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Supporting local innovation for rural development: Analysis and review of five innovation support funds

Friis-Hansen, Dr Esbern and Egelyng, Dr. Henrik (2007) Supporting local innovation for rural development: Analysis and review of five innovation support funds. DIIS REPORT, no. 2007:4. Danish Institute of International Studies.

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Online at: http://www.diis.dk/graphics/Publications/Reports2006/diisreport-2007-4.pdf


In continents and countries such as Africa and India, huge agricultural areas are "de-facto" organic. More formalised - and knowledge intense - methods of organic agriculture has proved potential help farmers achieve better development returns from farming organic. While not commonly referred to (formally certified) as "organic", this huge agricultural sector mainly depend on farmer-knowledge intensive and local innovation systems very much of the same kind that served development of organic agriculture in the west, before agricultural universities and subsequently governments took interest in participating in developing "organic" agriculture. The aim of this study is to follow up on a World Bank workshop on innovation systems at the community level. Most of the knowledge and innovation referred to in the report relates to agriculture. By resolution, this workshop recommended that a ‘review of existing innovation support funds and outline of a global mechanism to foster community level innovations’ should be undertaken. The
study is also, in part, a response to a recent report from the World Bank’s Indigenous
Knowledge for Development Program, which calls for the establishment
of an “innovation fund to promote successful IK practices” (Gorjestani, N., in
WB 2004; 45-53).
Th is desk study reviews fi ve innovation support funds (ISFs) or funding concepts:
the Indian ‘National Innovation Fund’ (NIF) and its associated web of institutions;
the GTZ-funded ‘Small-Scale Project Fund’ (SSPF); the NGO concept
‘Promoting Local Innovation in ecologically oriented agriculture and NRM’
(PROLINNOVA); the FAO’s project, ‘Promoting Farmer Innovation-Farmer Field
Schools’ (PFI-FFS); and the ‘Local Agricultural Research Committee’ (CIAL) in
Latin America.
Local innovations are broadly perceived as constituting a major under-utilized
potential for development and rural poverty reduction, and ISFs as contributing to realize this potential. Local innovators continue to experiment and generated
knowledge within a broad spectrum of areas, including improved mechanical
tools for agriculture, natural resource management, medicinal and agricultural
practices, and innovative ways of organizing and doing business. Th e signifi cance
of local innovators as a source of knowledge and well-adapted solutions is high
among the poorer sections of rural society, many of whom cannot aff ord, nor have
access to, relevant advisory services.
Th ere is growing recognition that a whole range of diff erent actors and organizations
are required to stimulate widespread local technological development. New
products and processes are brought into local economic and social use through
networks of organizations, which are often referred to in the abstract as the innovation
system. Th e key challenge is not perceived in terms of devising new
technologies, e.g. doing diff erent things, but in bringing about changes in how the
innovation system works, e.g. doing things diff diffff erently (Phila 2005).
Our comparative analysis of the fi ve reviews listed above draws twelve preliminary
(i) NIF is globally the largest and most advanced ISF. However, although the other
four ISFs are more limited in scope and focus, they can all contribute valuable
experiences, complementary to those of NIF. In our assessment, the eff ectiveness of
investing in innovation support could be enhanced if existing complementary experiences
were exchanged and acted on in a systematic manner.
(ii) ISFs understand innovation as a matter of both processes and products, the
latter varying from hard mechanical implements to soft institutional innovations.
ISFs support both innovators and their links with public institutions and private
entrepreneurs, and groups of rural producers, as platforms for innovations and
as their links with innovators. It is our assessment that all ISFs could benefi t from a
more balanced mix of the two areas of innovation support.
(iii) ISFs’ understandings of who the innovators are varies. NIF celebrates the
qualities of individual, small-scale entrepreneurs with a proven record of being
innovative, while the remaining ISFs place their eff orts in facilitating poor rural
producers and users of innovations to learn to become ‘researchers’ in their own
right. It is our assessment that supporting both types of innovator is likely to increase
the development outcomes of ISFs.
(iv) A general lesson learned by all ISFs is that innovations have to be understood
in their context. ISFs currently diff erentiate between innovations on the basis of
the types of issues they are concerned with (e.g. soil and water conservation, biological
pest management, etc.). It is our assessment that it would be useful if the ISFs
could instead distinguish between innovations in relation to (i) the relevance of formal
property rights; (ii) public/private goods; and (iii) market/non-market value.
(v) When using a ‘learning selection’ analytical framework for rural innovations
for development, the focus shifts away from simply understanding innovators
as inventors and rural producers as the users of innovations towards a focus on
how innovations are continuously improved upon through interaction between
the various actors. In our assessment, the facilitation of cycles of ‘ learning selection’
involving innovators, entrepreneurs and innovative adopters is a potential area of
activity for ISFs that could contribute to scaling out use and the commercialization
of rural innovations.
(vi) Understanding capacity development as ‘the ability of an organization to
produce appropriate outputs (e.g. services and products) helps clarify the aim of
capacity development eff orts in these ISFs. ISF-supported eff orts are centered on
the one hand on building eff ective mechanisms for identifying, documenting,
vetting and promoting innovations, and on the other hand on ensuring organizational
and fi nancial sustainability.
(vii) Th e ISF funds reviewed here have a decentralized management structure
linked together by a central management unit or committee. Th e Indian NIF
has the most formalized and well-established governance structure, including a
national Governing Board that coordinates activities among the web of independent
organizations, each with diff erent functions and foci. Coordination of activities
is less visible in the case of CIAL and PFI-FFS, as most management decisions
in these organizations are taken at the farmer-group level and at the district-level
networks of these groups. Th e PROLINNOVA concept provides a refreshing mix
of centralized and decentralized decision-making management.
(viii) None of these ISFs have a comprehensive system for monitoring outcomes
and assessing the impact of support activities. Since none of the M&E systems
diff erentiates between diff erent social categories, one potential development impact
of ISF activities has not been documented. ISF documents are also unclear in their
understandings of the social and economic mechanisms through which support
for local innovations result in improved levels of well-being for poor people.
(ix) Th e review reveals a diverse picture of Innovation Scouting, from none or
implied (PROLINNOVA,) via criteria-based (SSPF), the village walks and student
scouts of the NIF, reliance on grassroots “champions” and/or use of extension
workers (FFS), to the structured group innovation process encoded in the CIALs.
Th e use by NIF of students who return to their villages during their vacations to
scout for innovations seems to be a successful approach that may be replicable in
other areas where university students come from rural areas. Th e availability of
comprehensive standardized forms and criteria that the students can easily apply
has contributed to the success of this approach. An unintended side eff ect has
been changes in student’s own attitudes to rural development.
(x) Most of the funds reviewed made few if any attempts to support any genuine
commercialization of local innovations. Th e exception is NIF, which we found
to be more advanced in this sense. NIF includes both formal and informal sector
commercialization. While primarily focusing on innovations of a public-good
nature with a view to informal commercialization or information-sharing, NIF has
developed a proven capacity to work with innovations of a rival good or excludable
nature, in other words, those with the potential for commercialization based
on standard or sui-generis IPRs. Th e other funds focus mostly (CIAL) or almost
exclusively (FFS) on non-excludable and non-rival goods. In the latter cases, most
or all the innovations they support are likely to be of a public-good nature.
(xi) Th ree complementary forms of innovation vetting are practiced by the IFSs,
each with their merits. One of the funds reviewed rely on two separate innovation
“review” committees, one “scientifi c”, and one by peers among innovators
(NIF), while another used joint experiments involving both external facilitators
and researchers (CIAL). Vetting by potential users (e.g. rural producers) is widely
practiced in PFI-FFS.
(xii) Th e approach to learning varies within the ISFs, from the highly complex
and elaborate learning programmed for at all levels, through a wide array of
instruments and forums (NIF), to a far more specifi c and scoped adult or joint
learning model (CIAL, FFS), to the rather more amorphous “collective learning”
envisioned by the PROLINNOVA concept.
A global innovation facility (GIF) could play a role in compiling existing documentation
of experience, initiating cross-country studies, and assisting in ensuring
that these experiences are made available and exchanged in a systematic manner
among the existing ISFs. Th e mission of such a GIF could be to enhance the effectiveness
of existing ISFs and the global expansion of activities by facilitating
institutional learning, the exchange of experience between existing ISFs and the
provision of technical assistance.

Summary translation

Hovedparten af eksempelvis de afrikanske landes og Indiens landbrug er de-fakto økologisk, og omtales derfor ofte blot som landbrug. Af samme grund repræsenterer en formalisering af sådanne landbrug som økologisk landbrug, et betydeligt udviklingspotentiale. Dette litteraturstudie af fem fonde der støtter lokale (og for hovedpartens vedkommende landbrugsrelaterede) innovationer er en opfølgning af en workshop, der blev afhold i Kuala Lumpur i 2006. Studiet viser, at lokale innovationer udgør et underudnyttet potentiale for økonomisk udvikling i landdistrikter.
Overalt i udviklingslandenes landdistrikter findes der lokale opfindere,
der eksperimenterer med at kombinere lokal og videnskabelig viden, for at fi nde
bedre (dvs. billigere, mere tilgængelige eller mere brugbare) løsninger på lokale
NIF i Indien er den største og bedst udviklede innovationsfond, med veludviklede
procedurer for brug af studerende som “innovationsspejdere”; internetbaseret dokumentation
af lokale opfi ndelser; modifi cerede patentsystemer, der beskytter ny
viden og giver ikke-materielle belønninger for lokalt anvendelige, men kommercielt
urentable opfi ndelser; og netværk mellem lokale opfi ndere, forretningsfolk og ledere
af småindustrier. Andre innovationsfonde i Afrika og Latinamerika har opbygget
erfaring med at påskynde småbønder til selv at eksperimentere og frembringe nye
måder at udnytte lokale naturressourcer. NGO-innovationsnetværket Prolinnova
eksperimenterer med nye former for partnerskab mellem civilsamfundet, staten
og lokale grupper af fattige småbønder.
En komparativ analyse af de fem innovationsfondes metoder viser, at de kan lære
meget af hinandens erfaringer og foreslår at en global koordineringsenhed vil
have god mulighed for at skabe synergi mellem eksisterende tilgange og udbrede
succesfulde aktiviteter.

EPrint Type:Report
Keywords:Local Innovation, Rural Development, Agricultural methods, de facto organic.
Subjects: Knowledge management
Research affiliation: Denmark > DIIS - Danish Institute for International Studies
Deposited By: Egelyng, Dr. Henrik
ID Code:11304
Deposited On:14 Oct 2007
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:35
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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