The Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue (MSD) process is increasingly used in the international development ecosystem and has demonstrated its usefulness in transforming policy, ensuring transparent and inclusive decision making, growth, and strengthening networks.

The technique is more and more recognised and used as a method to facilitate collaborations. In the UN systems, it is used in ensuring that the voices of all actors are heard and enabling more effective and coordinated implementation of the global policy on sustainable development.

According to “the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015” report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 793 million people are undernourished globally. The world’s population will be 9 billion in 2050, and all stakeholders, therefore, have a vital role to play in improving food and nutritional security.

The World Bank looks at Stakeholder Dialogue as “an interactive, working communication process that involves all types of stakeholders in decision-making and implementation efforts.” It promotes better decision making by ensuring that the views of the actors involved in the decision-making process are heard and integrated at all stages through dialogue and sense making.

Though the technique is hugely popular and widely used, however, concrete examples of how it is successfully adapted to power research, development, and influence decisions in rural communities are not very often highlighted.

Thus, it is imperatively important to showcase how development programmes and partners could use this technique to provide quality and inclusive services and interventions in the rural context.

An inclusive approach

Professor Lemma W. Senbet is the Executive Director of the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) and Chaired Professor of Finance at the University of Maryland, College Park USA. He knows how to pilot a MSD process. Prof Senbet coaches and train African executive staff using the MSD technique. He is leveraging initiatives that bring together multiple stakeholders for partnership, involving policy makers in sub-Saharan Africa. His organisation is promoting inclusive growth in Africa using research and MSD process in capacity building or training to inform policy.

“We do research to impact policies. We bring policymakers to discuss in a platform on one specific topic based on research evidence. We try to achieve two things: mutual understanding of the research and explore together options about their initiatives and concerns. We know that they will become more informed and guided. The governments finally own the decisions [research results] through discussions”, Said Prof Senbet, in an exclusive interview with Israel Bionyi, Intern Knowledge Management, CTA on May 24, 2016, in Lusaka, Zambia.

On March 22-23, 2016 AERC organised a Senior Policy Seminar in Nairobi, Kenya on “Financial Inclusion in Africa”, where stakeholders were offered a level platform to share lessons emerging from financial inclusion initiatives in Africa and the rest of the world with policy-makers and private sector actors in the continent. Following up on that meeting, AERC is holding its Biannual Research Workshop focusing on “Integrating African Markets: The Way Forward”. A session on “Agriculture, Climate Change and Natural Resource Management” will bring researchers, academics, policy makers to involve in a MSD to derive climate smart solutions to agriculture and answers to market access.

To Prof Senbet, the greatest success of AERC is that “everywhere you go in Africa you will find AERC alumni”. They hold high-ranking positions in their respective countries and excel in their duties.

AERC has shown through these initiatives how the MSD process is used to encourage knowledge sharing and involve all parties in the decision-making process.

By Israel Bionyi Nyoh