Facilitating the 'innovation journey'

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CGIAR trainings support scientists and developers in scaling their innovations

CGIAR staff specializing in taking innovations to scale have been training people in use of a ‘Scaling Readiness‘ approach that CGIAR adapted and rolled out in 2022 to help ensure that CGIAR’s successful research innovations go to scale. Dubbed ‘Innovation Packages and Scaling Readiness (IPSR)’ by CGIAR, this methodology originated in methods developed by many others, including NASA’s Technology Readiness, scaling experts in the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (2011–2021), and others in universities such as Wageningen University & Research.

This IPSR methodology is a key part of CGIAR’s Performance and Results Management Framework and Strategy. CGIAR’s 32 Initiatives use IPSR processes and tools to track innovation development, support innovation packaging, assess scaling readiness and co-design scaling strategies with partners.

CGIAR scaling specialists Edwin Kang’ethe, Nicoletta Buono, Marc Schut and Iddo Dror have conducted four facilitator trainings in 2023—in Kenya, Mexico, Ethiopia and Thailand. More than 90 experts are now trained in organizing and facilitating one-day workshops to develop ‘innovation packages’ and assess them for their ‘scaling readiness’. These packages combine research innovations with the ‘enabling conditions’ that— taken together and suiting a particular context—can best take a given innovation to scale.

Interested in getting support from one of these trained facilitators to help you package your innovation? Consult CGIAR’s new Scaling Directory.

Below, Kang’ethe and Buono discuss how these 3.5-day trainings work. Following this, four participants in the trainings describe just what they got out of their participation.

Q: What’s the purpose of the workshops?

Edwin Kang’ethe: CGIAR’s Initiative teams cannot rely on the few CGIAR IPSR staff to facilitate all the workshops needed to develop innovation packages. So this series of trainings aims to train a group of facilitators to lead subsequent workshops to develop and assess ‘innovation packages’ for specific contexts.

Q: What happens in the trainings?

Nicoletta Buono: The training consists of two days of instruction in organizing and facilitating a one-day workshop to develop an innovation package. This is followed by one day in which the participants observe an actual workshop run by a different set of people who are developing an actual innovation package. We end with a half-day of reflection. So the training event is three and a half days in total. Both the facilitation and the training are intentionally ‘low-tech’—few PowerPoints allowed!—which creates a very human, a very social, kind of experience.

Q: What were some of the challenges you faced in running the trainings?

Nicoletta Buono: Our use of technical terms that have specific meaning for us, like ‘innovation readiness’ and ‘innovation use’! These are not easy for newcomers to the IPSR approach to grasp. Another challenge is that the participants do not come to these workshops with a budget in hand for the time and financial resources they will require to organize and facilitate workshops to develop innovation packages.

Q: What did participants value most about the workshops?

Edwin Kang’ethe: This specialized training is a demonstration in state-of-the-art workshop design and facilitation methods. Many found the process provided them with a structured process for managing the ‘innovation journey’—and a way to remove roadblocks on that journey that they’ve been struggling with.


Participant feedback

Did anything surprise you?

Jane Kamau (Kenya): For the longest I’ve been very lonely in my scaling work. This CGIAR training brought so many people together who work on scaling, including colleagues from my own center—the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA). I had never known so many were interested in scaling work! Or that there existed such a big community of scalers! And my hard-core scientists tend to be wary of external partnerships, shying away in particular from the private sector. It’s good to see CGIAR embracing scaling so well and so thoroughly. Our scientists are finding that their ‘external’ stakeholders are good people with good intentions—just like them!

How have you used your training?

Aldir Parisi (Brazil): My team is conducting a large project in Brazil funded by the World Bank (‘Bahia Que Produz e Alimenta’). The second five-year phase of the project begins in 2024. We applied the methodology we learned in the CGIAR facilitators training to test whether a solution we’d developed could be scaled much wider. After returning from the CGIAR training in Mexico, we organized a one-day ‘IPSR Workshop’ with about 20 experts attending. This workshop was extremely successful. The CGIAR methods we put to use worked exactly as planned. We’ll be using these scaling methods throughout the duration of our project.

Last thoughts?

Mandla Nkomo (Kenya): The ‘Scaling Readiness’ methodology has been around CGIAR for several years now. I think CGIAR’s ‘Innovation Packages and Scaling Readiness’ team needs to showcase how far this concept has come from what many people interacted with maybe 4–5 years ago. We’ve now got a superb tool. Unequivocally, CGIAR’s ‘Innovation Packages and Scaling Readiness’ is a true enabler—a powerful tool for managing the innovation process, for helping CGIAR innovations to walk right out of our laboratory doors and right into farmers’ fields and farmers’ hands.


New resource!

Be sure to check out CGIAR’s new Scaling Directory of professionals highly trained in CGIAR’s unique ‘Innovation Packages and Scaling Readiness’ approach. Use the directory to find the perfect facilitator to help you scale your innovation.

We welcome your feedback! Please send it to Agnes Schneidt, a.schneidt [at] cgiar.org.


Header image: Participating in CGIAR’s facilitator training in Mexico was Jelle Van Loon, an agricultural engineer with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), where he serves as associate director for Latin America of the Center’s Sustainable Agrifood System Program and leads an innovations-for-development team. Photo credit: CIMMYT.

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