Monthly Archives: April 2015

GCFSI Directors visited us

Between January 28-30, 2015, GCFSI director, Prof. Eric Crawford and deputy director, Dr. Joseph B. Dever, visited WUR to explore opportunities to expand collaboration with Wageningen University in the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation (GCFSI) funded by US Agency for International Development in 2015-2018. During the three days visit, the directors met various WUR faculty and administrative staff and discussed possibilities of strengthening the collaboration and assessed the areas of expertise WUR can contribute to the works of the Center. They had fruitful discussion with faculty members and practitioners from the social sciences department, plant sciences department, LEI and CDI. An information session was organized by the GCFSI@WUR on Thursday the 29th where the directors explained the goals and works of the Center and gave more information and answered questions on the Second Round RFA grants. Around 20 participants from various sections of WUR were in at attendance at the session.

Seminar on Net-Mapping the Malawian Legume Sector at LUANAR!!!

GCFSI at WUR partner and one of the research team members, Mr. Noor Ali, gave a seminar on ‘Net- Mapping for the Development of Malawian legume Sector’ on November 25, 2014 at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), Lilongwe, Malawi. All Postgraduate students and staff were invited to attend.

noor4 noor8 noor9

GCFSI @ WUR research in year 2 (2014) on Net-mapping the Legume Sector in Malawi Completed and submitted!!!

A scoping study under the title “INSTITUTIONAL AND POLICY CONSTRAINTS TO INNOVATION IN THE MALAWIAN LEGUME VALUE CHAINS: CURRENT STATUS AND BUSINESS ACTORS’ COORDINATION FOR INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE” was conducted by Domenico Dentoni, professor in Agribusiness Management and Strategy at Wageningen University (WU), with the support of MSc students Felix Krussmann, Mohammed Degnet and Noor Ali as part of the Global Center Food Systems Innovation (GCFSI) program in Year 2. Dr. Dentoni designed the study on the basis of a proposal approved in its topic and content with GCFSI director Prof. Eric Crawford at Michigan State University (MSU) in May 2014, after discussion to complement the research of GCFSI core team partners at MSU. Under Dr. Dentoni’s supervision, research team conducted field interviews, prepared analytical outputs and field dissemination. After approval in May 2014, primary data collection was prepared and implemented in Lilongwe (Malawi) in summer 2014; data analysis in September-November 2014; dissemination to USAID Malawi and Malawian stakeholders (including Lilongwe University for Agricultural and Natural Resources, LUANAR) took place in November 2014. This scoping study contributes to the GCFSI core team’s Year 2 objective to provide scientific background that tackles the broad question: “Where and how can multipurpose legumes be scaled for sustainable intensification of maize systems and what would the potential impacts be, in the medium term, across the food system in Malawi?”
This study aims to: 1) Review the institutional and policy issues that constrain innovation in the Malawian legume value chains (including soybeans, groundnuts and pigeon pea); and to 2) Explore how business actors in the legume value chain (in this study farmers’ input suppliers, commercial farmers-support organizations, traders & processors, and commodity exchange) cooperate or compete with stakeholders to pool or access strategic resources to scale up innovation in the context of existing constraints.

By conducting and analysing 59 interviews to business value chain actors and partners, stakeholder analysis and an innovative application of value network analysis (VNA) tackled the research questions. VNA maps the strategic resources (financial, information, knowledge, hierarchy, commodity, infrastructure) that business actors’ access or pool through coordination with their existing stakeholders. Key institutional and policy issues include: 1) Uncoordinated information systems for farmers: much information reaches farmers, yet there is lack of coordination between information on inputs/extension vis-à-vis information on outputs, i.e. legume markets; 2) Weak credit and input markets for farmers: seed supply and demand is highly influenced by Government and strategic plan for upcoming years is still uncertain; 3) Poor infrastructure systems: warehouse systems grew rapidly, yet peripheral legume farming areas are still underserved and coordination between commodity exchange programs and Government-owned facilities is weak; 4) Problems with farming as business and cooperative formation: poor contract enforcement and uncertain legislation around business and trade licences and taxation favours business short-sightedness; 5) Weak public monitoring and auditing on quality standards: quality and safety standards are not monitored and enforced.
To analyse how business value chain actors in the Malawian legume initiate or join processes of institutional change that unlock potential for innovation at a large scale, this study involves two steps of data analysis:  STEP 1: Stakeholder analysis (SA) to review the institutional and policy issues that constrain innovation in the Malawian legume value chains. STEP 2: VNA to explore how business actors in the legume value chain collaborate with stakeholders to access and pool resources that scale up innovations despite the institutional and policy constraints.  The analysis of the problem map and value network map illustrates five key institutional and policy issues that constrain innovation in Malawian legume value chains. These are grouped in market constraints and supplier-buyer transaction constraints.
· Market constraints. Traders and processors receive inconsistent supply of high-quality, safe legumes relative to national and international market demand. Yet, in alternate years and geographical areas within Malawi, legume supply from farmers exceeds demand. This is due to:
1. Uncoordinated information systems for farmers; 2. Weak credit and input markets; 3. Poor infrastructure (storage, road, electricity, and ICT) systems;
· Supplier-buyer transaction constraints. Transactions between farmers and traders have high coordination costs and risks for both parties. This is due to:
4. Problems with farming as business and cooperative formation 5. Weak public monitoring and auditing on quality standards

This set of constraints (from the problem map), along with information on actors’ resources and networks (from the value network map), opens questions on why, when and how business value chain actors can recombine resources collaboratively with stakeholders to release constraints with mutual organizational benefits, and thus scaling innovations in the legume sector. We recently submitted the final report to MSU and are now waiting for their feedback.

GCFSI@WUR Design Thinking Session

The education across business & development innovation that we want

On October 28, 2014, the GCFSI at WUR in collaboration with the Centre for Development Innovation (CDI) organized a design thinking session under the topic “The education across business & development innovation that we want.” The overall goal of the session is to build stronger CDI-SSG faculty connections in education, grant acquisition and research. In order to achieve this, we realize that we first of all need MSc students (and possibly also BSc students and interns) with strong management/organization/innovation/entrepreneurship theory background, an “understanding of business”, and a vivid interest in international development issues. In line with this, we invited SSG faculty members interested in GCFSI themes and some PhD/MSc students to discuss their perspectives on what the SSG education offers and what are missing and brainstorm on possible and concrete strategies to address three important questions:
1. Short run: what CDI needs from SSG faculty now? Where can we find the appropriate students with the aforementioned profile? 2. Medium run: how can we have a stable flow of students with the aforementioned profile to give continuity to our CDI-faculty collaboration? 3. Long run: how can we form a stable flow of students with the aforementioned
The session was opened by a welcome note by Dr. Domenico Dentoni and was followed by a short presentation by Cora Van Oosten (CDI, Expert in the area of Landscape Restoration) and Yeray Gonzalez (CDI, Expert in the area of Food Value Chains) on some current projects at CDI and areas of expertise they need from SSG. Then, Dr. Dentoni made a short presentation on the main activities of SSG (education , research and consultancy), key areas of expertise of MST/SSG and the current gaps in linking SSG and CDI/other DLOs across education and research.

Msc thesis opportunity with CDI

Are you Seeking a Project to Make Your MSc Thesis Relevant? Interested to Combine Research, Innovation & Development? If so, here is YOUR topic: Innovating Development to Develop Innovation: Mapping CDI Toolbox to Improve Performance of Local Fresh Food Chains in Emerging Economies

The Centre for Development Innovation (CDI) at WUR together with the Management Studies Group are looking for a motivated MSc student that will support in systematically mapping and assessing the effectiveness of a number of innovative tools that CDI has developed overtime. This is an exciting research with the core focus of analyzing the project portfolio or “toolbox” of the CDI.

CDI’s vision is to “Create Capacities for Change.” CDI works on “change processes through facilitating innovation, brokering knowledge and supporting capacity development.” Being part of Wageningen UR, CDI is one of the most active and “on the market” applied research institutes and globally recognized for its work in emerging economies. CDI projects aim to create capacities for change, which departs from the traditional development approach of “doing direct change interventions”. This involves:

1) Facilitating local stakeholders – value chain actors, NGOs, public sector, movements and civil society – to organize themselves and to make the best use of locally available resources; and

2) Building capacities of local partners to manage the complex set of value chain actor’ relationships and stakeholder relationships according to their own organizational/institutional aims.

Learn more about the background of the research, the broad research questions, the requirements for applying, the expected output of the research and the contact person on the call for MSc students here.

Entrepreneurship and Strategy in Landscape Restoration: Why, How and When local businesses decide to invest in restoring the landscape?

The Centre for Development Innovation (CDI) at WUR is now ready to host students for thesis and/or for internship on an exciting project called “COMMONLAND” project.The project focuses on the possibilities of restoring landscape by investing in local businesses.Landscape restoration is currently gaining momentum as a means of jointly addressing the need of healthier and more enjoyable landscapes, the broader problem of climate change, and business interests of local companies and their clients. One of the key questions in landscape restoration is, however, who is to take up responsibility for, and paying the costs of, its restoration? Landscapes can be restored depending on the biophysical characteristics of the landscapes, but even more so on the interests of a landscape’s stakeholders, and the way in which they negotiate and make landscape decisions. Know more about landscape restoration here.

To make landscape restoration possible and sustainable, then, it is key to understand why, what and how businesses can invest in landscape restoration. This calls for business students, practitioners and scholars in several fields, including innovation, entrepreneurship, strategy and finance, to tackle some of these broad questions:

· Entrepreneurship: What are the motivations driving entrepreneurs to undertake collective action in landscape restoration? How entrepreneurs can effectively combine resources from public institutions, communities, their business partners and other stakeholders to seek business opportunities? What are the (public and/or private) financial mechanisms available to entrepreneurs to undertake profitable and sustainable landscape restoration?

· Creating “Shared” Value: What are the (financial, social, natural, inspirational) returns on landscape restoration investment? How can they be measured? How are they “shared” among the multiple landscape stakeholders? How can local businesses balance competition and cooperation with other industry players and stakeholders in landscape restoration? In other words, how local businesses reconcile “shared value creation” and conflicts in landscape restoration business models?

In collaboration with CDI, the Management Studies Group and its Global Center for Food Systems Innovation seek students interested in doing MSc thesis or an internship with a direct impact on a Wageningen University project and on society. Please contact Domenico Dentoni(Domenico.dentoni@wur.nl) and Cora Van Oosten(cora.vanoosten@wur.nl) with your CV and letter of motivation if you are interested to pursue this opportunity!!!

Msc thesis opportunity with AgriProFocus

Are you interested in investigating how multi-stakeholder platforms stimulate entrepreneurship and how they contribute in building entrepreneurial networks? If so, here is the opportunity!!

AgriProFocus is a partnership with Dutch roots that promotes farmer entrepreneurship in developing countries. The AgriProFocus network members are organizations and companies that gather, train, connect and provide inputs and credit to farmer entrepreneurs and producer organizations. By promoting entrepreneurship and connecting producers with national and international markets, AgriProFocus members aim to both open up market potential for business in developing countries, as well as meet with the challenge of sustainably feeding 9 billion people by 2050. See here  for more info.

The Management Studies Group (MST) at Wageningen University participates to the AgriProFocus network both in the Netherlands and in many developing countries. The MST is a center of excellence that investigates worldwide how the organization and management of multi-stakeholder platforms influence their impact on participants and on society. From an academic standpoint, AgriProFocus is a particularly interesting case of multi-stakeholder platform given its structure that combines networks and hierarchy at multiple levels, from global to local, to achieve impact and influence on participants’ and farmers’ capabilities (see recent MSc thesis by WUR-graduate Mr. Noor Ali:link1  and link2).

MSc Thesis Opportunity 1 with AgriProFocus and MST

Key Question:

How does AgriProFocus stimulate entrepreneurial capabilities and behavior of the various actors in emerging economies? 

Background. Participants to AgriProFocus local events and online platforms include a variety of actors including: producer organizations, companies, NGOs, agribusiness services/consultants/information providers, input suppliers, knowledge institutions, government officers and farmers themselves. These actors may be key information intermediaries between the network’s activities and services and farmers’ communities, thus they may play a key role on farmers’ entrepreneurship and food security. While the number of involved and participating actors with the AgriProFocus network overall increases, open questions are: what do they exactly learn from the network? How they use the acquired information and knowledge in their business and in their relations with others (including farmer entrepreneurs and their communities)?

Call for MSc students.  We are seeking students with a background and vivid interest in management, marketing and economics (thus from MME MSc program or similar) with a vivid interest in entrepreneurship and innovation in developing countries.  The student will use theories on organization and entrepreneurship to refine and tackle this relevant question. Depending on the specific theories and methods, which will be chosen together with the student, academic co-supervision may include faculty from Agricultural Economics and Policy Group (AEP) or others.

Research implementation. As all the major MSc theses, the research will take approximately 6 months. In agreement with AgriProFocus, there are possibilities to leverage AgriProFocus resources and international networks for collecting data. The data collection may involve paid international travel based on specific agreements between AgriProFocus, MST and the student. In particular, data may be available for triangulation from one or more of these sources:

1) Questionnaires to participants during and/or after local AgriProFocus -supported events (for example finance, agribusiness and marketplace events).

2)  Online surveys to all AgriProFocus members.

3) Interviews with AgriProFocus event participants and their stakeholders.

MSc Thesis Opportunity 2 with AgriProFocus & MST

Key Question:

How does AgriProFocus contribute to building entrepreneurial networks in developing countries?

Background. Participants to AgriProFocus local events and online platforms include a variety of actors including: producer organizations, companies, NGOs, agribusiness services/consultants/information providers, input suppliers, knowledge institutions, government officers and farmers themselves. Much of the learning by these actors, and between them and – particularly – farmers they work with, occurs among them – in their own circles so to speak – as a result of the network’s activities and services, rather through direct knowledge transfer from AgriProFocus to participants. Thus, AgriProFocus facilitates knowledge to develop. So an open question is: how does the network of AgriProFocus participants evolve over time, and which resources do these actors exchange through the network? What are the key resources and “rules of the game” that AgriProFocus provides to facilitate the network?

Call for MSc students.  We are seeking students with a background and vivid interest in management, marketing and economics (thus from MME MSc program or similar) with a vivid interest in entrepreneurship and innovation in developing countries.  The student will use theories on organization, innovation and entrepreneurship to refine and tackle this relevant question. Methods will possibly include web crawling techniques and value network analysis (link), which MST has already experimented in Malawi (link). Depending on the theories and methods, which will be chosen together with the student, academic co-supervision may include faculty from Knowledge, Technology and Information Group (KTI), Rural Sociology Group (RSO), or others.

Research implementation. As all the major MSc theses, the research will take approximately 6 months. In agreement with AgriProFocus, there are possibilities to leverage AgriProFocus resources and international networks for collecting data. The data collection may involve paid international travel based on specific agreements between AgriProFocus , MST and the student. In particular, data may be available for triangulation from one or more of these sources:

  1. Questionnaires to participants during and/or after local AgriProFocus -supported events (for example finance, agribusiness and marketplace events).
  2. Online surveys to all AgriProFocus members.
  3. Interviews with AgriProFocus event participants and their stakeholders.

Interested? Please contact Dr. Domenico Dentoni (Management Studes Group) at domenico.dentoni@wur.nl

Msc thesis opportunities with GCFSI@WUR

The Global Center for Food Systems Innovation at WUR is pleased to announce the following MSc theses opportunities for interested students for the period starting possibly in the summer of 2014 or later.

MSC thesis opportunity 1

Research Title: The Role of Multi-National Companies in African Agricultural and Food Development: How do Firms Attempt to Legitimize Their Business and Why?

Project Description: As part of the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation program funded by US Agency for International Development (USAID), MST Group at Wageningen University has created a preliminary database of Western (EU/USA), Eastern (China, India, etc.) and local agri-food companies investing in Africa. In a preliminary analysis that we presented for a recent Business & Society journal special issue and the International Food and Agribusiness Management (IFAMA) conference in Capetown, we found that Western, Eastern and local companies undertake very different strategies to legitimize their practices in Africa. We found that legitimization strategies are influenced by the core business strategy but also by the local perception of their country of origin. Now we want to advance these exploratory results through a systematic study of the companies’ legitimization strategies and by linking legitimization strategies to the way that companies develop partnerships with external stakeholders.

Tasks: The student will:

1) study the existing literature on Corporate Social Responsibility and legitimization strategies; trends of investment in African agricultural and food sector; relationships between core strategy, coordination forms and corporate social responsibility;

2) collect and analyze secondary data from companies’ public sources and primary data from interviews with company managers and key informants.

Requirements: The student is:

1) an ambitious MSc student with a strong motivation to conduct action-oriented research and to explore applications of business management theory in development contexts;

2) has a strong MSc level background in one or more of the following disciplines: strategic management; marketing & supply chains; international development; food technology students that took courses in the School of Social Sciences may be suitable.

Interested students please contact Dr. Domenico Dentoni at Domenico.dentoni@wur.nl with short cover letter and an official transcript. Supervision team will also include Dr. Verena Bitzer, scholar at Capetown Graduate School of Business and an expert in partnerships and social innovation, and possibly a second Wageningen University staff.

MSC thesis opportunity 2

Research Title: Organizational Structures for the Emerging “Sharing Economy” and “Collaborative Consumption” in the Agricultural and Food Sector.

Project Description: In collaboration with the University of Naples (Italy), the Management Studies Group (MST) at Wageningen University has collected and analyzed data on emerging organizational forms in the agricultural and food sector that shorten the supply chain and reconnect farmers and consumers through alternative food networks. Examples are Community Supported Agriculture, Solidarity Purchase Groups and Community Gardens among many. Our recently published results illustrate that the members of these new organizational forms are moved by heterogeneous values but they have similar food lifestyles, as they seek healthy, authentic, social, safe and sustainable ways to purchase and dispose of food. Yet, we still know very little on how these organizations operate and what the social and institutional constraints that they face are. This project intends to discuss how these organizational forms apply the principles of sharing economy and collaborative consumption through internal formal and informal rules and how institutions outside the organizations influence them.

Tasks: The student will:

1) study the existing literature on sharing economy and collaborative consumption; alternative food networks and short supply chains; new venture creation and organizational change;

2) identify and analyze a suitable number of cases to analyze through interviews and questionnaires to members and /or coordinators of the studied organizations; the data collection and analysis could be inductive and qualitative OR deductive and quantitative (or mixed) depending on the background and preferences of the student.

Requirements: The student is:

1) an ambitious MSc student with a strong motivation to conduct action-oriented research and to explore applications of organization theory for sustainable consumption, lifestyle and development; 2) has a strong MSc level background in one or more of the following disciplines: organizational change and innovation; entrepreneurship and new venture creation; food technology students that took courses in the School of Social Sciences may be suitable.

Interested students please contact Dr. Domenico Dentoni at Domenico.dentoni@wur.nl with short cover letter and an official transcript. Supervision team will also include Dr. Stefano Pascucci (MST Group).

MSC thesis opportunity 3

Research Title: Human Resources and Organizational Capabilities for Sensing, Interacting, Learning and Changing (SILC) with Stakeholders for Sustainable Development: What is the Relationship?

Project Description: In collaboration with Education and Competencies Studies (ECS) group, MST Group at Wageningen University has collected and analyzed data on how large agri-food companies such as Unilever, Friesland Campina, Sara Lee and Heinz (and in particular their public relations, CSR, marketing and supply chain managers) engage with stakeholders – NGOs, universities, governments, media and civil society at large. In recently published articles from this project, we found that these companies need their managers to have very specific competencies (in particular: embracing diversity and interdisciplinarity) and that their organizations need to have the capability of sensing, interacting, learning and changing (SILC) with stakeholders. Now the open question that we want to tackle collaboratively with this MSc thesis is: what are the specific competencies that are needed to develop specific “SILC capabilities” in these companies?

Tasks: The student will:

1) study the existing literature on competencies for sustainable development; organization capabilities for stakeholder engagement; Corporate Social Responsibility;

2) collect secondary data through corporate reports of the four companies and primary data through semi-structured interviews with managers;

3) analyze data through content analysis of the interviews and reports with the support of the software Atlas.

Requirements: The student is:

1) an ambitious MSc student with a strong motivation to conduct action-oriented research and to explore applications of business management for corporate social responsibility and multi-stakeholder engagements;

2) has a strong MSc level background in one or more of the following disciplines: strategic change management and innovation; organization and human resource management, new venture creation and entrepreneurship; marketing and supply chains.

Interested students please contact Dr. Domenico Dentoni at Domenico.dentoni@wur.nl with short cover letter and an official transcript. Supervision team will also possibly include Dr. Vincent Blok