The role of innovation brokers in agricultural innovation systems
This article, published by The World Bank, discusses the role of innovation brokers in bridging communication gaps between various actors of agricultural innovation systems. On the basis of recent experience in the Netherlands, it outlines the success of brokers in finding solutions adapted to the needs of farmers and industry, and thus their positive impact on innovation adoption. This section also examines some issues on how brokers function, particularly with regard to balancing interests, funding their activities, and the role of government. Innovation brokers purposefully catalyze innovation through bringing together actors and facilitating their interaction, from a relatively impartial third-party position. Brokering expands the role of agricultural extension from that of a one-to-one intermediary between research and farmers to that of an intermediary that creates and facilitates many-to-many relationships. Preliminary lessons from experience are that innovation brokers help build synergy in agricultural innovation systems, but their “behind-the-scenes” mode of operating conceals their impact and may limit financial support for their role. Their contributions to building capacity for collective innovation and preventing innovation-system failures offer a rationale for public investment in their activities. Innovation brokers need considerable room to maneuver in building and facilitating networks from a credible position. A context-specific design is required for innovation brokers to attain a credible position. The article comes with several recommendations for brokers, policy makers, project leaders and those who champion innovation brokering. A recommendation for brokers is to plan for the nature of the different innovation broker functions in the different steps of the innovation process, but be flexible at the same time. For policy makers it is recommended to assess innovation system failures and current innovation broker capacity to avoid duplication of effort. Project managers should coordinate actions of the innovation network partners and the innovation broker when forming the network to avoid confusion among the parties.
This article is a chapter of the book “Agricultural innovation systems: An investment sourcebook“.