Successful organizational learning in the management of agricultural research and innovation, The Mexican produce foundations uri icon


  • 'To be an effective poverty alleviation instrument, agricultural policies (including research, extension, and innovation) must be based on an evolutionary approach that emphasizes experimentation, learning, and active interactions among diverse partners However, most agricultural research and extension policies and institutions in developing countries lack the necessary flexibility to implement such an approach. Instead, they apply uniform recipes and struggle with organizational rigidities and other problems. Notable exceptions to this trend have been the Mexican Produce Foundations (PFs). While most organizations eventually lose their creativity and seldom regain it, the PFs have learned, adapted, and contributed to major and diverse impacts on the Mexican agricultural innovation and research systems. Such impacts came from activities that were peripheral to the PFs' original purpose of managing funds for a national institute devoted to agricultural research. This research report investigates the success of the PFs, exploring how they have sustained organizational innovation over extended periods and adapted to maximize their impact on the agricultural innovation system. Using a theoretical framework that draws on the literature on innovation systems, complexity theories, and organizational cultures and governance, this study analyzes the factors that allowed the PFs to develop strong innovative capabilities and how these capabilities were affected by changes in the interactions among regulatory frameworks, the federal and state governments and organizational structures, creative individuals, and the history of the processes. Understanding the factors that enabled such unusual behavior will help to improve the design and implementation of innovation and research programs in developing countries. Studying the PFs also offers new insights into the dynamics of innovative organizations and how they relate to innovative capabilities.' -- from text
  • Since the 1980s, developing countries' agriculture has become more complex and diversified. In general, the public research and extension institutions in these countries were criticized for not participating in the emergence of the most dynamic agricultural markets. In recent years, many of these institutions have struggled to adapt to the new environment but they could not overcome the hurdles posed by organizational rigidities, strict public regulations, deteriorating human capital, shrinking budgets and a model of science that hampered their integration into dynamic innovation processes. In general, developing countries applied similar agricultural research policies: separation of financing and implementation of research, reductions in direct budgetary allocations to research and extension institutions, elimination or major reduction of public extension, and introduction of competitive grants programs to induce a transformation of research organizations. Strong anecdotal information suggests that these policies had limited impact on the quality and pertinence of research, and on the performance of the public research institutions. Using a different set of instruments, the Mexican Produce Foundations (PF) had major and diverse impacts on the agricultural innovation and research systems. These impacts resulted mostly from activities the PF introduced as they learned to manage funds for research and extension, and to a lesser extent from the activities they were created for, i.e., manage a competitive fund for agricultural research and extension. The PF were able to introduce these activities because they developed strong abilities to learn, including identifying knowledge gaps and defining strategies to fill them. The questions this report seeks to answer are how an organization that manages public funds for research and extension could sustain organizational innovations over extended periods, and how it could learn and adapt to maximize its impact on the agricultural innovation system. Previous studies found that human resources, organizational cultures and governance structures are three of the most important factors influencing institutional change and innovative capabilities. Despite their importance, these factors have been largely neglected in the literature on agricultural research and extension policies. This document analyzes what role these factors played in the Mexican experience

publication date

  • 2009
  • 2009