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Deconstructing the myth of development aid by assessing farmer organizations' capacity to innovate in open environments

Alexandre C., Toillier A., Mignon S.. 2020. Berkeley : Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation, p. 1-25. Annual World Open Innovation Conference (WOIC 2020). 7, 2020-12-10/2020-12-11, Berkeley (Etats-Unis).

In West Africa, farmer organizations (FOs) collaborate with diverse foreign development aid organizations in order to develop innovative digital extension services. However, the results did not often come up to hopes and expectations. Previous studies on open innovation (OI) show that organizations require specific capacities to innovate successfully in collaborative environments. However, none addressed the case of FOs in developing countries. In this article, we thus assess FO's capacity to innovate in collaborative situations, building upon two perspectives: the OI theory to characterize partnering modalities and the capacity-based approach of innovation management. We assumed that in a development context where FOs' capabilities are considered as globally weak, collaboration setups might influence their capacity to innovate. We developed and tested an analytical grid of the capacities to innovate, linking internal organizational features with inter-organizational collaborative practices. We compared two case studies in Burkina Faso, reflecting two contrasted partnering situations with similar objectives. We found out that FOs' capacity to innovate was weak in both cases and that their partnership with NGOs prevented them to mobilize and develop essential capabilities to innovate. Our results give new insights into digital-based innovation processes in the service sector. The focus usually made on technological rather than organizational aspects rather prevented FOs from developing relevant and sustainable digital tools for extension. This study highlights the importance of considering organizational capacity development issues back to back with technology development when implementing collaborative innovation projects in developing countries.

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