Communicate, Change! That is the new mantra of the People, Livestock and Environment (PLE) team at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).
During a one and a half days brainstorming retreat in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the thirty-strong team from Eastern and West Africa and India, appreciated that more communication was necessary both within PLE and across other teams within ILRI as well as within the Consortium for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
In January 2012, the CGIAR embarks on over ten new CGIAR Consortium Research Programmes (CRPs), as the new way of doing research. This means that each CRP across the entire CGIAR system will have more than one centre working on it. This change affects not only every CG centre, such as ILRI, but also every team in each centre, such as PLE.
This will start a new approach to partnerships – working with CGIAR centres much more closely than has been the case in the past, closer collaboration with national research institutions, development partners and to a large extent policy makers.
Polly Ericksen observed that working with all these partners and policy-makers implies collaboration among the various disciplines. Communication is one of them.
Communication is indeed crucial to connect different actors but also to learn across CRPs as emphasised by Shirley Tarawali: “Communications will be really important to let all of us know what each of us is doing and avoid duplication”.
The big question then is: can we have an integrated approach to develop synergies with other CRPs? This approach would need integrators who understand the different parts trying to work together and attempt to unite them, change managers who understand processes and recognise that the new approach to research will involve changing both functional and institutional cultures. Change is never easy to manage or to go through.
The key challenges that PLE handles on behalf of ILRI are climate change adaptation and mitigation, sustainable intensification in small holder crop livestock systems, and vulnerability of marginal systems and peoples.
The retreat also gave an occasion for the PLE team to embrace change by bidding farewell to their outgoing theme director Shirley Tarawali and welcoming her successor, Iain Wright.
Speaking on behalf of the PLE staff, Alan Duncan praised Tarawali for building a capable team over the last five years; he further lauded her as a patient strategic and detailed person, a meticulous leader, a role model to emulate and a mentor to all PLE staff.
Incoming Director, Iain Wright, announced that the coming days would be days of change, challenge, communications and opportunity. The entire system has adopted a new way of research-through collaboration in the CRPs which brings with it a lot of challenges. Dealing with challenges requires effective communication, in order to make use of opportunities that arise in every situation, he said.
In January 2012, Tarawali will take up the newly-created post of Director of Institutional Planning in ILRI Nairobi.