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Brainstorming meeting, Africa RISING Learning event
04 March 2021
Virtual via MS TEAMS
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  1. Peter Thorne (PT)
  2. Wilhelmina Ofori-Duah (WO)
  3. Haimanot Seifu (HS)
  4. Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon (IHZ)
  5. Jonathan Odhong' (JO)
  6. Fred Kizito (FK)
  7. Mateete Bekunda (MB)
  8. Eveline Massam (EM)
  9. Carlo Azzarri (CA)


  1. Kindu Mekonnen

  • CA: We need to determine of the key objectives for the event, before we even talk about what will happening during the event. One of the objectives I see will be to package the legacy products of Africa RISING.
  • IHZ: Since the event will be online, we should focus on one main thing. Have the meeting in a relatively short time.
  • MB: I think the expectation from USAID at this point is that we should have documented the success, the legacy and it is from this that we should be identifying what we should propose for the future. So, the event should identify a few items around which we can already draft the successes and the challenges that would be part of a bigger discussion for taking to the future.
  • FK: If we decide to hold a virtual learning event, then we should figure out ways of making it a bit more interactive through use of virtual tools like Jamboards, build in very frequent breaks etc. I think we need to do a ‘stock-taking’ look at the current, what we have done previously and come up with one or two ideas to generate areas to prioritize for a future process.
  • JO: In JG’s defence, he has also urged us to feel free to explore further beyond his initial suggestions. Therefore, it is possible that we could have a 2/3-day event; with the first day of the meeting focusing on prioritization (with short pithy presentations from each region, selecting cases/priorities that could be part of the One CGIAR conversations). Second day of the meeting could focus on a discussion on legacy (as proposed by CA).
  • FK: From a programmatic perspective USAID’s present posturing could be an opportunity for us to put / develop proposals that have traction and could transform systems thinking. So we need to think about a potential idea that is likely to attract funding beyond the current Africa RISING timeline. Develop a compelling case for a proposal that is collaboratively generated and developed by a broad stakeholder group of Africa RISING partners.
  • PT: I am getting a sense that some of the individuals driving the initiatives are a bit on a fishing expedition and for some of the initiatives Africa RISING is considered to be quite a good catch in terms of being able to build on some of the good things achieved. The danger is if we follow/use that as the main criteria for the learning event then we risk being diverted from what we really want to do which is to document our achievements and lessons. I mean obviously we want to feed into some of these initiatives as much as possible, but the CGIAR is not the only player here. Maybe we should try and identify what are the 4/5 core messages from AR to the initiatives.

  • JO: Good ideas PT, in addition to your thoughts I would say that during the event we could also highlight some of the key programmatic synthesis outputs that are being led by the Chief Scientists.
  • IHZ: I also agree that our focus during the event should not be completely on the One CGIAR initiatives. My feeling is that JG/USAID key expectation would be an answer to the question – what kind of research/ what kinds of constraints in a mixed cropping systems should be addressed next once AR has delivered all its outputs to farmers to make the systems more resilient and contribute more to poverty reduction? This is independent from the One CGIAR or not. This requires quite a bit of preparatory work. This will need to be done by groups working in the 3 project regions to develop and flesh out these issues. Once they have agreed on these, we could bring these issues together during the learning event and then further reprioritize them.
  • JO: The proposal by IHZ will serve two purposes – responding to USAID requests/interest on the prioritization; and the material could also be useful for the one CGIAR discussions that are ongoing.
  • PT: I completely agree with IHZ that we focus on our core business now, because it is not yet clear which way the One CGIAR is headed. This doesn’t mean however that we ignore that process, however we need base whatever we are doing from the AR experience. I think during the event maybe we can have an exercise to explore the coherent big messages from the regional projects and other differences. This can give us a rich harvest of information that can be synthesized from great information that can be shared with even the One CGIAR.
  • IHZ: Another possible focus for the learning event is to reflect on our research questions (from the phase II proposal) and take stock to which extent we are now able to answer those questions.
  • FK: I certainly agree with IHZ that we could focus on those research questions; especially those around trade-offs, adoption, equity would be helpful and reinforce the thinking around SIAF.
  • IHZ: My earlier comment is based off the fact that when we write our final report, it is a logical thing that it will have a critical review of those questions and provide answers. So, it would probably be a great idea to use this learning event to begin that.
  • MB: the suggestion by IHZ is okay, but my feeling is that JG is expecting some records of how far we have gone with that which would also identify the gaps. The research questions offer a good entry point to identifying the gaps.
  • EM: Another possible topic to discuss is documentation of successes at both program and project level. This can be a brainstorming session.

  • JO: So far, the following areas have been identified for possible focus at the learning event:
  • Answer what next question (prioritization) in the systems we have worked on. Various formats can be used for this.
  • Cross-regional synthesis/analysis. The current publications and materials being developed by the Chief Scientists.
  • Have a session to reflect on the research questions. Various formats can be used for this.
  • Documentation of successes at project and program levels.
  • JO: Would a discussion on scaling be an additional area of focus?
  • FK: In a way scaling cuts across some of the topics you listed above. For example, it forms part of the cross-regional synthesis by the Chief Scientists.
  • IHZ: My initial reaction is that I am tired of this discussion about scaling. I think it may be a better use of our time to focus on the research questions.
  • MB: I think differently from IHZ. In my opinion, USAID will always want us to reach, that is why we have the FtF indicators and that is part of scaling. We do the scaling under the guidance of USAID which says development partners should buy into our technologies. We have experienced some successes and failures based on some of the scaling approaches that we have been using. It is for this reason that I think we should probably have some research on scaling to help us show evidence for what approaches work and which ones don’t work for what technology.
  • JO: Could we also briefly talk about the logistics for the event.
  • Possible dates: May/June 2021 (before the summer break). Avoid getting into the next fiscal year.
  • 2/3-day event; 3-hour max per session
  • Platforms: tbd by the communications team
  • Who to be invited: Will be open to everybody since it is virtual?