Africa RISING Phase II Communities of Practice

In the second phase of Africa RISING, communities of practice (CoPs) have become an important instrument to ensure all teams across the regions and countries are collaborating and are paving the way for more effective outscaling of their interventions. This page introduces the suggested (starting) communities of practice and their terms of reference.
If you are a CoP champion or if you have any question about how to facilitate such CoPs, you can always ask Ewen Le Borgne (e.leborgne [at] cgiar.org). You can also check the 'Africa RISING Communities of Practice support pack' which was developed to help everyone make sense of and work with Africa RISING CoPs.

At the onset of phase II of Africa RISING we are working with the following 5+2 communities of practice:
  1. Socio-economic assessment of technological innovations (IITA link)
  2. Nutrition (IFPRI link)
  3. Private sector engagement for better linkages of farmers to input and output markers (IITA link)
  4. Livestock intensification and integration (ILRI link)
  5. Translating research outputs into scaled innovations (ILRI link)
  6. Virtual farming
  7. Integrated watershed management
The first five were identified at the onset, the next two were identified at the first science meeting of Phase II in January 2017.

Background information about communities of practice in Phase II

The umbrella proposal for Africa RISING Phase II is stating the following about program-wide communities of practice:
"Across the three Africa RISING regions, different scientists have undertaken research in response to similar constraints in small farming systems. However, despite annual learning events and several cross-country exchanges, many scientists had limited opportunities to exchange ideas and results in depth with peers in the other regional projects. The program has an urgent need to link and connect and capitalize on the expertise and knowledge spread across the countries and partners. There is also demand for greater harmonization and consistency in approaches and science.

Communities of practice (CoP) are widely-used in development as mechanisms to bring scattered people—who share an interest—together. Keys to success are that a community has a clear focus that strongly attracts and interests people to contribute; that it has some deliverables; that it has some incentives or rewards; and that it is facilitated in some way.

They are typically virtual, though some face-to-face interactions often energize more active involvement.
For phase II, the program will set up several focused CoPs in areas like nutrition, livestock, soil and water management, and other priority themes where cross-fertilization and learning is desirable. Technologies applicable to several locations could also be good candidates as the CoPs can act as program-wide innovation testing and adaptation spaces. Other candidate CoP topics are cross-cutting issues such as scaling, gender, data management, communications and capacity development where some greater consistency is desirable and can be tasked to CoPs.

This approach needs facilitation support and close linking to other activities as experience with CoPs shows that such efforts do not thrive without support. It is desirable to link them to the wider communication and knowledge sharing agenda comprising annual learning events, scientific field trips and exchanges, annual planning and review meetings, and other scientific get-togethers. It may also be desirable to formally associate science leaders in different areas with supporting CoPs to combine both collaboration with standard setting and science leadership.

This learning and sharing agenda will be worked out early in phase II as a deliberate approach to improve program-wide learning, knowledge sharing, program harmonization,
science leadership and technology spill-overs."

Proposed Communities of Practice and terms of reference

In addition to the original ToRs, each of these suggested CoPs also lists the people that indicated their interest in that area at the science meeting 2017.

Socio-economic Assessment of Technological Innovations
Champion: Asfaw Negassa, ILRI - PCT contact person: Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon

We need a clearer idea of the economic feasibility of the technologies we think are scalable for different farmer typologies. Many of the technologies that have been analyzed in this respect have not necessarily taken all aspects into account or differentiated amongst various farm household situations. There is no clear consistency regarding the correct methodologies to use for economic analysis and agroecology. Moreover there is a concern that cost benefit accounting alone is not adequate for participatory, demand-driven research that is trying to change and positively affect farmer’s behavior. Adoption is by and large influenced by options as they relate to decisions around risk and how they enhance and or increase livelihood strategies. This CoP should aim to identify and apply appropriate experimental and non-experimental scientific approaches that will allow Africa RISING research teams to identify economically and socially viable options for increasing productivity, improving nutrition and reducing poverty in the real world.
Interested members (in addition to the champion):
  • Beliyou Haile
  • Bekele Kotu
  • Ngulu Festo
  • Mulundu Mwila
  • Joachim Binam
  • Martha Swamila

Nutrition
Champion: Caroline Sobgui, WorldVeg and Anitha Seetha- ICRISAT - PCT contact person: Carlo Azzarri.

All three projects have struggled to engage fully with quality research teams in this area. The activities that we have conducted have been handled in very different ways within each and, unlike gender for example, there has been little cross-fertilisation. A common approach to nutrition across the regions could allow us to build a critical mass of research in nutrition and be helpful in demonstrating that we are a true programme. It would also allow us to compare achievements towards improved nutrition. Nutrition will become more important to USAID with the new program that will replace Feed-the-Future.

Ultimately, the outputs of increased production and productivity is increased nutrition outcomes. In all the target ecologies we are working in under-nutrition is endemic and the proposed Africa RISING crops crucial. These crops comprised of legumes, cereals and vegetable are in fact common in the target regions but the absence of a robust framework that specifies the focus groups and leverages current nutrition efforts such as the SUN activities in each country. All three projects have struggled to engage fully with quality research teams in this area. The activities that we have conducted have been handled in very different ways within each and, unlike gender for example, there has been little cross-fertilisation. A common approach to nutrition across the region could allow us to build a critical mass of research in nutrition and be helpful in demonstrating that we are a true programme. It would also allow us to compare achievements towards improved nutrition. Nutrition will become more important to USAID with the new program that will replace Feed-the-Future.

Interested members:
  • Mahama Saaka
  • Agnes Mwangwela
  • Harry Ngoma
  • S.A. Begum
  • Carlo Azzarri
  • Job Kihara
  • Bekele Kotu
  • Aster Gebrekirstos
  • Vara Prasad


Private Sector Engagement for Better Linkages of Farmers to Input and Output Markets
Champion: Patrick Okori, ICRISAT - PCT contact person: Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon

All projects have had very limited engagement with the private sector (PS) during Phase I. To some extent this is understandable because the PS wants validated and proven technologies and these were the major outputs of the first phase. However, we have them now and the risk is that we will not make best use of the opportunities that are out there because we do not know how to engage with the PS. Some strategic thinking and activities are needed otherwise we are unlikely to achieve much adoption of our technologies and markets for the anticipated surplus produce.

The impact of Africa RISING shall be achieved if the programme can develop and engage with appropriate scaling agencies with the appropriate scope and scale. In phase I all projects had very limited engagement with the private sector (PS) and other complementary scaling investments needed to improve functionality of input and output markets was also minimal. To some extent this is understandable because the PS and allied agencies need validated technologies and these were the major outputs of the first phase. However, we have them now and the risk is that we will not make best use of the opportunities that are out there because we do not know how to engage with the PS. It is therefore imperative that Africa RISING research teams engage in a more strategic manner to better understand the “science of delivery” for its technologies including engaging private sector and allied agencies and actors. Thus strategic thinking and activities are needed otherwise we are unlikely to achieve much adoption of our technologies and markets for the anticipated surplus produce.

Interested members:
  • Petra Schmitter
  • Agnes Mwangwela
  • Harry Ngoma
  • Elirehema Swai
  • Joachim Binam
  • Anthony Kimaro

Livestock intensification and integration
Champion: Augustine Ayantunde, ILRI - Co-champion: Ben Lukuyu (ILRI) - PCT contact person: Peter Thorne (ILRI).

This is a bit like the case for a nutrition CoP. We do different things in different places based on interest and availability of researchers and partners (feed, health, housing, ruminants, pigs, poultry). Livestock are not only important for the integrating role that they play in farming systems but also for the contribution that livestock intensification makes to nutrition outcomes, income generation and poverty alleviation. Indeed for dryland ecologies, livestock underpin resilience and livelihoods. Thus use a a comprehensive framework that brings together approaches and learning will sharpen the Africa RISING livestock research agenda by clarifying the roles and integration of diverse livestock in Sustainable Intensification of both dryland and humid tropics. This COP will also provide an entry point for improving gender equity. Moreover, and integrated approach to livestock across the projects was a key recommendation of the external review that was strongly picked up by the donor.

Interested members:
  • Harry Ngoma
  • Ben Lukuyu
  • Hamidou Nantoume
  • Mulundu Mwila
  • Ngulu Festo
  • Siboniso Moyo
  • Aster Gebrekirstos
  • Tunde Amole
  • Anthony Kimaro


Translating Research Outputs into Scaled Innovation
Champion: Haroon Sseguya, IITA - PCT contact person: Peter Thorne.

There are few projects that start from an open-ended systems diagnosis and get to the stage of promoting the scaling of tested, validated and adapted research outputs. Africa RISING is now moving beyond this stage to a situation where we can gather the evidence that these R-in-D approaches can really catalyse adoption and even generate impact at scale. This CoP should aim to identify promising approaches to scaling and promote them throughout the Africa RISING research teams. It should also ensure that the process is properly documented and analysed; to some extent this could overlap with the first CoP. Most importantly of all, this CoP will need to consider and synthesize the lessons that we will be learning on how and how not to take research outputs to scale. This COP will also work closely with the engagement for better linkages COP for co-learning from ongoing investments.

Interested members:
  • Petra Schmitter
  • Christian Thierfelder
  • Kifle Woldearegay
  • Kalpana Sharma
  • Asamoah Larbi
  • Ben Lukuyu
  • Felistus Chipungu
  • Fred Kizito
  • Kissa Kajigili
  • Mateete Bekunda
  • Kalifa Traore
  • Aster Gebrekirstos
  • Harry Ngoma
  • Siboniso Moyo
  • Godwin Atser
  • Walter Mupangwa
  • Mulundu Mwila
  • Rowland Chirwa
  • Noel Gurwick
  • Vara Prasad

In addition to these 5 'starting' areas, a number of other CoP 'themes' were proposed:
  • Virtual farming (Champion: Jeroen Groot, WUR/IWMI) ie. anything with modelling, ICTs, GIS, stats etc. Regis Chikowo and Petra Schmitter were also interested in joining this one.
  • Integrated watershed management. Champion: Lulseged Desta. Potentially interested members: Fred Kizito, Birhanu Zemadim).

Terms of Reference


These terms of reference should apply across all CoPs. One of the early tasks of the established CoPs will be to clarify their specific aims and deliverables based on the above outlines.
  1. Establish a community of researchers with common aims and interests relating to the CoP mandate;
  2. Formalize aims, deliverables and milestones to address the CoP mandate over the five year lifetime of Africa RISING’s second phase;
  3. Maintain regular interactions amongst CoP members (including circulation of relevant materials, virtual and face-to-face meetings);
  4. Promote best practices relating to the CoP topic across all Africa RISING projects and partner organizations for greater harmonization of approaches and methods;
  5. Disseminate learning experiences and successes related to the CoP mandate to the wider research and development community;
  6. Consider, as / if appropriate, mechanisms for maintaining the CoPs beyond AR-II for suitable exit strategies to ensure that their deliverables persist.

Implementation (ongoing)


CoPs should be free to determine their own processes (for ToR 3. above), but we might want to encourage a minimum of two relatively formal meetings per year (of which at least one in-person).
Each CoP will have a small budget for meetings and joint activities.

At the June 2017 PCT-SAG meeting, four community of practice champions (Ben, Caroline, Haroon and Patrick) came together and devised some common steps forward, leading to this set of steps.



Budget

Each CoP will have an annual budget of USD10,000 for operations such as at least one face to face meeting and joint activities. The CoP champions should provide a budget for year 1 to the sponsor for approval as follows:

The details of fund disbursement will be discussed between the sponsors and the CoP champions to find the most practical way.

Facilitation support

An 'Africa RISING Communities of Practice support pack' was developed for CoP facilitators and members.
In addition, if you are a CoP champion or if you have any question about how to facilitate such CoPs, you can always ask Ewen Le Borgne (e.leborgne [at] cgiar.org).

Hereby are some very simple ideas for how to get started with the facilitation of your community of practice - and these ideas are mutually reinforcing and not meant to be read in a linear fashion nor applied in a stepwise manner:
  • Define the action plan with what is expected from this group and also identify clearly the minimum level of interaction expected from the members
  • Identify how this CoP topic is connecting to the others and to other formal spaces and networks across the program to 'build bridges, not silos'
  • Identify interesting conversation topics and key questions that this group needs to develop
  • List and share useful resources on this topic, both from inside Africa RISING and from outside
  • (Help) Introduce the members of your CoP to one another - with e.g. perhaps a line of 'why they think this particular CoP is interesting' or e.g. 'one thing they think they can uniquely contribute to this CoP'...
  • Run 'YamJams' (on Yammer) or online conversations around specific topics
  • Ask your members to bring possibly interested new members to the group and to 'buddy up' with them to introduce them to the CoP and its operating mode etc.
  • Document conversations (with the help of your comms support person) on the wiki/Yammer or otherwise and share the key insights with the wider group on Yammer so everyone knows how vibrant your CoP is
  • Link up with other CoP champions to run parallel conversations on similar themes etc.
  • Prepare activities and presentations that can be fed at larger face to face events e.g. review and planning meetings, science meetings etc.
  • Identify interesting/relevant events and conversations, groups etc. that are in relation with the theme of this CoP

Possible support one can expect from the Comms team (Ewen, Jonathan, Simret):
  • Support in setting up the action plan and identifying activities for the CoP
  • Technical or management coaching on how to get the CoP going - Ad-hoc coaching/advising on ways forward
  • Communication platform support (if the platform chosen is supported by Africa RISING e.g. Yammer, wiki, etc. or if the comms specialist has personal experience with that platform)
  • Finding additional literature and guidance documentation to share with champions
  • Designing, preparing and/or running face-to-face CoP meetings
  • Preparing learning or science events with the results from the CoP to integrate it further throughout the program
Ewen will also try to get in touch with the champions on a regular basis (once a month more or less) to find out what issues the CoP champions are facing and how to address them.

Background reading and references on communities of practice


Each CoP will have an annual budget of USD10,000 for operations such as at least one face to face meeting and joint activities. The CoP champions should provide a budget for year 1 to the sponsor for approval as follows: