Strategic thinking in Africa
A constructive and timely discussion with Board members led to these conclusions: (1) the end product of the update will be named CIAT Strategy 2014-20; (2) the new strategy will very much serve to guide CIAT’s contributions to the formulation of a new round of CGIAR Research Programs; (c) the vision of eco-efficient agriculture presented in CIAT’s 2009 Strategic Directions is appropriate for the new strategy; and (4) Board members will support the strategy update whenever opportunities arise. New Board member Charles Rice offered to give the next e-seminar in our Future Science Vision series, with a focus on soils and climate change.
Just after the Board meeting, several dozen CIAT staff based in Africa met at the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), where CIAT’s Africa regional office is located, to discuss the implications of the strategy update for Center research in the region. Participants showed a keen interest in the process and offered plenty of constructive criticism. Some had participated in strategic planning previously.
One issue that generated much discussion was whether CIAT should develop a strategy specifically for Africa. Some colleagues championed the idea of formulating regional strategies first and then integrating these to form a global CIAT strategy. Another issue raised was the need to incorporate the construction of a new strategy for the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) into the update of CIAT’s strategy. Some participants noted the importance of making the new strategy specific enough to be operational. Others commented on the need for a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat) analysis to elucidate CIAT’s comparative advantages.
With the aim of further strengthening their participation in the strategy update, meeting participants proposed several actions: (1) the formation of a small committee that will represent CIAT’s Africa-based staff in consultation with the strategy taskforce; (2) two activities aimed at bringing an African perspective to the global trends already considered by the External Advisory Panel as well as to key challenges, which are still to be defined; and (3) a brainstorming session on the eco-efficient vision to explore how it is currently being applied and what kinds of products CIAT scientists are developing that may be considered eco-efficient.
A further consultation on the strategic update is planned for 10-14 June in Hanoi, Vietnam, and Vientiane, Laos. These consultations are among several measures being taken to ensure that the whole CIAT family can participate in this important exercise.