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Redefining ICRISAT’s culture and values to serve the poor in the dryland tropics

Dr Bergvinson along with participants of the Global Planning Meeting 2015, signing the ICRISAT mission. Over 220 staff from headquarters and other locations took part in the event.

Dr Bergvinson along with participants of the Global Planning Meeting 2015, signing the ICRISAT mission. Over 220 staff from headquarters and other locations took part in the event.

We have an obligation and a moral imperative to contribute to the improvement of the lives of 800 million poorest of the poor in the dryland tropics of the world. We cannot be in a better place at a better time to serve them than now,” said Dr Chandra Madramootoo, ICRISAT Governing Board Chair.

At ICRISAT’s Global Planning Meeting held on 27-31 January at the global headquarters, Dr Madramootoo stressed the importance of redefining the organization’s culture – core beliefs, shared feelings, and values – and empowering all staff to embrace and make it front and center of everything they do.

In his message, the Board Chair emphasized “the need to use all our might, all our imagination to be able to contribute to the task of improving the quality of lives of the poor. The magnitude of the task calls for everyone to collectively think of how to contribute in making a difference in the lives of smallholder farmers in the drylands.”

“The Board is committed to stand behind you in this journey to put your collective vision and work together to give smallholder farmers a reason to be optimistic about their future,” added Dr Madramootoo.

Over 220 scientists, managers and administrative staff from all of ICRISAT’s nine locations in India (headquarters), Eastern and Southern Africa, and West and Central Africa attended the 2015 Global Planning Meeting to tackle the complexity of challenges in the dryland tropics vis-à-vis the objective “to confirm our strategy, re-affirm our culture and values, celebrate our achievements, endorse our research plans, and discover opportunities.”

“Our vision is a prosperous, food-secure and resilient dryland tropics and I can’t think of a more compelling mission to have. But what we need is clarity around our culture and values that will allow us to deliver on that vision,” said
Dr David Bergvinson, ICRISAT Director General.

“We have a mission to serve the poorest of the poor, and through demand-driven innovation and strategic partnerships, we shall increase the pace at which we see the impacts of our science in the farmers’ fields to enable inclusive market-oriented development.”

“We need to redefine ICRISAT’s culture as key to achieving our mission, and for all of us to have a clear and shared understanding on the ‘why’ of our work at ICRISAT. This is what will shape our behavior and determine the manner in which we interpret and respond to challenges as an organization to better serve the poor in the dryland tropics,” highlighted
Dr Bergvinson.

Ms Ann Bradford, facilitator, assisted by 15 staff facilitators, walked the management and staff through the power of understanding the ‘why’ of ICRISAT’s work, bringing out what resonates with the organization’s emotional connection to ICRISAT’s mission (see box). Through the course of the week, the team identified values that were widely held, and discussed how these translate into day-to-day work with colleagues, partner organizations and smallholder farmers.

During the meeting, staff presented program outputs and work plans for 2015 focused on an inclusive value-chain framework to deliver science-based and demand-driven innovation consistent with country strategies, and to build stronger strategic partnerships. Discussions were also done to review and map out the work plans more effectively into the CGIAR Research Programs and bilateral projects.

Dr Madramootoo addressing the gathering

Dr Madramootoo addressing the gathering

According to Board Chair, Dr Madramootoo, “We must build our 2015 work plans to be able to deliver on the strategy of inclusive market-oriented development. We must move from being project-driven to having a broader, value-chain framework based on country strategies. Our programs and initiatives should not be built independently, but must all fit into a market-oriented development approach, create value chains, and deliver innovation and services beneficial to smallholder farmers.”

“Mapping out country strategies as a vehicle for implementing market-oriented development was highlighted in the meeting, underscoring the power of market opportunities to offer more prosperous lives for smallholder farmers and their families in the dryland tropics,” said Dr Peter Carberry, ICRISAT Deputy Director General – Research and overall coordinator of the meeting.

Discovering new opportunities was facilitated in part by a challenge to staff to develop a one-page proposal pitch on Digital Agriculture – innovative solutions to agricultural challenges through information and communications/digital tools and technologies – which generated 18 excellent proposals from teams across country offices – two of which were selected for further proposal development.

ICRISAT’s Global Planning Meeting is held every two years, and convenes the institute’s senior scientists and managers/officers primarily to discuss and prioritize research-for-development work plans and critical focus areas, and promote and internalize team development and cultural change.

This year’s five-day meeting was capped with staff from various ICRISAT locations signifying their renewed commitment by signing on banners with a redefined, shared culture statement and set of values to better serve the poor in the drylands.

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