Commissioned by the Central Research Team (CRT) of RIU, this study develops an institutional history of the Research Into Use Malawi Country Programme. It has sought to focus on the specific mechanisms associated with ‘innovation platforms’ and the function of the country programme as a brokering or intermediary within wider innovation and development landscapes. What emerges is an account of a programme that was willing to break away from the usual ‘silo thinking’ and ‘turf wars’ that had characterised past development interventions in the agricultural sector. At the same time, however, conveying its intentions to an audience accustomed to working through a triad of actors (researchers-extension agents-farmers) would prove to be far from straightforward. The situation was made more complicated by the restructuring and redefinition that happened within the programme itself. The country programme would negotiate a series of tensions between the expectations of local stakeholders (‘a pot of money’, ‘an input dissemination project’), overall RIU programme management (‘getting research outputs off the shelves’, ‘building networks to enable innovation’ and ‘generating lessons on innovation processes’) and its donors (‘quantifiable numbers of beneficiaries’). Nonetheless, RIU-Malawi appears to have located niches within which to begin transforming interactions, working routines, policies, as well as the production and use of knowledge. By all accounts, however, it is too soon to tell to what extent these niche-level changes can reverberate at broader scales.
RIU 2011 Discussion Paper 19, 88 pp.