Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire — An international workshop on partnerships was convened and coordinated by WARDA and the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR), in collaboration with the Organizational Change Program (OCP) and with significant support from other CGIAR institutes (IARCs), the Global Forum for Agricultural Research (GFAR) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), at WARDA’s Headquarters, near Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire, from 8 to 10 December 1999.
The specific objectives of the Workshop were to:
Review methodological efforts and examine the nature of the need for partnerships over the next two decades along the research-to-development continuum;
Review existing partnerships between IARCs, and national agricultural research systems (NARS) to learn what contributes to success or failure;
Examine the roles and contributions of the private sector and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as part of a broad definition of NARS, to partnerships within the context of Sub-Saharan Africa;
Recommend guidelines for establishing and maintaining effective partnerships for research and development change and for capacity building.
The 39 participants represented 27 organizations and 18 countries.
Keynote papers on the first day provided background information for analyzing the global context, concept, experiences and challenges of partnerships. The presentations of the second day brought the focus on experiences of partnerships in Sub-Saharan Africa, including current efforts to enlist participation of the NGOs, farmers’ organizations and the private sector. The third day reviewed the current state of institutionalization of partnerships for developing guiding principles for effective partnerships in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The working groups and the plenary sessions analyzed the critical domains and identified the following specific factors in establishing partnerships.
Determinants and conditions of partnership success: vision and leadership; continuing strategic relevance of the partnership to the partners; continuing interdependency; complementarity and shared credit/visibility; high level of trust and mutual respect among the partners; clear and effective governance and decision-making structures; and, pro-active engagement and effective communication.
Barriers and challenges to partnership success: poor selection of the partner; uncertainty and ambiguity of roles and expectations; lack of commitment; different expectations, resources, organizational cultures, and power bases; continuity of staff and financial resources.
Process for developing partnerships: assessment of partnership opportunity; identification and selection of partners; intentional formation of the partnership; implementation and evolution of the partnership.
Factors that contribute to the effectiveness of partnerships: pre-requisites for partnerships; mechanisms for partnership; sustainability of partnerships; built-in mechanisms for evaluation and assessment.
Specific roles of collaborating institutions
The respective roles of national (NARS, NGOs, farmers’ organizations, and private sector), regional (SROs) and global (IARCs, SPAAR, GFAR) institutions were presented and discussed. This Workshop marks a crucial step in formalizing partnerships at the regional and global levels. It specifically addressed the need to strengthen partnerships at national level (including universities) and to reinforce the respective roles of NGOs, farmers’ organizations, and private sectors in the regional and global fora.
The participants undertook to take workshop experiences back to their home organizations and a series of personal actions was pledged: open dialog with NGOs; explore joint IARC-NARS appointments; enlist the assistance of local universities; reorganize the management of existing partnerships; develop better proposal writing skills for partnership proposals to donors; and channeling more funds to partnership-based projects.
The Workshop significantly strengthened the mutual understanding of successes and failures in IARC-NARS partnerships in Sub-Saharan Africa, and noted transparency, trust, fair attribution of achievements and financial opportunities as important factors for success.
Two upcoming meetings of Sub-Saharan African NARS and SROs—in Conakry, Guinea (SPAAR/FARA Plenary), and in Dresden, Germany (GFAR 2000)—will provide important opportunities to share lessons from past research partnership experiences and to identify areas for establishment of new innovative global partnerships.
The Synthesis Report of the Partnerships Workshop will be presented at the Conakry meeting. A revised version will be also presented at GFAR meeting in Dresden.