Compositional dynamics of multilevel innovation platforms in agricultural research for development
Innovation platforms (IPs) form a popular vehicle in agricultural research for development (AR4D) to facilitate stakeholder interaction, agenda setting, and collective action toward sustainable agricultural development. This article in the Science and Public Policy Journal, aims to systematically research the dynamics of stakeholder composition throughout IPs and tries to analyze how seven ‘key functions’ of the innovation process are fulfilled. Data are gathered from experiences with interlinked community and (sub)national IPs established under a global AR4D program aimed at stimulating sustainable agricultural development in Central Africa. The findings show that all innovation systems functions required multilevel action, but that fulfillment of specific functions demands for strategic involvement of specific stakeholders at specific levels. It was observed that a research- and dissemination-oriented sequence in the functions was prioritized in AR4D IPs and argue that such a sequence may be different in other types of (business) IPs. The authors question the sustainability of many of the existing AR4D IPs and their ability to function as a business incubator, as the sequencing of innovation systems functions in AR4D IPs tend to undermine market formation and entrepreneurial capacity development. These findings provide an incentive to think function oriented about compositional dynamics (stakeholder groups * levels) in innovation processes, rather than striving for equal stakeholder participation. In addition to having multi-actor platforms at different levels, joint agenda setting and reflection, participatory action research, and careful networking and problem solving by (contracted) innovation champions can facilitate stakeholders connectivity across levels.