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MSc thesis opportunities/1: Individual competencies, organizational structures and dynamic capabilities for stakeholder orientation in Netherlands

To see all the currently available research opportunities with the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation, click here.

MSc thesis 1: Individual competencies, organizational structures and dynamic capabilities for stakeholder orientation in Netherlands

Suggested supervisors: Dr. Renate WesselinkDr. Valentina MateriaDr. Domenico Dentoni

Since long time, agribusiness companies realized that to seriously develop sustainable sourcing, R&D and marketing strategies they need to Sense, Interact, Learn and Change based (SILC) on the needs and demands of multiple stakeholders (Dentoni and Peterson 2011, Dentoni et al. 2012a; Dentoni and Veldhuizen 2012) or, in short, to be stakeholder oriented (Dentoni et al. 2016). But how can a company structurally develop its stakeholder orientation? One way to become stakeholder oriented is by investing on its people and, in particular, on the individual competencies of its employees, mid-managers and top managers (Dentoni et al. 2012b; Wesselink et al. 2015; Osagie et al. 2016). Another way is changing its organizational structure, for example reducing hierarchies, increasing communication challenges and encouraging informal mechanisms of knowledge-sharing (Veldhuizen et al. 2013; Jager 2016).

What is still missing in the management theory and practice, though, is an understanding of how individual competencies and organizational structures together influence companies’ stakeholder orientation. To fill this gap, our research team has already collected quantitative data from a sample of mid-managers working in sustainability projects at Dutch companies across multiple sectors (Aberson 2016). Now we are seeking a MSc student – preferably in Management, Marketing and Economics (MME) and interested in sustainability strategies, multi-stakeholder partnerships and in developing her/his skills set of quantitative analyses –  to 1) analyze the secondary data already collected with the use of multi-variate statistics (e.g. confirmatory factor analysis, structural equation modelling; Hair et al. 2010) and, if possible, 2) collect a second round of primary data based on the same questionnaire to further expand the database on this topic.

comp-capabilities

Aberson, W. (2016). The Influence of Individual Competencies and Organizational Adaptability on the Dynamic capability for Stakeholder Orientation in a CSR context. MSc Thesis, Wageningen University and Research.

Dentoni, D., Bitzer, V., & Pascucci, S. (2016). Cross-sector partnerships and the co-creation of dynamic capabilities for stakeholder orientation. Journal of Business Ethics, 135(1), 35-53.

Dentoni, D., Blok, V., Lans, T., & Wesselink, R. (2012). Developing Human Capital for Agrifood Firms’ Multi-Stakeholder Interactions. International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, 15(A), 61-68.

Dentoni, D., Hospes, O., & Ross, R. B. (2012). Managing wicked problems in agribusiness: the role of multi-stakeholder engagements in value creation: Editor’s Introduction. International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, 15(B), 1-12.

Dentoni, D., & Peterson, H. C. (2011). Multi-stakeholder sustainability alliances in agri-food chains: A framework for multi-disciplinary research. International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, 14(5), 83-108.

Dentoni, D., & Veldhuizen, M. G. (2012). Building Capabilities for Multi-Stakeholder Interactions at Global and Local Levels: An Executive Interview with Jan Kees Vis, Berton Torn and Anniek Mauser. International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, 15(B), 95-106.

Hair, J. F., Anderson, R. E., Babin, B. J., & Black, W. C. (2010). Multivariate data analysis: A global perspective (Vol. 7). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Jager, W. (2016). From organizational structuring to learning: The role of authority and communication in translating individual competencies into the organizational capability of learning from stakeholders. MSc Thesis, Wageningen University and Research.

Osagie, E. R., Wesselink, R., Blok, V., Lans, T., & Mulder, M. (2016). Individual competencies for corporate social responsibility: A literature and practice perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 135(2), 233-252.

Veldhuizen, M., Blok, V., & Dentoni, D. (2013). Organisational drivers of capabilities for multi-stakeholder dialogue and knowledge integration. Journal on Chain and Network Science, 13(2), 107-117.

Wesselink, R., Blok, V., van Leur, S., Lans, T., & Dentoni, D. (2015). Individual competencies for managers engaged in corporate sustainable management practices. Journal of Cleaner Production, 106, 497-506.

MSc thesis opportunity in Malawi /1

MSc thesis 1: Malawi – Individual competencies for emerging business models. 

Co-supervisors: Domenico Dentoni and Renate Wesselink

Similar as in other African contexts (Chesbrough et al. 2006; Dahan 2010), a number of business models have been recently emerging in Malawian legume and maize chains (2010-2015). These models seek to overcome constraints to innovation that affect the supply chains and include among the others: 1) storage models such as the Agricultural Commodity Exchange, which developed arrangements to match the demand and supply of storage owners, brokers, processors and farmers (Sitko and Jayne 2012; Dentoni and Dries 2015; Dentoni and Krussmann 2015); 2) finance models such as credit schemes with commodity as collateral (warehouse receipt schemes), weather-indexed crop insurance and storage insurance schemes (Coulter and Onumah 2002); 3) extension models, such as joint programs and incubators that bring together farmers’ associations, extension officers, supply chain actors and universities (Meijer et al. 2015; Mutenje et al. 2016); 4) seed provision models, such as programs to train private seed breeders and link them with early generation seed producer, seed companies and farmers’ associations (Keoneka et al. 2016; Rubyogo et al. 2016); 5) quality control models, such as training programs to improve post-harvest practices such as groundnuts and pigeon pea drying and sorting at farmer level (Matumba et al. 2013; 2015).

While being examples of organizational innovation in an uncertain environment, most of these models face tensions and limitations (Dentoni and Dries 2015; Dentoni and Klerkx 2016). Recent evidence shows that actors in these business models struggle to systematically coordinate with other stakeholders outside their partnership because they need to keep a strong focus on the governance mechanisms within their partnership (Dentoni and Klerkx 2016). Within this big picture, this MSc thesis project intervenes with the following goals: 1) to describe and discuss the tensions and dilemmas faced in the abovementioned business models with a suggested theoretical lens on hybrid organizations (Battilana and Dorado 2010; Greenwood et al. 2011; Jay 2013); 2) to profile the key competencies of current and future individual actors (Wesselink et al. 2015) that would meet the demands as well as the latent needs of the abovementioned business models; 3) to develop an inductive theoretical framework that connects individual competencies, organizational capabilities and innovation at a systemic level.

business models malawi

Battilana, J., & Dorado, S. (2010). Building sustainable hybrid organizations: The case of commercial microfinance organizations. Academy of Management Journal, 53(6), 1419-1440.

Chesbrough, H., Ahern, S., Finn, M., & Guerraz, S. (2006). Business models for technology in the developing world: The role of non-governmental organizations. California management review, 48(3), 48-61.

Coulter, J., & Onumah, G. (2002). The role of warehouse receipt systems in enhanced commodity marketing and rural livelihoods in Africa. Food policy, 27(4), 319-337.

Dahan, N. M., Doh, J. P., Oetzel, J., & Yaziji, M. (2010). Corporate-NGO collaboration: Co-creating new business models for developing markets. Long range planning, 43(2), 326-342.

Dentoni, D. and Krussmann, F. (2015). Value Network Analysis of Malawian Legume Systems: Implications for Institutional Entrepreneurship. Paper presented at the workshop on “Complex-systems dynamics principles applied to food systems”, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Meeting urban food needs (MUFN) Program, Rome, June 6th-8th, 2015.

Dentoni and Dries 2015. Working paper, available upon request.

Dentoni and Klerkx 2016. Working paper, available upon request.

Greenwood, R., Raynard, M., Kodeih, F., Micelotta, E. R., & Lounsbury, M. (2011). Institutional complexity and organizational responses. The Academy of Management Annals, 5(1), 317-371.

Jay, J. (2013). Navigating paradox as a mechanism of change and innovation in hybrid organizations. Academy of Management Journal, 56(1), 137-159.

Meijer, S. S., Catacutan, D., Ajayi, O. C., Sileshi, G. W., & Nieuwenhuis, M. (2015). The role of knowledge, attitudes and perceptions in the uptake of agricultural and agroforestry innovations among smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 13(1), 40-54.

Mutenje, M., Kankwamba, H., Mangisonib, J., & Kassie, M. (2016). Agricultural innovations and food security in Malawi: Gender dynamics, institutions and market implications. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 103, 240-248.

Rubyogo, J. C., Magreta, R., Kambewa, D., Chirwa, R., Mazuma, E., & Andrews, M. (2016). Using subsidised seed to catalyse demand-driven bean seed systems in Malawi. Development in Practice, 26(1), 15-26.

van Scheltinga, C.T. and van Geene, J. (2011). Linking training, research and policy advice: capacity building for adaptation to climate change in East Africa. In Knowledge in action (pp. 113-132). Wageningen Academic Publishers.

Sitko, N. J., & Jayne, T. S. (2012). Why are African commodity exchanges languishing? A case study of the Zambian Agricultural Commodity Exchange. Food Policy, 37(3), 275-282.

Understanding the value chain to benefit both consumers and farmers

Originally posted on the CIAT blog

A research project tackling malnutrition among vulnerable populations in Kenya and Uganda has been launched in Nairobi .

The three-year initiative targeting women aged 15-49 years of reproductive age, and children aged 6−59 months, aims to develop a quick-to-cook porridge from at least four food groups, affordable for poor communities. Poor dietary diversity among the poor is a key contributor to malnutrition, said Dr. Mercy Lung’aho, a nutritionist at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture in Nairobi. Non-staple legumes such as beans and vegetables like amaranth can increase diet diversity for a more balanced diet. But the are often underutilized in diets, say researchers. The project aims to create a win-win situation, improving nutrition of low-income vulnerable groups, while also benefiting smallholder farmers with improved income generating opportunities. It will do this by improving the availability, quality, safety and price of more nutritious foods cultivated by small holder farmers.

Understanding the value chain to benefit both consumers and farmers

A first step is to analyze malnutrition levels among a study group of poor households in Kenya and Uganda. That data will provide nutritional information about individual health, where families source food from, and how much they pay for it. This will help researchers understand which nutrients are a priority to add to the porridge.

“While a family may not have the resources to cook dry beans, vegetables, and cereals three times a day, they can boil this bean-based porridge which is nutrient dense and affordable, as an ideal supplement in the diet,” said Dr. Christine Chege, an agricultural economist and nutritionist at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture in Nairobi.

Making safe, nutritious and affordable food available, especially for urban consumers, means working with the private sector and engaging everyone involved in food production – including farmers, say researchers.

Understanding how the whole food value-chain functions, including nutrient leakages and critical points of contamination – from food produced at the farmer’s gate to what arrives on the consumer’s plate – and evaluating how nutrition can be optimized and transaction cost reduced throughout this chain, is vital to supply nutritious foods to the poor

Linking farmers to more nutritious markets

Researchers aim to benefit rural and urban consumers, reaching around five million small holder farmers in Uganda and Kenya by the end of the project. An analyses of business bottle-necks to reduce costs along the value chain – for example using low-cost, energy-efficient dryers instead of electricity – will be made, and bean farmers will be linked with processors through inclusive business models.

Dr. Marcus Nagle, from a research team at the University of Hohenheim in Germany, which is evaluating the energy efficient dryers, said: “We are very excited to evaluate the dryer performance in the local climates of Kenya and Uganda with a focus on the specific key staples of the region. We expect that solar drying will be more safe and reliable, with an improved product quality, especially in respect to insect and fugal infestations.”

In conjunction with an economic evaluation carried out by the University of Göttingen, it should become apparent whether this technology can be cost-effective on a wider perspective for local villages and cooperative in Eastern Africa, he added.

“Making Value Chains Work for Food and Nutrition Security of Vulnerable Populations in East Africa’ is supported by BMZ and GIZ, and is a Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance initiative. The project will be led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, in collaboration with The University of Hohenheim (UHOH), the University of Göttingen (UGOE), the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and Ugandan Nutrition and Agriculture Research Organization (NARO).

 

The Blended Learning Program for Facilitators of Innovation Platforms

 

Solutions to the complex agricultural problems facing us today require a systems approach. Inputs need to be sought from multiple stakeholders including farmers, researchers, government, and the private sector. Interventions may target multiple points in the value chain. Innovation Platforms (sometimes known as multi-stakeholder processes, learning alliances, self-help groups, or social learning and innovation platforms) have been found to be successful vehicles for designing and implementing systemic solutions. Innovation platforms are groups of stakeholders who work together to identify research and policy interventions to address weaknesses in agricultural systems. They may then initiate scaling out activities, possibly in conjunction with development partners.

However, the facilitation of an innovation platform remains more of an art form than a science. The skill set required of a successful facilitator ranges from excellent communication and negotiation skills to an understanding of how to monitor and evaluate the unique processes inherent in platform interactions.

The ILRI Learning Platform has developed a course for facilitators of innovation platforms, which draws on the experience of multiple CGIAR partners and that of key agricultural research organisations including FARA, the BMGF, and the FAO, who have been working in this area. Recent training workshops coordinated by ILRI in Africa and the Mekong will provide a framework for the course. The task will require a thorough desk review as a base for generating teaching/learning materials consistent with internationally recognised best practice in adult learning.

Six online modules of the course have already been developed and can be reviewed on ILRIs eLearning portal at http://learning.ilri.org. These modules and the follow-up workshop component of the course were pilot tested with active IP facilitators in the Mekong in late 2015.