International Partners Workshop (IPW) 2021

The International Partners Workshop (IPW) of Prolinnova is held every second year, with regional workshops in the intervening years. On account of the travel restrictions related to Covid19, the 2021 IPW will be held online. The virtual marketplace for sharing between the Prolinnova CPs (Country Platforms / Collaborative Partnerships) will be on Friday 1 October and the virtual workshop will be on Monday-Wednesday, 4-6 October.

The marketplace will allow the CPs to share some examples of local innovation and participatory innovation development. The IPW will focus on sharing and learning about institutionalising the approach of promoting farmer innovation and participatory innovation development, as well as multi-CP collaboration as a step toward regionalisation of the network.

The IPW will be open to representatives of each CP, the Prolinnova Oversight Group (POG) and the International Support Team (IST), as well as Friends of Prolinnova, while the marketplace will be open to the wider community of practice. For the IPW, each CP may have only two Zoom connections so that we are able to maintain Internet connectivity. If a CP decides to have a group taking part with one connection, then the group should be of the size deemed relevant by each CP and compatible with health recommendations (size of gathering, wearing of masks, safe distancing etc).

A key part of the progrmme for participants to exchange about self-selected topics is the Open-Space Session. An explanation of this methodology as used in the Prolinnova IPWs is given below:


Open-Space session at Prolinnova IPW


Ever since the very first IPW was held in Ethiopia in 2004, we have used an Open-Space (OS) methodology to encourage Prolinnova partners to raise issues and ideas that they would like to discuss and to find other workshop participants who would like to discuss this with them.

Some important developments in the Prolinnova network have emerged from OS discussions, e.g. creation of a governance mechanism (Prolinnova Oversight Group), creation of the group “Friends of Prolinnova”, generating ideas for collaboration in promoting local innovation in the face of climate change, generating ideas for a new project in Africa on participatory innovation development (PID) by communities affected by HIV/AIDS (HAPID) and developing plans for joint publications.

The OS methodology was developed in the mid-1980s by an American management consultant for the business world. It is a participant-driven way of organising a meeting where the participants create the agenda themselves. It is ideal for a network like Prolinnova that runs on the energy of ideas initiated by the network members. We all share a focus on promoting local innovation and PID with a view to integrating this approach into agricultural research, advisory services and education. The OS session creates space for new ideas to be developed in a participatory way to achieve the objective of our network.

The topics for discussion are raised during the first days of the IPW. These may be questions participants want to discuss in more depth or new ideas that participants dream up to help Prolinnova achieve its objectives. In a face-to-face meeting, these ideas are collected on cards or a flipchart sheet. When the OS session starts, the participants decide which topics they want to discuss. We used to do this by writing our names under the topic of interest on a flipchart. It is also possible to choose two topics (1st and 2nd priority) and then, halfway through the OS session, you can move to your 2nd choice of group. Some topics may be discussed during both rounds. However, if the discussion is completed in the first round, then it does not have to continue in the second round, and all participants in that group can go to another group.

The person who raised the issue or idea remains with the group for the entire time and takes notes on the discussion. Whenever possible, we try to come to a decision about what the next steps will be with regard to the issue or idea, who will be involved and who will coordinate the action. In the plenary, each group presents a brief summary of what it discussed and decided/planned. Participants who were in other groups can still express their interest to be involved in activities proposed in the plenary by any group.

During the Prolinnova planning session on the last afternoon of the IPW, the plans that emerge from the OS discussion are added to the action plan for the coming year.

Open Space during IPW 2021

During the online IPW 2021, we will try to organise the OS discussions in a similar way as in the face-to-face meetings but using the Zoom platform with breakout groups.

At the start of the IPW, Abdel will explain the methodology. From that point on, any participant can raise a topic for OS discussion and write it in the Chatbox. This may be a topic you have already wanted to discuss for some time with other people in the network or it may be one that occurs to you when you think about what others have said during the IPW, e.g. during the talk on Day 1 about digitalisation in farmer-led experimentation, and you want to explore with others how this could be used in the Prolinnova activities.

At the end of Day 2, Abdel will list the topics suggested for OS discussion with title and number. He will ask you which topics you would like to discuss as your 1st priority. You respond by writing the number in the Chatbox. Then you will be asked to choose which topic you would like to discuss as 2nd priority, and likewise write the number in the Chatbox. Before Day 3 starts, the division of participants into the first and second round of breakout groups during the OS session will be prepared.

If a topic does not attract any other participants, it will be dropped. If a topic attracts a large number of participants in the 1st round, some of them may be put into that group only in the 2nd round. However, if there are only two people wanting to discuss a certain topic, that can be very productive. It may mean that several smaller breakout groups will be formed for the OS discussions.

On Day 3, the OS session starts at 11:15 CEST and will last for 1.5 hours. Allowing a few minutes for start-up and a few minutes for changing to new groups in the second round, this means that the first round of OS discussion will last 35–40 minutes and the second round likewise. After a half-hour break, the “owner” of each OS topic (or another volunteer in the group) will briefly present what was discussed and suggested. Other participants can express their interest in joining any activity proposed.

The number of OS groups will determine the length of time given for feedback to the plenary, as we have only half an hour for this. In any case, each group will send very short reports (less than one page) to Sharad, who will compile them for the IPW report.

The IPW session on action planning starts immediately after the feedback from the OS discussions.  Plans for new activities emerging from the discussion can be included in the Prolinnova action planning.


Draft programme Prolinnova IPW 2021

Time (CEST)



IPW Day 1: Monday 4 Oct 2021


Welcome & introduction

Explanation about Open-Space session

One person from each CP to introduce CP and give feedback on marketplace last Friday


Thought-provoking talk: Claire Rhodes, Producers Direct, on digitalisation in on-farm experimentation

15 min. presentation

15 min. discussion





Institutionalisation of the PID approach

Preparatory work done by CPs prior to IPW


End of Day 1


IPW Day 2: Tuesday 5 Oct 2021


Reflection on Day 1



Feedback from Prolinnova Oversight Group (POG) & discussion

On issues emerging from POG meeting on 23 Sept


Regionalisation in the Prolinnova network

Preparatory work done by CPs prior to IPW





Reminder re Open Space



Thought-provoking talk: Million Belay on Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) experience in regional collaboration to influence policy

15 min. presentation

15 min. discussion


Final clarifications about Open-Space session



End of Day 2


IPW Day 3: Wednesday 6 Oct 2021


Reflection on Day 2



Open-Space discussions

Parallel small-group discussions on topics collected during IPW





Feedback from Open-Space discussions including next steps

Short reports from each small group


Prolinnova action planning

Reviewing last year’s plan & planning for next year


Evaluation and closure



End of IPW