Innovation platforms, power and representation: Lessons from the Nile Basin Development Challenge
NBDC researchers, in collaboration with IP members, experimented with a range of approaches, tools and methods to tackle these issues,
with varying degrees of success.
These approaches helped stakeholders to:
• Critically discuss the use and management of natural resources from a landscape perspective
• Better understand the needs and priorities of different social actors within the landscape
• Facilitate collective exploration of alternative NRM strategies, tailored to biophysical and socio-economic conditions
• Implementation and testing of pilot interventions
Challenges that emerged included:
Conflict: Lack of common understanding
about NRM issues between the different
platform members, leading to competing
agendas and conflicting perspectives about
Community members often dominated by
more powerful actors; a range of
perspectives/needs to be considered for
both entry point selection and subsequent
Facilitation: ‘innovation brokering’
required to address issues of representation
and power and work with actors to change
these dynamics. Questions about who should
act as broker- ‘internal’ or ‘external’ actors.
Aims: Natural resource management interventions in Ethiopia have historically been top-down in nature with little regard for the aspirations, needs,
constraints and livelihood realities of farming communities. Planning and implementation processes are often not sufficiently coordinated, and there is
limited communication between stakeholders. In 2011 the NBDC project established innovation platforms in three study sites in the Blue Nile Basin to
improve the planning and implementation of NRM strategies.
Platforms worked to prompt innovation in the following areas:
• Joint identification of challenges and appropriate interventions, considering technical, social and institutional factors;
• Improved linkages and communication between stakeholders;
• Increased community participation in planning processes;
• Co-design of interventions tailored to socio-economic and biophysical contexts
Use of participatory methods and approaches can play an important role in assisting stakeholders to consider issues of representation, participation
and power within innovation platform processes.
If such issues are not adequately addressed there is a danger that platforms give the illusion of increased participation whilst replicating existing
dynamics. This could result in platforms aggravating poverty and environmental decline rather than providing innovative solutions.
However, for meaningful change to take place such activities need to be conducted over a long time frame through continuous engagement with an
emphasis on building capacity of local actors.
Beth Cullen (ILRI), Zelalem Lemma (ILRI), Josephine Tucker (ODI),
Alan Duncan (ILRI), Katherine Snyder (IWMI)
This document is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution–Non commercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. May 2013
Innovation Platforms, power and representation:
Lessons from the Nile Basin Development Challenge
Participatory VideoCommunity engagement Capacity Development Events