The Horn of Africa Resilience Innovation Lab (www.hoarilab.ranlab.org) based at Jimma University conducted its first Innovation Advisory Board Engagement Workshop at Monarch Hotel in Addis Ababa, on March 5, 2016.
The main objectives of the workshop are to inform the members about RAN-HoA RILab Structures, Objectives, Key Strategies, and Resilience Programs, as well as to consult them on ways of accelerating the intervention projects so as to ensure positive impact potentials in the target communities. The workshop involved six IAB members, and the focal person from Bule Hora University (BHU) and four of the core staff members facilitated the workshop.
There were presentations on: an overview of RAN; Progress Report on HoA RILab program activities; RAN Innovations and M&E strategies; Innovations in Ethiopia; followed by panel discussion on Recurrent Droughts, Pastoralism, Disaster Risk Management, Livelihoods Diversification, and Innovations in Ethiopia.
The major issues that were raised during the workshop included:
- The scope of HoA RILab’s resilience program is specific and limited, focusing only on drought, pastoralism and displacement.
- What impacts will RAN Project to the communities in Ethiopia?
- RAN’s initiative deserves a lot of appreciation; however, the network sounds narrow as it focuses only on universities.
- Practical research should be promoted, instead of theoretical or academic research.
- The HoA RILab ought to establish linkages with other universities in Ethiopia, which are doing action researches on resilience and DRM.
- There should be participatory development of innovations, linking innovators to end-users.
- There are many people who have come up with innovative ideas and technologies; however, due to poor data management and publicity, a lot of innovation projects remain overshadowed.
- The HoA RILab resilience project should have its own sustainability strategy.
- The RILab has established an Innovation Center; so, why have you got only one innovation project approved for implementation?
- There are many students with innovative and useful ideas; are you ready to support them?
- What are expected from IAB?
- What are your successes and failures?
- What are the domains under your control?
- What are the sustainability strategies for the HoA RILab’s resilience program?
- You need to explore secondary data on disaster risk profiles of the target countries.
- Some problems are multifaceted and multi-sectoral; therefore, we need to seek solutions from a broad basis.
- In order to address the resilience challenges in the sub-region, we ought to use both innovations and adoptive strategies for the innovations.
- Why have you limited the sources of innovations to the network universities?
- The HoA RILab has got big mandate and goal; however, the promotional work of the RILab has been weak; it should be promoted and popularized in a better way.
- The IAB members ought to be regularly updated on the innovation endeavours initiated and supported by the RILab.
- A summary of the HoA RILab program activities should be prepared and shared with the IAB members (a maximum of two pages).
- The border areas between Ethiopia and Kenya have common features and problems; how do you address this issue?
- There are a lot of resources in the communities; it is advantageous to capitalize on what are available; this can address resource limitation.
- The ongoing survey may help us in measuring and explaining resilience more accurately. The results should be well organized and shared appropriately.
- The RILab ought to consider fund leverage to secure additional financial resource for widening the scope of its resilience interventions; there are some international organizations supporting resilience building programs.
- The RILab should also establish links to the innovation hubs and centers in Ethiopia.
- It seems that the RILab has been constrained by slow moving and long bureaucratic procedures; to minimize these problems, you should consider strengthening your engagement with the Ethiopian Government.
- The IAB is expected to make strong advocacy and lobbying endeavours among high profile individuals and organizations to support the RILab.
- The HoA RILab resilience program is operating in line with RAN’s broad definition of resilience; however, due to resource limitation, we have focused on recurrent droughts, pastoralists, and displacement. If this resilience program becomes effective for Borana pastoralists, it will be scaled up for pastoralist communities in other parts of Ethiopia and beyond. Some of the innovation projects can be applied to agrarian communites as well.
- Whenever a development project is launched, it usually focuses on one or a few thematic areas, setting priorities and targeting particular communities. Later on, there could be opportunities for scaling up. Even involving stakeholders could be a big challenge; therefore, there is a need for a focused start.
- The number of countries and universities linked with RAN was decided at RAN Secretariat level, in consulation with its partners.
- RAN is not a closed and narrow network; even though it basically focuses on universities in Africa, it promotes engagement with GOs, NGOs, and the private sector. There are five universities linked with HoARILab, which include Addis Ababa University and Bule Bule Hora University from Ethiopia, University of Nairobi from Kenya, and Benadir University from Somalia. If faculty and students from these universities are properly engaged, useful innovation projects are likely to emerge and maximize impact potentials in our target communites and beyond.
- RAN’s researches are not purely theoretical or academic ones; they are baseline studies which are expected to guide entry points for interventions; the scope of the studies is also wide, covering several aspects of resilience.
- Whenever sub-projects are designed, they are expected to include sustainability strategy.
- The IAB is expected to provide advice, guidance and technical supports in the process of sourcing, incubating, testing and scaling up innovation projects; the IAB members are also expected to support us in establishing more linkages and partnerships.
- Pastoralists are found in different parts of Ethiopia; what works effectively for Borana communities are likely to serve similar purposes for other pastoralist communities.
- The HoA RILab program activities are carried out in line with RAN plan which is developed centrally for the four RILabs, with consultations with the latter.
- Our successes include: completion of thematic literature reviews in Ethiopia and Somalia; comprehensive reports on Community Consultations in both countries; establishment of Innovations Center at Jimma University; conducting capacity building trainings (Qualitative Study Data Collection and Data Analysis, Design Thinking, Intervetion Strategy Workshop, as well as Survey Data Collection); networking and partnership workshops include: External Stakeholders’ Forums,and Collaborative Resilience Innovation Design (CRID); an innovation project focusing on Rainwater Harvesting which was commented and approved by RAN Sec, and subsequently by USAID.
- Our efforts to identify and implement innovative projects through organizing innovations exhibition has not yielded the desired results, as it attracted a limited number of projects. Then, we conducted the Intervention Strategy Workshop (ISW) that led to the development of Resilience Innovation Challenge for Adverse Effects of Recurrent Droughts (RIC4AERD) Grant Call document which was not approved by USAID as it sought for stand-alone intervention projects that would not address the complex nature of resilience challenges in the target communities. We are now in the process of getting approval for CRID4RED Grant Call which invites intervention projects that operate at system level. The RILab has been facing administrative, logistic and technical constraints; resilience studies have taken far longer time than planned; innovation projects require several steps and long process.
- Currently, however, we are making concerted efforts to accelerate the process of sourcing innovation projects. For instance, through Youth Sparks Innovation Grants, we were able to attract 42 applications from HoA RILab host and partner universities, focusing on such thematic areas as Agriculture, Entrepreneurship, Gender Based Violence, Health, Livelihood Diversification, and Water.