To learn more effectively from experiences with inclusive agribusiness initiatives, we need to be able to understand and compare these experiences better. A new practical guide from Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation helps authors to develop better case studies. The approach of this guide is unique in combining attractive audio visual design with robust analysis.
For a decade and more there have been many different initiatives to make agribusiness more inclusive. This means rethinking the way business is done so that the resources used, risks taken and rewards earned are shared more equitably between everyone involved. New business models, inclusive value chains, start-up hubs and programs have and are still being worked on. Many lessons can be learned from these projects and business cases on what works for whom and why. However, these efforts and the evidence of their outcomes are generally poorly documented. Good case studies should give an overview of what a project or business is doing and achieving, how and with whom. The problem is that many case studies are incomplete and lack good analysis. Others are too lengthy and costly to write, or are simply not appealing to read.
Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI) has published a new practical guide, called 'Creating effective case studies : a practical guide to making inclusive agribusiness experiences accessible and inspiring', to help address this gap. The guide was developed based on experience with five new cases studies over several years. The process put forward is useful for developing well thought through case studies in general. Proposed case study contents are more specific to inclusive agribusiness.
Inspiring & attractive
A good case study contains enough context and data on the case, a good analysis of the results and challenges, and reflects on implications for others, says author Joost Guijt of Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation. It should also be inspiring and attractive to read. 'We advocate a magazine-style publication, combining text, pictures, visuals, links to short films, and careful editing. Pictures, video and visuals add essential information. Most of the story should be told by the farmers and others directly involved in the case, with backing data. The result is a publication that helps the team to present and communicate the essence of the project or business.'
The case study guide is useful for entrepreneurs and companies, but also for researchers, advisors or professionals in monitoring and evaluation or communication. It helps authors decide when and how to make a good case study. The guide also describes the process through which a company or organisation can collect the data needed for a case study and helps to plan what is attainable in terms of time and money spend on a case study. It points to capacities that are needed for doing the research and capturing good audio-visual material. If case owners want to outsource some tasks to external specialists, they know what to look for.
The approach of this case study guide is to focus on the intended audience and match the content and style to this audience. It is generally meant for businesses and program staff, who could benefit from adopting or adapting the experiences of others. Guijt: 'The result is a case study that is really read, understood and used in practice, without losing robustness.'
Example case study: Tanzania
A good example is the case study 'Seed companies and the Tanzanian horticulture sector'. This looks at the role of seed companies to support the growth of a more productive and inclusive horticulture sector. Guijt: 'The team of East West Seed actively participated in making this case. It was a learning experience for them which they appreciated very much. Having a structured case study at hand, enables a more informed debate and more efficient learning.'
Guijt hopes that the guide will be widely used by anyone wanting to share their experiences for the benefit of others. In this way context-specific experience can catalyse wider change. 'The aim is to enhance learning', says Guijt. 'If case studies follow a common structure set out in this guide, they can also be more easily compared with each other.'