21 September, 2012

How do I feel by the end of the day... of a strategic retreat

I have been involved this whole week in the strategic retreat of the Changing Demand and Institutions Team at ILRI. It has been a very intensive exercise involving all the team members. I got to meet all my new colleagues.

The team leader Derek Baker wanted us collectively to write a conceptual framework for value chain analysis. This document is meant to serve as a common method for the team to respond to the various research questions our development partners will be asking us to solve.

We spent most of the first three days sharing ideas on team building and value chain analysis methods and tools. Epi Katjiuongua, Sirak Bahta and Nadhem Mtimet gave presentations on value chain performance indicators and methods for robust sampling of livestock traders in developing country contexts. But in general, Derek had limited powerpoint presentations to a minimum, preferring more interactive methods of knowledge sharing.

Acho Okike facilitated a workshop on who we were as a team, what we did and who we worked for.

Francis Wanyoike and I held a brainstorming exercise on why it was important to do whole livestock value chain analysis. In just five minutes and only three rounds of interventions from the colleagues present, we managed to fill up two flipcharts.

 I also facilitated a workshop on the different methods we could use to respond to value chain issues. We held two subgroup discussions too. The first was to come up with an outline for our conceptual framework. During the second subgroup discussion  we projected ourselves in three years time to decide who we wanted to be, what we would do, and who we would be working for. This was the mirror exercise to the first one facilitated by Acho. We all hope our team's work will be clearly focused on solving the issues of the poor and livestock value chain actors in three years' time.

Thursday and Friday was extremely studious. Derek had booked three meeting rooms in ILRI campus where he virtually locked us up for the collective write up of our conceptual framework. Colleagues passing by the meeting room were surprised to see a group of scientists gathered around a meeting table, but each one of us was bent over our laptop computers typing out our ideas without exchanging a word. Perhaps a result of too much discussion over the previous three days?

Derek had also ordered sandwiches into the meeting room so that we did not have to go to the canteen for lunch breaks. Motivated by the deadline of Friday 17.00 for the first draft of our conceptual framework, I guess we all kept on going, fueled by a generous provision of coffee, tea and biscuits.

I am delighted to say that we made it! Our conceptual framework for value chain analysis has been written up by 14.30 today. We will all go back to our respective duty stations with the first draft to read and improve upon. I look forward to using it to respond to the research questions of our institutional partners. 

I also look forward to the week end... This has been focus-intensive teamwork conducted under a tight deadline.

With a little help from my friends
The Beatles, The Beatles 1967-1970, EMI

All photos except coffee break: Nadhem Mtimet

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