Innovation platforms, Power,
Representation & Participation:
Lessons from Blue Nile Basin,
Ethiopia
Beth Cullen, Josephine...
Research focus
• Paper focuses on manifestations of power within
Innovation Platforms (IPs) for natural resource
managemen...
Research Aims
• Contribute to understanding of power dynamics
in Innovation Platform processes

• Provide analysis and cri...
Outline
•
•
•
•

Research design and methods
Ethiopian context
NBDC overview: Why Innovation platforms?
IP’s, Power & Repr...
Research design & methods

• R4D project, Ethiopian highlands, 3 study sites
• Based on work from 2010 to present
• Paper ...
Context:
The Ethiopian Highlands
• Densely populated
• High levels of poverty and food
insecurity

• Expanding cultivation...
NRM Interventions
• Top-down quota-driven approach
• Focus on technical interventions
• Lack of cross-sector collaboration...
Destruction by farmers of
interventions
NBDC Overview
• Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) Program
aims to improve the resilience of rural livelihoods in
the...
Why Innovation Platforms?

Or...
Areas of innovation
• Addressing NRM challenges requires innovation in
institutions that structure interactions between
re...
IP’s, Power &
Representation
•

Innovation platforms: ‘equitable dynamic spaces
designed to bring together stakeholders fr...
Platforms dominated by
government actors
This is what we will do!

Er…

Well, but…

Not really…

Credit: Alfred Ombati
Platform membership &
representation
• Government influence in the selection of IP
members, particularly ‘community
repres...
Interactions between
stakeholders
• Community members not free to express
alternative views

• Farmer knowledge not equall...
Decision-making
• Starting point: identification of commonly
agreed upon NRM issue/entry point for
interventions

• Differ...
Implementation
• Farmers seen as ‘implementers’, lack of genuine
involvement

• Different levels of engagement (and unders...
‘Innovation brokers’
• Innovation brokers (Klerkx 2009) important, but
dilemmas about ‘insider’ or ‘outsider’ brokers:

- ...
Role of facilitators
•

Should platform facilitators play a neutral role or
try to empower marginalized members?

•

‘Dial...
Concepts of participation
• Different understandings between platform
members and researchers about ‘participation’

• Is ...
Implications for future work
• Limited attention to constraints faced by lower
level decision makers

• Poorly designed in...
Reflections
• Too early to draw conclusions about impact: a
problem for innovation processes!

• Some changes in knowledge...
Conclusion
• Failure to resolve power and representation
issues within IPs may affect:
- Priority given to issues,
- Selec...
Implications
• Danger that IPs give illusion of increased
participation whilst replicating and masking
existing power dyna...
Questions?
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Innovation platforms, power, representation and participation: Lessons from Blue Nile Basin, Ethiopia

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Presented by Beth Cullen, Josephine Tucker, Katherine Snyder, Zelalem Lema, Alan Duncan at the New Models of Innovation for Development, University of Manchester, 4th July 2013



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Innovation platforms, power, representation and participation: Lessons from Blue Nile Basin, Ethiopia

  1. 1. Innovation platforms, Power, Representation & Participation: Lessons from Blue Nile Basin, Ethiopia Beth Cullen, Josephine Tucker, Katherine Snyder, Zelalem Lema, Alan Duncan New M odels of Innovation for Development University of Manchester 4 July 2013
  2. 2. Research focus • Paper focuses on manifestations of power within Innovation Platforms (IPs) for natural resource management (NRM) in Ethiopia • We analyse relationships between actors and the impact that these dynamics have on NRM interventions piloted by the platforms. • Framed within Ethiopian context to assess the effectiveness of IPs in a politically restrictive environment
  3. 3. Research Aims • Contribute to understanding of power dynamics in Innovation Platform processes • Provide analysis and critique of the use of IPs for ‘pro-poor innovation’ • Demonstrate implications for platform implementation, impact, scaling up and policy
  4. 4. Outline • • • • Research design and methods Ethiopian context NBDC overview: Why Innovation platforms? IP’s, Power & Representation: • • Membership & interactions between stakeholders Decision making and implementation Role of ‘innovation brokers’ Concepts of participation Implications for future work Reflections Conclusion
  5. 5. Research design & methods • R4D project, Ethiopian highlands, 3 study sites • Based on work from 2010 to present • Paper synthesizes lessons from initial phase of platform operation • Qualitative research: focus group discussions, participatory community engagement exercises, meeting minutes, researcher observations, key informant interviews, independent review of platforms
  6. 6. Context: The Ethiopian Highlands • Densely populated • High levels of poverty and food insecurity • Expanding cultivation • Rapid land degradation
  7. 7. NRM Interventions • Top-down quota-driven approach • Focus on technical interventions • Lack of cross-sector collaboration & coordination • Insufficient focus on productivity & livelihoods • Poor incentives for adopting/maintaining interventions • Lack of community participation
  8. 8. Destruction by farmers of interventions
  9. 9. NBDC Overview • Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) Program aims to improve the resilience of rural livelihoods in the Ethiopian highlands through a landscape approach to natural resource management. • Hypothesis: development of integrated strategies which consider technologies, policies and institutions identified by a range of stakeholders will lead to improved NRM, providing alternative approaches to top-down implementation.
  10. 10. Why Innovation Platforms? Or...
  11. 11. Areas of innovation • Addressing NRM challenges requires innovation in institutions that structure interactions between resource users • NBDC IP’s intended to prompt innovation in: • Joint identification of issues and interventions • Improved linkages between actors • Increased community participation • Co-design of interventions tailored to local contexts
  12. 12. IP’s, Power & Representation • Innovation platforms: ‘equitable dynamic spaces designed to bring together stakeholders from different interest groups to take action to solve a common problem’ • In theory, platform members are equal and can articulate their needs. In practice, that may be far from the case... • NRM planning and implementation in Ethiopia is a ‘closed’ or at best ‘invited’ space • How equitable can platforms be in such a context?
  13. 13. Platforms dominated by government actors This is what we will do! Er… Well, but… Not really… Credit: Alfred Ombati
  14. 14. Platform membership & representation • Government influence in the selection of IP members, particularly ‘community representatives’ • Significant for NRM activities because communities are the main implementers of NRM interventions • Example of ‘false homogenization’ (farmer diversity not represented), difficult for facilitators to address
  15. 15. Interactions between stakeholders • Community members not free to express alternative views • Farmer knowledge not equally valued • Hierarchical interactions firmly entrenched: significant barrier to innovation • Initial attempts by facilitators to address unequal dynamics was met with resistance • Project sought to provoke joint learning through active engagement
  16. 16. Decision-making • Starting point: identification of commonly agreed upon NRM issue/entry point for interventions • Different priorities between farmers and decision makers: short term vs. long term, livelihoods vs. NRM • Fodder interventions chosen in all 3 sitescoincidence? Influenced by project & government agendas? • Facilitators played important mediating role
  17. 17. Implementation • Farmers seen as ‘implementers’, lack of genuine involvement • Different levels of engagement (and understanding) between different actors- reflecting existing interactions • Community members perceived platform activities as another ‘arm of government’ • In some sites community members destroyed/abandoned activities: ‘weapons of the weak’ • Highlights importance of community participation: evidence of the need for a ‘bottom-up approach’
  18. 18. ‘Innovation brokers’ • Innovation brokers (Klerkx 2009) important, but dilemmas about ‘insider’ or ‘outsider’ brokers: - Outsiders: overview of context and challenges but define research/project objectives so powerful actors, problems of trust/partnership - Insiders: limited understanding of innovation concepts, part of existing power structure which leads to limitations (e.g. NGOs) • NBDC started with ‘outsider’ facilitators and gradually devolved responsibility to ‘insiders’, not an easy process
  19. 19. Role of facilitators • Should platform facilitators play a neutral role or try to empower marginalized members? • ‘Dialogue’ versus ‘critical’ vision of power (Faysse 2006) • Attempts to empower community members (Participatory Video) had limited success- IP members took a ‘business as usual approach’ Why?
  20. 20. Concepts of participation • Different understandings between platform members and researchers about ‘participation’ • Is lack of capacity and resources the main issue? • Capacity building events organised with limited success • Hierarchical social and political environment seems not to support ‘error-embracing participatory approaches’ • Lower level government officials & farmers equally constrained by this context
  21. 21. Implications for future work • Limited attention to constraints faced by lower level decision makers • Poorly designed incentives & structural problems: requires influence at higher level • Local platforms can help make these dynamics visible but unlikely to change them: could ‘nested platforms’ be successful? • NBDC project needs to demonstrate how local level lessons can help achieve national objectives
  22. 22. Reflections • Too early to draw conclusions about impact: a problem for innovation processes! • Some changes in knowledge, attitudes and practice among IP members but may not lead to wide-scale change • Continuous engagement and capacity building of local actors important for longer term success • Engagement with higher level decision makers critical but depends on political will
  23. 23. Conclusion • Failure to resolve power and representation issues within IPs may affect: - Priority given to issues, - Selection of entry points, - Design of interventions, - Adoption of interventions • If some members’ voices are ignored – or if some groups are not represented at all – they may start to disengage from or resist interventions
  24. 24. Implications • Danger that IPs give illusion of increased participation whilst replicating and masking existing power dynamics • If issues of power and representation are not considered IPs may aggravate poverty and environmental decline rather than provide innovative solutions
  25. 25. Questions?
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