Multi-stakeholder platforms, read collaborative leadership

by Perez Muchunguzi, Uganda, ELP 2014
Written on July 21, 2014.

When I look around at both sides of the Atlantic, there are indicators that the world I live in is changing in terms of how to approach leadership and ways of work. This is regardless of whether I look back home in Uganda, where World Bank is sponsoring the establishment of platforms as a vehicle to make technology transfer easy in the National Agricultural Research Organization, or at the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program, where Collaborative Leadership is given a three-day slot like no other single topic. Within the CGIAR, which is the research world that I come from, this has also been the thinking and it can summarized in the quote below from the official website:

“Over four decades the number of Research Centers supported by the CGIAR grew from four to fifteen. Our research, initially concentrating on breeding better staple food crops, expanded to cover natural resource management, food production, and ecoregions. The number of our donors also grew. By the end of the 20th century we had grown into a cumbersome coalition of like-minded but separate research organizations and donors.

Sweeping changes in the first decade of the 21st century transformed our loose coalition into a streamlined global partnership working as one. Today, our donors and the Research Centers work together in a business-like manner in order to make a unique scientific contribution to agricultural development for people who are poor.”

This global shift in thinking gives hope that the World is taking a step in the positive direction, but also presents some real time practical challenges. It gives hope because we are slowly but surely realizing that working together to solve the problems that surround us is not only important but also crucial if we are to make progress, especially on the issues of Natural Resources Utilization and their sustainability. The challenges that still exist include the fact that our behavioral changes have not been as fast coming as our understanding. This is true whether we look at the overarching global issues of climate change and the famous North-South negotiations or at the local discussions we are having as a platform in Kiboga and Kyankwanzi.

I work with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). IITA is a research Institute that has headquarters in Ibadan-Nigeria and has many other regional and country offices across sub-Saharan Africa. I am working in the Ugandan office where I have been acting as a bridge between research knowledge generation and sharing. My role has been changing and evolving, just like that of the CGIAR.

I am currently at the forefront of working with different multi-stakeholders including farmers, farmer organizations, NGO’s, local and central governments, the private sector, researchers and academic institutions, among many others. Communication and networking has been key in what we have been able to achieve so far. The challenges however still remain, especially on the issues of resources at both the individual and institutional level. Multi-stakeholder processes require a lot of meetings in order to come up with a common vision. In a culture where individuals are used to sitting allowances, it becomes very costly to manage the process. There are good signs however that some individuals are changing. These changes though are slow but can be fast tracked if the institutions fully embrace the culture. While different organizations will also commit to working together, the institutional frameworks are still top-down and not as dynamic. Usually the decisions to commit resources take longer to come by, but still signs are there with some organizations already deciding to fund meals and offering meeting spaces. For all these positive changes to be strengthened, process facilitation needs to be at its best, so that all stakeholders see the benefits of working together.

This was the reason as to why I applied for the course, to manage the process with more expertise. The key to the process has been the opportunities brought about by networking. This has received a boost from attending the ELP, with access to the Berkeley teaching fraternity, alumni and a global network of environmental leaders that have vast experience in many different ways. While the behavioral challenges still remain, there is strong hope about the future!