Join the Global Knowledge Initiative for a High-Level Training at Stellenbosch University!


Stellenbosch University faculty and students participate in the 2014 LINK South Africa training. Photo Credit: GKI

In February 2016, the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) will hold a high-level, entrepreneurship skills training at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. GKI is a non-profit organization that focuses on using collaborative innovation to build sustainable networks aimed at solving complex global challenges. Through one of our flagship programs—LINK (Learning and Innovation Networks for Knowledge and Solutions)—we offer training to groups chosen as finalists through a challenge prize competition. Last year, Dr. Sandy Turketti and Dr. Elke Crouch of Stellenbosch University were chosen as finalists for their work on post harvest food loss. During an initial training in June 2014, Stellenbosch faculty and students gained skills for exploring complex challenges, analyzing unknowns and assumptions surrounding those changes, and building a strategy for problem solving.


Participants in the 2014 LINK South Africa training discuss their challenges. Photo credit: GKI

As part of the LINK initiative, and funded by the Carnegie Foundation, this training is designed to build on the skills, tools, and concepts introduced during the first LINK IV Training. Participants will begin by conducting an in-depth analysis of their initiative strategy, building a visual prototype of the key activities, resources, and partners needed to achieve intended outcomes. Next, participants will consider how to refine their solution, taking into account considerations such as differing market segments, distribution channels, and their value proposition. Finally, participants will acquire key skills needed to forge and maintain productive partnerships, such as writing and presenting to professional audiences and monitoring and evaluation techniques for effective reporting. Over the course of the training, participants will take part in a number of modules, each with an interactive component designed to facilitate palpable, real-time progress. At the end of the training, participants will take forward a refined project vision and roadmap, bolstered by the firsthand knowledge of new tools and concepts to empower success.


We have limited space in the training and only 10 spots remaining, so please submit your RSVP here. We look forward to you joining us in February for this exciting hands-on training!


GKI at Fast Company: Insight Sourcing for New Solutions

GKI staff facilitate insight sourcing at the Fast Company workshop. Photo Credit: Andrew Gerard

GKI staff facilitate insight sourcing at the Fast Company workshop. Photo Credit: GKI

When facing a world of challenges and opportunities—both those that are well known, and the many more that will come into prominence in the future—how do we choose where to devote our time and resources? One method to inform such choices, which the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) is testing with The Rockefeller Foundation: convening diverse, creative, and future-minded people to discuss their unique perspectives on challenges, trends, and opportunities in today’s changing world. As part of the Fast Company Innovation Festival in New York City, GKI and The Rockefeller Foundation brought together approximately 50 innovators from around the world through our SCAN initiative for an Insight Sourcing Workshop. The workshop attracted participants from private sector companies ranging from Shell Energy to cosmetics company Sephora, and hailing from countries in North and South America, and Europe. This diverse group served as a breeding ground for new, intriguing ideas.

Participants in the Insights Sourcing Workshop create headlines for an ideal future in 2025. Photo Credit: Andrew Gerard

Participants in the Insights Sourcing Workshop create headlines for an ideal future in 2025. Photo Credit: GKI

Featured on Fast Company’s website as a highlight of the Innovation Festival, the workshop invited participants to build off GKI’s insights on the changing nature of cities and offer new ways of framing problems, innovative solutions, gaps in funding / policy, and signals of change. Many of these insights drew from a similar, yet even more in-depth, Insight Sourcing Workshop held in Bangkok in early November. After writing newspaper headlines for the year 2025 inspired by the generated ideas, the innovators imagined the innovations that could make that ideal future a reality. The workshop elicited bold, exciting insights that will feed into The Rockefeller Foundation’s process for developing new programs and and maximizing social impact.


Participants identify insights on the future of cities. Photo Credit: GKI

Photo Preview: GKI Kicks Off the Africa Great Lakes Coffee Support Program

The US Agency for International Development (USAID), Michigan State University, the Global Knowledge Initiative, University of Rwanda, and Institute for Policy Analysis and Research kicked off a 3-year partnership on coffee productivity in Kigali on October 13, 2015.


African Great Lakes Coffee (AGLC) support program partners work together to better understand how capacity building might support productivity. Photo Credit: Aniseh Bro

Organized as part of the Feed the Future initiative, the Africa Great Lakes Coffee Support program (AGLC) aims to create opportunities to increase the productivity of farmers in the Great Lakes Region and reduce the impact of the potato taste defect (PTD) – a defect that makes otherwise excellent coffee taste like potato.  The acting Head of Mission for USAID Rwanda and CEO of National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) opened the meeting, and GKI facilitated the 50 key stakeholders in attendance as they identified the most important bottlenecks to boosting productivity and reducing PTD.

Through its LINK program, GKI has worked on PTD in Rwandan coffee in partnership with the University of Rwanda and numerous international partners since 2011. In 2014, GKI partnered with the Rwanda Development Board, the Ministry of Agriculture, NAEB, and other partners to host a Coffee Research Symposium and Collaboration Colloquium in Kigali.  This event resulted in a Potato Taste Challenge Prize, currently being implemented by the Rwanda Agriculture Board, and helped lay the groundwork for the AGLC program.
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Using a Human Centered Design tool called Challenge Mapping, stakeholders work to unpack opportunities to create an enabling environment for solutions in the coffee value chain. Photo Credit: Aniseh Bro

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AGLC project partners present potential mechanisms for collaboration using international problem-solving networks. Photo Credit: GKI

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GKI Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Sara Farley leads a group through Challenge Mapping. Photo Credit: Aniseh Bro

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By clarifying the many interconnected pieces of their complex challenge, AGLC partners can identify steps that can be taken to boost productivity and reduce the effects of Potato Taste. Photo Credit: GKI

Contributors: Andrew Gerard and Katie Bowman

Hot Off the Press: LINK IV Uganda Context Analysis

Boosting Incomes through Improved Access to Banana and Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato Plant Materials

GKI is proud to announce the release of the LINK (Learning and Innovation Network for Knowledge and Solutions) Uganda Context Analysis, which fits into a larger initiative to forge, optimize, and sustain an international network aimed at solving challenges in propagating and distributing plant materials in rural Uganda.  The goals of this Context Analysis are twofold: (1) to help the LINK Winner better understand the socio-economic and business context surrounding this challenge, and (2) to help newcomers to the budding LINK Uganda network quickly understand the features of the prevailing innovation system that bear on their collective efforts toward a solution.  The rationale for this analysis is to establish a shared understanding of the contextual features—national, sectoral, institutional, and systemic—that affect solutions to the LINK Uganda challenge.

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LINK Winner Dr. Geofrey Arinaitwe shares his passion with team: a TC banana plantlet produced in his lab. Photo: GKI

To understand the challenges and opportunities that exist in developing and distributing improved plant material for banana and orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP), it is essential to investigate the innovation system of Uganda—as noted above—but also to buttress this innovation systems analysis with analyses of the value chains for banana and OFSP in Uganda.  Accordingly, this document combines a condensed treatment of the enabling environment for innovation on this challenge, the actors important to agriculture (and specifically tissue culture) development, as well as detail on how they interact, and what possible outcomes to this challenge might look like.  These value chain analyses specifically are designed to provide a coherent picture of the strengths and weaknesses of banana and OFSP production.  Check out the full Context Analysis here!

Building a Biotechnology Network to Fight Malnutrition and Food Insecurity in Uganda

Biotechnology: An answer to food insecurity and malnutrition?


Selling bananas in Kampala, Uganda. Photo: GKI

In Uganda, food insecurity and malnutrition pose enormous challenges.  Large proportions of rural Ugandans face food insecurity, and nearly half of Uganda’s population suffers from malnourishment.  Compounding this challenge, up to 80% of Uganda’s main staple crop of bananas have been destroyed by disease over the past decade.  Sweet potato, which in its orange fleshed variety can fight malnutrition due to its high concentration of iron and vitamin A, suffers from a number of diseases, and has also failed to reach many Ugandans.

BioCrops Uganda Ltd., a small firm led by Dr. Geofrey Arinaitwe and winner of the Global Knowledge Initiative’s LINK (Learning and Innovation Network for Knowledge and Solutions) program, uses biotechnology to take on these challenges by expanding access to clean banana and orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) tissue culture planting materials.  Tissue Culture (TC) planting material, which is free of disease and used to propagate banana and OFSP—can not only slow or even halt the spread of banana diseases, but can also encourage the uptake of OFSP through healthier, more productive plants.


GKI Co-Founder Dr. Nina Fedoroff and Chief Operating Officer Sara Farley discuss tissue culture technology with the BioCrops team. Photo: GKI

In April 2015, building off of a year of work with BioCrops to clarify the specific challenges that need to be addressed to scale TC across Uganda, GKI returned to Uganda with two international experts to launch a LINK problem solving network.

Developing networks and innovations for food security and nutrition

For two weeks in April, GKI worked with the BioCrops team to develop strategies to improve distribution of planting materials, increase capacity along the value chain, improve productivity in the lab, and boost farmer

uptake of TC planting materials. Based on these goals, GKI had identified two key experts to begin building the BioCrops LINK network.  Dr. Nina Fedoroff, former Science and Technology advisor to the US Secretary of State, is a biotechnologist with great experience in lab techniques and Mr. Rami Alsouqi, an agri-business expert based in the Netherlands, has extensive experience in propagating and distributing planting material.  Both joined GKI’s team in Uganda.


Dr. Geofrey Arinaitwe (left) and Dr. David Talengera (right) of BioCrops Uganda Ltd. guide international experts through their screen houses. Photo: GKI

GKI designed and executed a week-long training aimed at identifying specific TC solutions and determining how the team could effectively work together to solve problems.  Fedoroff and Alsouqi joined this facilitated training, providing both practical and strategic advice and resources.  For example, over the course of two days at the BioCrops lab, Alsouqi identified over 20 opportunities for process improvements.  Together, the group charted those interventions that the BioCrops team could take on in the short- and long-term, and began identifying how they might bring new resources and partners into their nascent network.  A first step to activating this network: bringing together high-level actors from the Ugandan agricultural sector to share BioCrops’ work and plans, and work to better understand other actors’ needs.

During a day-long workshop on April 28 hosted at the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) in Kampala, Uganda, GKI convened stakeholders including USAID, the World Bank, HarvestPlus, and others to (1) share BioCrops’ work in developing and refining potential solutions to TC planting material challenges, (2) begin a dialogue on specific challenge areas identified as ripe for partnership, and (3) identify new ways to collaborate within Uganda’s innovation system.  In a facilitated working session, participants developed 76 possible innovations to address these challenges, selecting eight top innovations to further explore.  By the end of the workshop, the participants had offered 86 resources and partners needed for these innovations to deliver impact.  Find an after action report detailing the outputs and outcomes of that convening here.


GKI team members, international experts, and the BioCrops team outside of the BioCrops labs in Uganda. Photo: GKI

Since these meetings, the BioCrops team has moved forward on a number of initiatives such as identifying partners to test LED lights for growing tissue culture plantlets, optimizing growing in screen houses, and communicating with partners identified at the UNCST meeting. Moving forward, GKI and BioCrops will work together with international partners to spur action among new collaborations developed at the April workshop, identify new partners to support BioCrops’ work in Uganda, and monitor the network’s growth and optimization. GKI is thrilled to continue working with BioCrops and the expanding network of partners to address challenges across the banana and sweet potato value chains and to improve food / nutritional security across Uganda.

Al Jazeera hosts GKI’s Sara Farley on “The Stream”

Sara Farley poses on set with The Stream hosts Malika Balil and Omar Baddar.

Sara Farley poses on set with The Stream hosts Malika Balil and Omar Baddar.

Sparked by France’s passage of a recent law making it illegal for supermarkets to waste food, Al Jazeera produced a 30 minute piece on an issue central to GKI’s work on innovation for global development:   food loss. France’s bold new law forces stores to donate unsold food to charities or animal feed instead of discarding it. GKI’s co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Sara Farley appeared live on Al Jazeera’s television program The Stream to discuss food waste and spoilage, balancing the French perspective with a global one infused by GKI’s work as a Social Innovation Lab on Food Waste and Spoilage for the Rockefeller Foundation. The panel, which included Corin Bell of the Real Junk Food Project, Jenny Rustemeyer of Just Eat It, and JoAnne Berkenkamp of the Natural Resources Defense Council, largely centered around food waste (food that reaches the market but is discarded and not consumed) in the developed world. Conversely, Sara brought a unique perspective to the panel by stressing the importance of reducing food loss during harvest and post-harvest storage, processing, handling, and preservation. With widespread ramifications, post-harvest food loss contributes to lost wages, lost food, and decreased health in the developing world.

GKI's Chief Operating Officer discusses food waste & spoilage on Al Jazeera's The Stream.

GKI’s Chief Operating Officer discusses food waste & spoilage on Al Jazeera’s The Stream.

“Globally, policy innovations that target farmers—as opposed to super markets alone—have a bigger impact on reducing post harvest lost,” Sara noted. “It’s a problem that reduces the income of 470 million farmers in Africa. We need to think holistically about food loss in a way that puts farmers centrally in the picture, together with consumers, policymakers, purchasers, and researchers. Many innovative initiatives in Africa are lighting the way for how these approaches can work.” One such innovation is Project Nurture, a Gates Foundation initiative to reduce food loss in the mango sector of Kenya led by TechnoServe and Coca Cola, both of whom participated in GKI’s Collaboration Colloquium, held in Nairobi, Kenya in February 2015 as part of GKI’s Social Innovation Lab on Food Waste and Spoilage initiative. Project Nurture is a great example of how a multi-sectoral approach can reduce loss and improve incomes. GKI was thrilled to be a part of this unique opportunity to draw more attention to the pressing global issue of food waste and spoilage and hopes to continue the discussion on the international stage!


Training Update: GKI Works with Entrepreneurs in Kampala, Uganda

The GKI team traveled to Kampala, Uganda in April, 2015 to work with The Uganda National Council of Science and Technology (UNCST) to train Ugandan researchers on key entrepreneurship skills for BlogPic1successfully launching ventures.

In back-to-back intensive trainings, GKI trained two cohorts on entrepreneurship tools such as value propositions, rapid prototyping, and “strategy shaping” – a tool for clarifying the resources, partners, and activities needed to reach specific outcoBlogPic2mes.  Participants, who were applicants for a Ugandan government entrepreneurship fund, expressed their appreciation for tools they learned at the training.  One participant noted that “Right from the start, [GKI] helped us focus on the problem and find the solution.  By learning about value propositions, market segments, and strategy techniques, I was finally able to understand my solution in relation to the market/user.”

GKI and UNCST are long-term partners, having collaborated even before they signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2013.  GKI looks forward to further engaging and building on its relationship with UNCST over the coming years.