What are Innovation Platforms?

From the December 2012 meeting

Innovation platforms (IPs) are equitable, dynamic spaces designed to bring heterogeneous actors together to exchange knowledge and take action to solve a common problem.

IPs provide a mechanism to facilitate communication and collaboration amongst the value chain actors, to promote joint action to stimulate innovation. The functions of the IPs include:
o Identification of shared goals and interests of the value chain actors, common problems and opportunity definition.
o Define the purpose of upgrading and identify scope and membership of platforms
o Use understanding of value chain to identify upgrading options – including technical, organizational, institutional, service delivery and policy innovations
o Define activities and actions and, roles and responsibilities of various actors in implementation of agreed options for value chain improvement
o Provide opportunities and mechanisms for need-based capacity building of VC actors
o Define tools and processes for monitoring actions for VC upgrading
o Create spaces for long-term learning processes from experiences through iterative action-reflection-learning cycles that support innovation

The IP membership is not fixed at all times and members are drawn in as and when required to address specific challenges as they evolve. However, there might be some actors (e.g., producers and the facilitator) who continue throughout.

The functions of the IP can be categorized into two – establishment and maintenance functions – as listed in Table 1.

Table 1: Establishment and maintenance functions of IP

Establishment functions
Maintenance functions
  • Identify members of the IP
  • Identify, negotiate and align diverse interests
    • Define expectations to work together
    • Identify common interests
  • Map individual strengths and potential
  • Needs assessment
  • Establish objectives – clarity of focus and goals
    • Shared problem/goal
  • Ensure resources
  • Decide on organization and governance
    • Flexibility
    • Transparency
    • Participatory decision making
  • Define activities
  • Establish relationships and engage
    • Building trust
    • Focus on action
    • Commitment
Co-ordinate activities
  • Facilitate communication
  • Ensure continuous inflow of information
  • Needs assessment and capacity building
  • Nurture relationships
  • Evolve continuously
  • Ensure incentives to motivate participation – ensure added value
  • Develop and deliver services and activities
  • Monitor and evaluate

The key characteristics of an IP that will determine it’s effectiveness are:
o It has to have a basis in trust
o Recognition of diversity of actors, their interests, functions, competencies, knowledge etc.
o Daring to share - willingness to share information and knowledge with each other

For a successful functioning, an IP requires:
o Time and resource commitments from its members
o A facilitator, who can convene and stimulate; not a director! Needs a non-directive management style. Which member plays the role of a facilitator has to be negotiated with and agreed with the members of the platform. Generally neutral facilitators (like a project or a research institute) are preferred. But gradually as members realize the benefits of such a platform, their role would increase and the facilitation could be taken up by one of them (or on a rotational basis). This would make it more sustainable.