The ARCN 10-year Strategic Plan is to be implemented through two consecutive 5-year Operational Plans. There is an Operational Plan for ARCN as a whole, within which are nested the Operational Plans of the Secretariat and the 15 Research Institutes and 11 FCAs which comprise the Organisation.
The Operational Plan for 2011-2015 provides specific indicators with which to monitor progress towards delivery of Results, and the achievement of the Specific Objective. It includes a change management programme which guides the development of ARCN as an organisation and the paradigm shift away from a conventional linear methodology to agricultural research towards a more holistic, innovation systems approach.
The Operational Plan is built around a log frame which is derived from that of the Strategic Plan. This ensures coherence with the strategy during implementation and provides a basis for monitoring and evaluation.
Capacity Strengthening Approaches
The strength of the whole agricultural research, extension and training system is built on that of the component members. National capacity is not uniform and there is a need to focus on those with greatest need in priority areas. As capacity is strengthened, including greater harmonisation and coordination, more stakeholders will be able to participate in the technical activities of ARCN’s research, extension and training agenda.
ARCN recognises the need to develop a strategy with specific issues being tackled internally by different programmes at the Institutes.
Some of the broad thematic areas are:
Enhancing and developing co-ordination – empowerment of a broad-base of stakeholders
Creating and maintaining a minimum base of expertise in different areas
Creating and maintaining management and an institutional culture and environment that attract and maintain qualified personnel
Developing competence to implement effective IAR4D
Strengthening of the ARCN Secretariat
The nature of the support is non-conventional in the sense that it goes beyond formal training for research workers. Institutes and FCAs will be addressing this delivery in the context of their own technical areas, and within the framework provided by the Capacity Strengthening Strategy.
ARCN aims to access sub-regional and regional resources to address specific issues relevant to the needs of Nigeria, and it will be a priority to ensure that these are clearly articulated and fully validated.
Coordination of Stakeholders
The IAR4D paradigm requires multi-stakeholder and multi-level engagement, all of which require carefully managed co-ordination. Two of ARCN’s functions defined by the Act specifically target initiatives for coordination and developing linkages and partnerships. Doing this will minimize duplication of effort, optimize synergies and support resource mobilisation, enhancing the effectiveness of ARCN and ensuring the achievement of its objective.
The ARCN Secretariat’s coordination role is critical, and is fulfilled in two ways. Firstly, by direct involvement in co-ordination through, for example, advocacy, the establishment of appropriate forums and the chairing of meetings and through studies that look at policy process, planning, research management and recommended policy options for agricultural development. Secondly, indirectly through facilitation of the process by encouraging dialogue, mobilising resources and providing appropriate levels of information.
Co-ordination is complex and multifaceted. It can be categorised into two broad types, vertical and horizontal co-ordination, although this is an over-simplification.
Vertical coordination can be performed, for example, between projects and programme management, programme management and Institute Directors, Institute Directors and the Executive Secretary, Executive Secretary and the Council.
Horizontal co-ordination might be prompted between different National partners, between programmes or between partners and programmes.
Added to this is the aspect of formal and informal co-ordination which may be on a permanent, semi-permanent or temporary basis.
Formal co-ordination is through mechanisms such as regular meetings of programme managers and project leaders, the meetings of the Council, representation of ARCN at meetings of other notional organisations or the facilitation of networking processing to implement work plans.
Informal co-ordination may be accomplished on an ad hoc basis when driven by specific needs such as the development of initiatives to address specific national issues. This complexity is summarised in Figures 4 and 5 which highlight some of the key features and characteristics.
Whilst the bulk of co-ordination remains national, there is some external coÃ‚Â¬ordination, a role for the Executive Secretary. This takes on more of an advocacy role than one of co-ordination and ensures that ARCN’s interests are known and integrated into the planning and activities of related organisations and systems, both sub-regionally and regionally.
This directly addresses key CAADP targets for improving technology dissemination and information flows, as well as playing an important role in the delivery of each of ARCN’s own Results. It serves as a strong signal to all that, ARCN’s intention is to shift the paradigm in which it operates.
The development of a communication strategy ensures that all relevant and appropriate media channels and mechanisms are utilised to share and advocate the policy options which are developed. Knowledge management covers a wide range of issues and mechanisms and is closely linked to dissemination and uptake of knowledge, advocacy, co-ordination of effort and experiential learning.
Programmes at all the Institutes and Colleges respond to, and deliver, on the needs of knowledge management covered by guidelines in the Knowledge Management strategy. This is supported and enhanced through co-ordination led by the Institute Directors under the oversight of the Secretariat.
The mechanisms for knowledge management utilise a range of options and methodologies, to develop and improve current technologies. These new approaches focus on the development of relationships to enable an effective and significant exchange of knowledge. Research is conducted in key areas such as appropriate media to use and ways for effective empowerment to articulate demand, in order to determine optimum systems.