SINGAPORE - On 12 to 13 October, the Grow Asia Secretariat hosted the first Grow Asia Practitioners’ Workshop in Singapore, bringing together more than 100 partners from government, private sector, civil society and farmers to share their experiences across crops and countries and co-develop solutions. It was my first Grow Asia event since joining and I looked forward to an immersive two days featuring a range of interactive panel discussions and in-depth breakout sessions designed to showcase successes, facilitate peer-to-peer learning exchange, explore scaling solutions and support the development of country-level plans.
The energy during the two days demonstrated the shared passion of leaders committed to supporting smallholder farmers in South East Asia. Several commitments were made by partners at the Workshop, and a full report of the outcomes and highlights will be available soon.
My personal observations and takeaways were:
1. Get government involved
Governments play a critical role in attracting other sectors to a partnership; their visible support unlocks support from others. From the inception of Grow Asia, which was endorsed by the ASEAN Ministers of Agriculture, to the recent formation of in-country partnerships in Philippines and Cambodia, the buy-in of the country’s government focuses attention, mobilizes resources and paves the way for supportive policy changes.
2. Pay attention to the similarities
It is easy to segment ourselves into country or crop groups, but the live feed of questions and comments at the Workshop reminded us that we all have common themes and challenges. Whether it is access to finance, balancing cooperation and competition, or engaging the younger generation, there are recurring questions that everyone is grappling with. Recognizing and addressing these points of commonality highlighted where Grow Asia can make a great impact in serving our stakeholders.
3. Learn from one another
Partners were provided with the opportunity to engage in lively, self-led discussions and brainstorming sessions to collectively come up with solutions and action plans. Truly there is a wealth of knowledge and experience untapped within the working groups and I hope that our recently launched Grow Asia Exchange will continue to foster such interactions in the community. Perhaps this quote from one of our participants sums it up best: “Challenges are similar across commodities and countries — there are lots of good solutions within the community that can be adapted.”
4. Do well to do good
This phrase came up during the closing Country Partnership Discussion, where partners were debating what it means to be a multi-stakeholder model. A key tenet of Grow Asia’s model is to be market-driven, with projects led by the private sector. For these inclusive value chains to be embraced, scaled, and replicated, they need to first make business sense. Only when a business does well will it be able to do good for its stakeholders.
The Grow Asia Practitioners’ Workshop 2016 was a unique opportunity to bring together partners from across the five Grow Asia Country Partnerships. More than that, it was an inspiring session characterized by a vision for greater collaboration and the desire to think differently and build momentum for new approaches.
View photos from the Workshop.
View the 2017 Practitioners' Workshop agenda and outline Field Trip agenda.
Manager, Country Partnerships (Indonesia and Philippines), Grow Asia