ACGT’s Liaison Scientist Attends a Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Facilitation Course in the Netherlands

Wageningen University and Research (WUR) is a higher institute of learning based in the Netherlands that specialises in the areas of food and food production, living environment, and health, lifestyle and livelihood. WUR opens its doors to the international community and offers short courses in the areas that the institution specialises in. One such course came to ACGT’s attention as it related closely to what the ACGT as an organization is mandated to achieve and the projects that the ACGT is involved in.

The institution offers a short course (three weeks) called “Facilitating Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships to Foster Sustainable Food Systems”. This course was deemed quite applicable for ACGT staff as the Centre is itself a multiple stakeholder partnership mandated to build capacity in the area of advanced biotechnology for five institutions (three universities and two science councils).

The ACGT found it necessary to send one of its staff members, Mr Thabo Khoza – Liaison Scientist at ACGT, to the Netherlands to attend this three-week course in order to enable ACGT staff to be better multi-stakeholder facilitators. The course ran from the 22nd of October 2018 till the 9th of November 2018.

The course took the participants on a journey of (1) establishing what sort of a multiple stakeholder partnerships (MSPs) are required for different projects and needs, (2) who to involve in such MSPs, (3) how to design the required MSP, and (4) how to facilitate the MSP to yield desired outcomes. While all four mentioned steps are crucial in ending up with an MSP that works, step 4 would require the most effort and resources from the MSP facilitator. This effort is especially highlighted when dealing with different stakeholders who have different interests and varying levels of influence. The course gave the participants a number of tools to use in the facilitation process to make sure that the MSP is a success. Each tool would be chosen based on the stakeholders involved as well as on the type of MSP that has been created.

The course had theory and practical components to it. The participants were divided into groups at the beginning of the course and they were tasked to come up with a problem (project) that would require an intervention of an MSP. Throughout the course, the participants would then have to apply what they were learning in their project. At different levels of formulating their MSPs, the participants would give presentations on how they applied what they have learned during their projects.

The participants were also given a real life problem to design an MSP on. This scenario took the participants to Friesland where they had to design a pathway of creating a cooperative that would address the biodiversity problems that are faced in the Friesland region. The participants had to interview farmers, government officials, business owners, nature reserve experts, activists and civil society. The participants then, based on the interviews and what they had been learning at Wageningen, created a roadmap for establishing this cooperative. This roadmap was presented to the community of Friesland where all the stakeholders were invited. The presentation took about two hours with Mr Khoza being the master of ceremonies, together with a fellow participant from Indonesia. The MSP design suggested by the course participants was well received with the project lead promising to use the suggested roadmap.

The course came to an end with participants giving presentations based on their individual MSP that they want to set up when returning to their home countries. The course facilitators as well as the course participants gave suggestions at the end of each presentation.

The course was also a great platform for networking as it was attended by individuals from 14 different countries representing different sectors and expertise such as government and policy makers, scientists and NGOs. The participants have an active network and are actively looking for opportunities for collaboration.

The ACGT hopes that Mr Khoza will put into practice the knowledge he acquired at Wageningen University and Research especially in creating new initiatives for the ACGT community, such as the Proteomics Society for South Africa.

Story by: ACGT Team, January 2018