Agricultural research for development to intervene effectively in complex systems and the implications for research organizations

Douthwaite Boru, Mur Remco, Audouin Sarah, Wopereis Myra, Hellin Jon, Saley Moussa Abdoulaye, Karbo Naaminong, Kasten Wolfgang, Bouyer Jérémy. 2017. Agricultural research for development to intervene effectively in complex systems and the implications for research organizations. Amsterdam : Royal Tropical Institute, 20 p. (KIT Working Paper, 12)

Technical and research document
Published version - Anglais
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Abstract : Agricultural research for development (AR4D) organizations can achieve greater impact by using complexityaware approaches, but for this to happen a more compelling case needs to be made to justify their use. Our contribution is to develop and test a generalizable complexity-aware theory of change of how AR4D fosters innovation. The proposed model shows that AR4D achieves impact through three interconnected impact pathways: • Technology Development and Adoption Pathway • Capacity Development Pathway • Policy Influence Pathway The paper presents three cases, which provide an empirical test for the model. The cases give good empirical support to the three impact pathways. The theory of change we developed emphasizes self-reinforcing feedback loops as mechanisms by which small, well-focused research interventions can achieve impact at scale. However, to harness complexity in this way requires organizations to make broad-based and profound changes to working practices and the institutions that support them. These include being more circumspect about predictions of program impact at the start, putting in place functional adaptive management systems providing support to reflexive practice and other behaviours known to foster innovation. (Résumé d'auteur)

Classification Agris : A50 - Agricultural research
E14 - Development economics and policies

Auteurs et affiliations

  • Douthwaite Boru, CIAT (COL)
  • Mur Remco, KIT (NLD)
  • Audouin Sarah, CIRAD-ES-UMR INNOVATION (MDG) ORCID: 0000-0002-4958-7303
  • Wopereis Myra, ICRA (FRA)
  • Hellin Jon, CIMMYT (ETH)
  • Saley Moussa Abdoulaye, FAO (ITA)
  • Karbo Naaminong, CSIR (GHA)
  • Kasten Wolfgang, GIZ (DEU)
  • Bouyer Jérémy, CIRAD-BIOS-UMR ASTRE (ETH) ORCID: 0000-0002-1913-416X

Source : Cirad-Agritrop (

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