Creating a Community of Practice at CGIAR for multistakeholder platforms

Share this to :

By Ryan Nehring, Ruth Meinzen-Dick and Krister Andersson

Multistakeholder platforms (MSPs) are becoming increasingly important in international development research, and especially in natural resource management. They are defined as “purposefully organized interactive processes that bring together stakeholders to participate in dialogue, decision-making and/or implementation regarding actions seeking to address a problem they hold in common or to achieve a goal for their common benefit.” Researchers and policymakers are considering MSPs as the fundamental way of engaging stakeholders in research activities to generate meaningful and long-lasting impact. Simply inviting people to the table is not enough; MSPs have the potential to become a space where participants can begin to address questions of power, equity and buy-in.

The key principles of MSPs are:

  • Improving and elevating the voices of marginalized groups
  • Building trust by helping actors understand others’ perspectives and the value of meaningful, equitable collaboration
  • Supporting conflict resolution
  • Fostering social learning through self-assessment and reflection.

One of the challenges facing CGIAR is to develop a shared approach to implementing MSPs across initiatives to improve the outcomes of its work. Since 2018, the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets has identified lessons emerging from CGIAR’s research on how MSPs contribute towards equitable natural resource governance at the landscape level. The new research initiatives under One CGIAR present opportunities to further integrate and expand the power of MSPs to effectively address key impact areas and transform the water–energy–food–environment nexus around the globe.

Leveraging MSPs to transform food systems

On December 13, 2022, led by the CGIAR Initiatives on NEXUS Gains, Agroecology and Mitigate+, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) hosted an online workshop to assess how MSPs are being used across the One CGIAR system. Krister Andersson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Colorado Boulder, outlined plans to establish an MSP Community of Practice at CGIAR.

The Community of Practice on MSPs is expected to reduce the costs and enhance the benefits of MSPs, provide ongoing support to MSP activities in each CGIAR initiative, and facilitate research on MSPs across the One CGIAR system. So far members from 14 of the One CGIAR Initiatives have joined the Community. Participants in the workshop shared their perspectives on what they find to be the most challenging part of organizing MSPs in their own work, and the responses were combined to generate a word cloud visualizing all the challenges together (see the header image).

Toward a Community of Practice

The workshop served as a starting point to collectively envision what a Community of Practice would look like and what it could offer to CGIAR research initiatives. Participants discussed how MSPs “provide the structure for inclusive governance” and help to address issues of scale because they are “important for the coordination of national programs, for scaling-up processes and transdisciplinary co-creation of innovations.”

The participants identified several challenges. The most common was a lack of coherence and understanding of MSPs among CGIAR researchers — and this was most apparent when discussing inclusion and power in MSPs. While MSPs provide a general framework for engaging in meaningful partnerships with stakeholders, there is no one size that fits all. Participants argued that local context matters a great deal, and one participant considered that collaborating with existing prominent stakeholders might reinforce lopsided power structures. Therefore, there needs to be a general framework at the global level that is still flexible for adaptation to local circumstances.

We came up with a series of CGIAR-wide needs when working with MSPs. Firstly, there is a clear demand for a Community of Practice that could serve as what Krister described as the “go-to place for MSP guidance” within CGIAR. Secondly, this Community of Practice could help facilitate cross-initiative discussions on the lessons learned from MSPs that would not otherwise have dialogue. Finally, these lessons could identify so-called “MSP champions” in target countries that excel at achieving the key principles outlined above.

Ruth Meinzen-Dick, a Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI, closed the workshop by outlining her vision and proposing the next steps to establish an MSP Community of Practice. Over the coming months, there are opportunities to gain experience and be involved with these plans – which could range from helping determine the primary areas of need for a Community of Practice to the identification of who would like to actively contribute to it.

Interested researchers can reach out to Ruth, Krister or Ryan to express their desire to take part in these discussions.

Ryan Nehring is an Associate Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); Ruth Meinzen-Dick is a Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI; and Krister Andersson is a Professor of Political Science at University of Colorado Boulder.

This work was carried out under the CGIAR NEXUS Gains Initiative, which is grateful for the support of CGIAR Trust Fund contributors:


Header image: A word cloud visualizing the most challenging parts of organizing MSPs according to workshop participants. Source: Ryan Nehring/IFPRI.

Share this to :