-designing innova-
tions; managing resources needed for actions; building
capacity; and supporting actors and promoting the innova-
tion. These roles are particularly diverse in the Global South
because of relatively weaker public policies and development
and advisory institutions.
For a given innovation process, the relative emphasis to be
placed on these di erent research roles depends on the
importance of scientifi c knowledge, on the willingness and
capacity of actors to engage in the innovation process and,
nally, on the overall socio-technical context. An individual
researcher cannot play all of these roles, and they should
instead be assumed collectively: research projects therefore
need to pay greater attention to how to allocate tasks and
orchestrate them over time.
Fostering interactions with innovation actors and political
actors • To maximise the chances of achieving impacts in
research projects, it is essential to foster interactions with
the di erent actors all along the impact pathway through
innovation systems, networks or platforms. These interac-
tions o en result in co-produced innovations, which are
more relevant and more likely to produce impacts if they
start occurring early in the process.
Through these interactions, researchers must also facilitate
capacity strengthening for all stakeholders. Learning situa-
tions may be formal, such as organised workshops, or infor-
mal, such as the repeated interactions taking place within
an experimentation process. They may be planned or may
arise as the project progresses.
Finally, it is essential to foster interactions between resear-
chers and policy makers at di erent scales, upon whom the
achievement of impacts and scaling o en depend. This
requires fl exibility from researchers on how to interact with
such actors, including through informal relationships, and
the capacity to take part in coalitions for favourable public
policies.
Setting out the hypotheses for impact pathways • When
designing research projects, it is fi rst important to put them
in context by relating them to previous interventions, be they
public or private projects and programmes, and then to those
that would currently interact with it, or might do so in the
future.
The next step entails going beyond the conventional iden-
tifi cation of project outputs to produce ex ante hypotheses
about what they will become, through multiple interactions
that should occur between actors to produce outcomes and
contribute to achieving impacts. These hypotheses concern
critical points along the impact pathway, the di erent roles
research will have to play, the partnerships that need to be
in place, and more generally, the conditions for achieving
these impacts. As far as possible, these hypotheses should
be developed with the actors involved through a participa-
tory approach. Lessons learned from previous experiences
or projects may help to determine their plausibility.
Implications for research sponsors and funders
Considering a broad range of possible impacts • The fact
that expected impacts, whether positive or negative, may
emerge over long time spans has multiple implications.
Beyond the strict agenda of funders or the research institu-
tion itself, and beyond specifi c demands that triggered
research intervention, it is important to monitor all e ects
and impacts resulting from these actions. To do so, the 11
impact domains proposed by CIRAD, which relate to the
Sustainable Development Goals, can be used as benchmarks.
This also implies defi ning coherent clusters of projects in
order to conduct an ex ante analysis of risks (potentially
leading to negative impacts), and monitoring these over
time.
Planning action in the long term • Because the economic,
social, environmental and territorial impacts of research are
produced over a long period (20 years or more), projects
lasting 3 to 5 years are not an adequate or suffi cient frame-
work to obtain and measure these impacts. Taking on board
the concept of a “cluster of projects” around a specifi c
innovation trajectory, targeting a given region or population,
would foster the continuity and capitalisation of research
and partnerships with innovation actors. The ex ante impact
hypotheses for research projects would then be based not
only on a scientifi c literature review, but also on an analysis
of previous or ongoing projects of a similar nature, with a
view to better identifying their specifi c contribution to the
desired impacts.
Groundnut breeding
Tsetse Fly eradication
Sorghum breeding
Agro-pastoral systems
Fonio huller/whitener
White grub control
Organic residue recycling
Animal health surveillance
Integrated water management
Geographical Indications
Coee berry borer trap
Rainfed upland rice
Pl@ntNet
ex post
in itinere
SENEGAL
BURKINA FASO
BURKINA FASO/MALI
VIETNAM
FRANCE
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
BRAZIL
MADAGASCAR
REUNION
INDONESIA
Illustration: Thierry Erwin (CIRAD, DSI)
The 13 case studies analysed by ImpresS, CIRAD’s participatory
method to assess the impacts of research.
4
Adjusting planning according to monitoring of impact
hypotheses • In addition to ensuring suffi cient involvement
of di erent actors in the formulation of impact hypotheses
during research design, projects need tools to monitor out-
comes and impacts as they unfold through interaction with
actors. Such monitoring enables eventual adjustments to
project activities and planning. Funders should allow for a
certain degree of fl exibility and adaptive management by
projects, which may imply changing their funding procedures
in order achieve this.
Perspective n° 42 is based on CIRAD’s Innovation-Impact
Task force aimed at creating a methodological platform to
assess the impact of research and to improve the culture of
impact within the institution. This programme, conducted and
nanced by CIRAD, has resulted in the creation of the ex post
impact assessment methodology known as ImpresS (IMPact of
RESearch in the South) and its application to date to 13 inno-
vation case studies involving research.
The ImpresS methodology and case studies are presented on
the ImpresS website
http://impress-impact-recherche.cirad.fr/
as well as on CIRAD’s website
www.cirad.fr/en/our-research/the-impact-of-our-research.
This programme has also given rise to the following
publications:
Devaux-Spatarakis A., Barret D., Bouyer J., Cerdan C., Dabat
M.-H., Faure G., Ferré T., Hainzelin E., Medah I., Temple L.,
Triomphe B., 2016. How can international agricultural research
better contribute to innovations? Lessons from Impact pathways
analysis. Communication in Social and technological transfor-
mation of farming systems: Diverging and converging pathways,
European IFSA Symposium, Newport, 12-15 July 2016, 14 p.
http://agritrop.cirad.fr/582679/.
Temple L., Biénabe E., Barret D., Saint-Martin G., 2016.
Methods for assessing the impact of research on innovation
and development in the agriculture and food sectors. African
Journal of Science, Technology, Innovation and Development 8
(5-6): 399-410. DOI: 10.1080/20421338.2016.1219484.
Triomphe B., Barret D., Clavel D., Dabat M.-H., Devaux-
Spatarakis A., Faure G., Hainzelin E., Mathé S., Temple L.,
Toillier A., 2015. Towards a generic, comprehensive and par-
ticipatory approach for assessing the impact of agricultural
research in developing countries. ImpAR Conference 2015:
Impacts of agricultural research-towards an approach of societal
values, INRA, Paris, 3-4 November 2015, 27 p.
https://colloque.inra.fr/impar/Program-Material.
To cite this document
Hainzelin E., Barret D., Faure G., Dabat M.-H.,
Triomphe B., 2017. Agricultural research in the
Global South: steering research beyond impact
promises. CIRAD, Montpellier, Perspective 42.
DOI: 10.18167/agritrop/00044.
This article is provided
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Creative Commons License
CC-BYNC-SA 4.0: Attribution-NonCommercial-
Share-Alike 4.0 International (https://creative-
commons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/deed.en).
A few words about...
Étienne HAINZELIN is an agronomist. He is advisor to the President of CIRAD
and a visiting professor at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is co-
coordinator of CIRAD’s ImpresS initiative.
etienne.hainzelin@cirad.fr
Danielle BARRET is a specialist in management, policy and research assess-
ment at CIRAD in the offi ce of the director general. She is co-coordinator
of the ImpresS initiative.
danielle.barret@cirad.fr
Guy FAURE is director of INNOVATION Joint Research Unit at CIRAD (Innovation
and development in agriculture and food, https://umr-innovation.cirad.fr/en).
His research in management science focuses on advisory services for family
farms and innovation processes in rural areas, especially the role of organisations
in innovation.
guy.faure@cirad.fr
Marie-Hélène DABAT is an economist at CIRAD in the ART-Dev Joint
Research Unit (Actors, resources and territories in development
http://art-dev.cnrs.fr/), specialising in assessment methodologies that she
applies to projects, agricultural sectors and public policies. She is cur-
rently coordinating the VCA4D (Value Chain Analysis for Development)
project for Agrinatura (http://agrinatura-eu.eu/).
marie-helene.dabat@cirad.fr
persp ctive
e
Publication Director: Michel Eddi,
CIRAD President Managing Director
Editor: Patrick Caron, Offi ce of the Director General
in charge of Research and Strategy
Coordination: Cécile Fovet-Rabot,
Scientifi c and Technical Information Service
Translation: Anna Ki
42, rue Sche er
75116 Paris • France
Bernard TRIOMPHE is a system agronomist at CIRAD in the INNOVATION
Joint Research Unit. Currently based at IICA in Mexico (Inter-American
Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, http://www.iica.int/en), he has
worked for many years on the participatory development of innovations
and action research, with a focus on how multiple stakeholders, and
especially local actors, contribute to innovation.
bernard.triomphe@cirad.fr
THE IMPRESS INITIATIVE is supported by a methodological working group,
the coordinators of the case studies by CIRAD or its partners in the Global
South, and involved a number of Masters students. We would like to take
this opportunity to thank them all.
Publication Director:
Michel Eddi,
Boosting the impact of research means letting go of the
illusory promise of very short-term impacts and fostering
among researchers and funders a better understanding of
the underlying mechanisms that generate impacts over
longer periods. Only a “culture of impact” that is based on
this understanding, that capitalises on collective experience,
uses rigorous tools and includes all actors involved in the
innovation process, can guarantee the capacity to generate
impacts.
Graphic design: Laurence La ont
Distribution: Christiane Jacquet, Communication Service
Email: perspective@cirad.fr
www.cirad.fr/en/publications-resources/publishing/perspective-policy-brief
ISSN-L 2275-9190
... ImpresS ex ante: a six-stage participatory, iterative and adaptive approach Introduction to the approach Starting in 2013 4 , CIRAD has decided to "go beyond a culture of promises" (Hainzelin et al., 2017) in order to develop an "impact culture" within the institution while associating its research partners to this effort. It has first taken the form of an ex post impact evaluation method called ImpresS (IMPact of RESearch in the South) (Barret et al. 2017). ...
... ImpresS ex ante: a six-stage participatory, iterative and adaptive approach Introduction to the approach Starting in 2013 4 , CIRAD has decided to "go beyond a culture of promises" (Hainzelin et al., 2017) in order to develop an "impact culture" within the institution while associating its research partners to this effort. It has first taken the form of an ex post impact evaluation method called ImpresS (IMPact of RESearch in the South) (Barret et al. 2017). In 2015 and 2016, CIRAD tested the ex post ImpresS method on 13 case studies illustrating the diversity of its activities and results around the world. ...
... However, during the ex ante design phase of an intervention it will not be possible, with some exceptions, to indicate the intensity for the targeted impact domains (length of the radar branch). The impact radar was built for the ex post case studies according to eleven impact domains that encompass the different missions CIRAD, and many similar organizations, typically play (Barret D. et al. 2017). ...
... Le modèle de la recherche partenariale aujourd'hui en vigueur dans plusieurs instituts de recherche finalisée pour le développement, comme le Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD), l'Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) ou l'Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA) en France, permet de mettre en relation les chercheurs avec les acteurs du monde économiques et leurs besoins d'innovation, mais précise mal les modalités de collaboration entre les partenaires au cours d'un projet d'innovation, ainsi que les contributions spécifiques des chercheurs ( Audoux et Gillet, 2011). Dans ce contexte, le CIRAD, à travers son programme ImpresS ( Hainzelin et al., 2017) s'interroge aujourd'hui sur la manière dont il peut mieux mobiliser ses chercheurs pour augmenter sa contribution à l'innovation et au développement durable. Pour accompagner l'innovation collective, il ne s'agit plus seulement de fournir des connaissances sur des procédés techniques ou de former des techniciens, mais aussi de fournir des méthodes et connaissances pour aider à organiser la production de connaissances et les échanges entre acteurs ( Laperche et al., 2008), faciliter le co-apprentissage ( Toillier et al., 2016) ou encore co-construire l'innovation ( Vall et al., 2016), de façon à placer les utilisateurs finaux en acteurs de leur propre développement, dépassant ainsi la posture classique du chercheur-intervenant-légitime, neutre, équidistant ( Pichault et al., 2008). ...
Article
Full-text available
Capacity development for innovation is emerging as a new way to ensure sustainable development in developing countries. In the agricultural sector, innovation is essentially collective, which calls on researchers to step out of their role as producers of knowledge in order to engage with innovating actors. While a diversity of engaged research practices has emerged, there is not yet a clear understanding of the different ways in which researchers contribute to innovation. The aim of this paper is to identify the types of contribution of researchers to capacity-development for innovation. To this end, the authors have developed an ex post analytical framework that puts into perspective two corpus of literature: on learning and management of innovation. This framework makes it possible to characterize sequences of learning situations and a variety of postures of researchers at different stages of innovation in order to account for their contributions. Based on an in-depth study of thirteen innovation cases in which the French Agricultural Centre for International Development (CIRAD) was engaged with its Southern research partners, four types of contribution of researchers to capacity development to innovate have been identified: to facilitate learning in an unsupervised way; to plan and manage learning processes; to create and respond to learning needs step by step; to be guided by the exploration and needs of end-users. Our results suggest that strategic management of innovation processes by research organizations could be made possible by the monitoring and evaluation of learning situations, on the one hand to strengthen researchers' capacity to innovate, and on the other hand, to better coordinate the skills and resources available, to change the mandates of researchers and to rationalize their investments.
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The Agriculture Research Strategy 2018-2028 strives to provide a strategic framework prioritizing identified research needs as well as formulate a structured implementation, monitoring and evaluation mechanism. The strategy also underpins the significance of stronger collaborative effort amongst agencies within, and in initiating or reinforcing enduring partnership with organizations outside for agricultural research. It also calls for building a critical mass of competent human capital while also underscoring the importance of platforms to encourage and retain researchers.
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