Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Building the capacity of capacity builders

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This guest post was written by Nussi Abdullah of FIELD-Support, who is currently in Rwanda for the Mentoring for Value Chain Impact program described below.

“Right now in our work, we focus mostly at the producer level, so when we try to work with bigger market actors, we have a challenge communicating effectively with them, especially to incentivize them to collaborate with small scale producers,” said one of more than a dozen participants in the first round of the Mentoring for Value Chain Impact program, an innovative collaboration designed to increase the capacity of USAID’s implementing partners in operationalizing the value chain approach.

Mentors and mentees participated in a range of team building exercises

“I am expecting that this process will help me build my skills in value chain design and implementation,” said another participant, “and improve the sustainability of our programs by using approaches that help people do things for themselves instead of giving them handouts.”

The Mentoring Program is funded by the USAID Microenterprise Development Office and is being designed and piloted by the USAID-supported GROOVE Network, with support from MEDA, FIELD-Support, and KDMD. Designed as a structured, iterative coaching program, the initiative pairs up seasoned international experts with emerging leaders in field implementation. Over the next nine months, these teams will work together to enhance the skills and experience of mentees needed for more effective implementation.

“One of the most exciting things about this collaboration is that each of our organizations brings something different in what we are trying to accomplish in applying the VC approach,” noted lead facilitator and the curriculum’s co-developer, Tracy Gerstle from CARE. For Conservation International, for example, it is about leveraging value chains to support a thriving ecosystem in which communities can enjoy economic prosperity; whereas for CARE it is about creating opportunities for women’s empowerment. Whatever the ultimate goal, the organizations recognize that the right touch in value chain facilitation can be the difference between productive, pro-poor market relationships that include our targeted beneficiaries, and a short-term alliance that fizzles away once the NGO exits.

Workshop participants meet to discuss their experiences.

This program started in 2010 when the GROOVE Network NGOs partnered with Accenture Development Partners (ADP) to bring their expertise in talent management and organizational development to the challenge. ADP worked with the team to develop a holistic needs assessment to measure an individual’s capacity and experience in value chain facilitation. The results of the self-assessment are then used to identify gaps and structure an individualized curriculum, which the mentee then works through, applying the tools and concepts directly in a value chain project they are currently supporting. 

Last week marked the kick-off workshop for the first round of Mentors and Mentees, held in Kigali, Rwanda, which brought together more than 20 practitioners who work in half a dozen countries around the world. The interactive workshop provided participants with both a conceptual framework for value chain facilitation as well as practical exercises for the participants to develop personal Mentoring Plans that will reinforce the Mentees’ understanding and application of value chain facilitation techniques. 

To scale the initiative in subsequent years within the participating partners’ organizations, all Mentees commit to participating in the next round of the program as Mentors, assisting subsequent generations of their colleagues to master value chain facilitation.

From the participants

"One of the things I learned this week was about the importance of 'learning about learning' in a way that will allow us to better institutionalize these skills in our organizations."

– A mentor 

"In some ways, my work had become business as usual. The things I learned this week have helped me realize that I can apply these skills in many ways in my own programs."

– A mentee