USAID Update: Research, measuring impacts, and linking to scaling


Feed the Future Research

Measuring impact and linking to scaling

This presentation was given by Tyrell Kahan of USAID as part of the Horticulture Innovation Lab's 2018 annual meeting workday on May 10, 2018, in Kigali, Rwanda. The presentation focuses on Feed the Future strategies related to research, impact, and technology scaling.

Global food security research strategy overview

The new "U.S. Government's Global Food Security Research Strategy" document articulates in detail how research contributes to the government's high-level food security objectives, its principles for research implementation, and technical priorities. It presents a framework for how basic, applied, and adaptive research relate to Feed the Future development programming and technology scaling — ultimately to advance prosperity, nutrition and resilience. This includes a strategic emphasis on orienting research processes and outputs to support scaling and development impact.

Core operating principles for Global Food Security Research investments include:

  • Embrace purpose-driven research.
  • Generate and sustain global public goods.
  • Leverage data to accelerate research impacts.
  • Continuous learning, adaptation, and communication through monitoring and evaluation.
  • Promote empowerment and equitable participation in science.
  • Strengthen agricultural innovation systems.
  • Orient research efforts to support technology scaling.

Furthermore, best practices in research that help further promote effective technology scaling include:

  • Explore and identify potential scaling pathways early in the R&D process.
  • Cultivate active and increasing collaboration between researchers and potential scaling partners as innovations advance through the pilot and adaptive research phases.
  • Use participatory research methodologies that engage intended end-users and potential public or private sector disseminators in co-design and testing of innovations.
  • Solicit and respond to ongoing, iterative feedback from end-users, stakeholders, and technology scaling partners to inform activities throughout the research pipeline.
  • Maintain progressively lighter engagement by research partners as advisors after transferring technology to scaling partners.

Measuring the impact of agriculture research

One of the ways USAID's Bureau for Food Security is examining and measuring research impact is through a research impact assessment that seeks to understand pathways to adoption and impacts of innovations from Feed the Future Innovation Labs and Collaborative Research Support Programs (CRSPs). The "Research Output Dissemination Study" is supported by the Feed the Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification, with leadership from Nancy Allen of UC Davis. (See announcement about the SIIL RODS project for more information.)

The Bureau for Food Security has also modified aspects of the research indicator in Feed the Future Monitoring System (FTFMS), enhanced program management guidelines in relation to theories of change and impact pathways, and developed a "research rack up" database of research outputs.

Strengthening the linkage between research and scaling

As a research advisor on the the Bureau for Food Security's technology scaling team, Kahan highlighted several tools and resources that researchers can use to better plan their research to result in downstream scaling of useful results, practices or technologies. 

One of the resources highlighted is the Agricultural Scalability Assessment Tool, to weigh scalability across scaling categories such as potential for impact, credible solution, enabling environment, ease of adoption, business case, and value chain incentives. Read "Assessing and Improving the Scaling Potential of Agricultural Technologies" on Agrlinks for an introduction to the tool, or read the Guide to the Agricultural Scalability Assessment Tool itself (PDF).

Another highlighted resource were Case Studies on Scaling Agricultural Technologies, which is a synthesis report on successful scaling also available from Agrilinks.

Kahan also pointed out several programs and organizations that work to connect USAID-funded research to technology scaling efforts, including: the Global Innovation ExchangeFeed the Future Partnering for Innovation, Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems, and the Center for Excellence on Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition (CESAIN) in Cambodia.

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