Evaluation of the Food & Business Knowledge Platform 2013-2018
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs agreed to do a review for the first phase of the Food & Business Knowledge Platform (F&BKP), 2013 – 2018. Evaluators Ton Dietz and Joep van den Broek were appointed to look at the relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of the Platform and based on this to formulate recommendations for the future outlook of the Platform. And as such to provide input to the Ministry for decision making on a possible second phase of the F&BKP. Please find below the review highlights; a link to the full PDF can be found at the bottom of this page.
The relevance of the F&BKP in the Food and Nutrition Security field
The activities of the F&BKP enhance all three strategic Dutch policy goals for Food and Nutrition Security, with most emphasis on the two first goals (Eradicating existing hunger and malnutrition, and Promoting inclusive and sustainable growth in the agricultural sector), and more modest, and mostly during the last year, attention for the third goal (Creating ecologically sustainable food systems). The thematic choices made in the F&BKP activities, and the very flexible adjustments to a rather rapidly changing policy environment, can be seen as very adequate. However, one should question the relevance of the geographical choices made, both the regional emphasis of the implemented food security policies of the Ministry itself and certainly the actual regional spread of the project portfolio, and the emphasis in knowledge-policy debates. A majority of research projects is located in the relatively ”easy” countries, with a lot of existing linkages, while very few activities can be found in very problematic areas.
The F&BKP succeeded to mobilize almost all relevant knowledge, and NGO agencies active in the Netherlands in the field of food security, as well as a lot of partner institutes in Africa, and some in Asia, America, and Europe. There is a somewhat troublesome relationship, though, with “government”. The intention to involve the business sector somewhat succeeded in most of the Applied Research Fund (ARF) and Global Challenges Programme (GCP) projects, and in some of the activities funded by the Knowledge Management Facility (KMF) and other F&BKP Office activities, as far as “southern” businesses were concerned – as was the intention – but much less so in the Netherlands.
The intention to open up and engage a wide variety of players has clearly succeeded, and it certainly enhanced the visibility of the “Dutch diamond” concept, both in the Netherlands, among some global agencies and in the South.
Effectivity and efficiency of the F&BKP
The Platform has effectively managed a very complicated agenda, with many different stakeholders, and very many different subsectors, and (sub) objectives. Compared to the period before the Platform started, the chaotic and unconnected food security agencies and projects have become more aligned.
The effectiveness of the Platform so far has been a result of a consortium, where each partner brought (and brings) specific strengths: Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI) its knowledge, prestige and convening power in the food sector, AgriProFocus its local networks, and The Broker its expertise as a knowledge broker, and facilitator of online and offline multi-stakeholder dialogues. Evaluators mention that it is amazing how much has been done by a relatively small group of people in the Office of the F&BKP, and with relatively limited funding for KMF and Office activities. In that sense the “efficiency” (value for money) is clearly high.
The effectiveness can (and should) further be enhanced in five directions: (1) more alignment with the Dutch food security initiatives/projects; (2) more involvement of the major business players in the food and agriculture sector in the Netherlands; (3) better and more effective connections with the two relevant top sectors and their sector associations; (4) better connections with major European and global and Dutch players; and (5) alignment with the relevant think tanks in the South.
The ultimate aim of the F&BKP is to contribute to the strategic goals of DGIS for Food and Nutrition Security: eradicating hunger, promoting agricultural growth and creating sustainable food systems. Evaluators suggest to make clearer how the Platform, within the strategic goals, makes choices, and contributions at impact level and how scaling and leverage can be achieved.
A major challenge mentioned is to connect more directly and more effectively with the many Dutch-funded food security projects, particularly the ones managed by the Netherlands Embassies. And at least part of the funding available for the next phase should focus on knowledge management and research for and with these Dutch-funded food security projects. Relevant civil servants (in the three related Ministries, and at the Embassies) need to be stimulated to develop a much more knowledge-oriented attitude, and to develop adequate knowledge questions (together with the relevant stakeholders).
The effectiveness of the Platform as a tool for knowledge generation and dissemination for all relevant Dutch agencies and their connections abroad can be enhanced if the major players would regard the Platform as “their thing”. They should get a joint commitment for upscaling the Platform to gradually develop into a Netherlands Food Security Partnership for Development, connected to the broader Dutch agenda (and funds) for global food security. Evaluators strongly recommend to continue the existing consortium of Wageningen (through WCDI), AgriProFocus, and The Broker.
A lasting commitment by Dutch and international scientists would be guaranteed with a new round of GCP-like and ARF-like projects, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and hopefully financially supported by other major stakeholders. And it would help if new instruments would be better aligned with the work of the Platform.
A dedicated discussion is needed during the next phase about the “presence abroad”. AgriProFocus currently has a network of local focal points, but that network does not completely match with the most relevant areas for food security attention also seeing the recent shifts in the regional orientation of the Dutch ODA agenda. The local focal points could be further developed as real examples of the “Dutch diamond abroad”.
Priorities evaluators would recommend are better inclusion of Dutch businesses, and the TopSectors, and much better connection with the Dutch-funded project portfolio for food security. Additionally a gradual further expansion of the F&BKP is encouraged, to e.g. engaging more with the European Union, big companies, global agencies like FAO, IFAD and WFP, and major think tanks in Africa.
For this it is obvious that the capacity of the Office should be expanded, and it is also obvious that this approach needs a strong commitment from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, and from Wageningen, AgriProFocus, and The Broker.
Evaluators conclude Food and Business activities are indeed examples of a successful “Dutch diamond approach”, and the Platform stimulated the sector to strive for gold standards of effectiveness and efficiency, but for solving food insecurity worldwide there are no silver bullets. It needs a continuation of long-term and high-quality involvement by many different stakeholders. And the F&BKP succeeded to show promising examples of what can be done and how it should be done! In the next phase this needs upscaling, and stronger alignment with other Dutch government initiatives and with those of the sector as a whole.
Initial reaction Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomes the review and foresees continuation of the Platform in the context of a to be established Netherlands Food Partnership. In particular it underlines the need for additional means to connect Dutch knowledge and skills to multilateral networks. Also it emphasizes more efforts for research to support policy and policy implementation.
_ _ _
Please download the full Evaluation of the Food & Business Knowledge Platform 2013-2018 “Co-creating (Dutch) diamonds, gold (standards) and silver (bullets) in the food security and agricultural business maze”.