Let's start with Managing Wicked Problems in Agribusiness: The Role of Multi-Stakeholder Engagements in Value Creation. This paper offers insights and proposes an agenda to address problems with cause-and-effect relationships that are difficult to define, which cannot be solved without some level of controversy among various stakeholders, and that require collective action among societal groups. The authors call these "wicked problems." Examples of wicked problems include biodiversity loss, persistent poverty, food insecurity, and the use of biotechnology. The urgency, size, and complexity of climate change put it into the "super wicked problem" category.
This paper explores the tension between the recognition of the urgent need to address wicked problems and the lack of existing organizational structure - including engagement with a wide range of stakeholders - that is needed within an agribusiness. The authors provide a conceptual framework as well as helpful insights for analyzing wicked problems in agribusiness.
Wicked problem may come in various sizes, can be formal or informal, and might focus on specific or a broad range of issues. Engagement of a wide range of stakeholders will provide the diverse range of insights, knowledge and approaches that are needed to solve the issues at hand.
The participating organizations' level of proactiveness and responsiveness when engaging with stakeholders also will depend on the organization's dynamic capabilities, stakeholder integration, higher-order learning, continuous innovation, and stakeholder orientation. Each participating organization will have to reap value from multi-stakeholder engagement to remain involved. The added value may include building new resources and capabilities or reducing costs, to name a few examples.
In a complementary paper, Partnering for Change in Chains: the Capacity of Partnerships to Promote Sustainable Change in Global Agrifood Chains, IFAMA analyzes the capacity of multi-stakeholder engagement - focusing on partnerships in cocoa, coffee and cotton - to promote a shift towards a more sustainable global agriculture supply chain from a governance and development perspective.
The authors note that trade globalization has created interdependencies between actors and across borders that exist outside of individual governments' authority. Governance - and shared responsibility - is the key to engaging actors to address areas beyond governments' jurisdiction or core competencies.
The authors analyzed the capacity of partnerships by looking at how partnerships address:
- Agenda setting: Identifying what values are at stake and what the root causes of a given problem are. Setting an agenda also encourages actors to modify their behavior to better the outcome of the partnership. An example includes the openness of businesses and NGOs to develop partnerships aimed toward a common goal despite differing initial viewpoints.
- Rule setting: Establishing new norms and standards. Examples include voluntary sustainability standards and certification systems.
- Policy implementation: Partnerships have introduced good agricultural practices and processes to farmers in developing countries who do not have adequate access to extension services and knowledge.
- Upscaling and creating networked structures: When standards work on pre-competitive issues (e.g. child labor) they can often create linkages (e.g. overlapping membership, institutional support) that enable the transfer of knowledge, resources, and services among a wider range of stakeholders. These linkages can be enhanced through "meta-governance organizations" that facilitate the transfer of knowledge and actively promote a common vision.
- Currently, the core debates on the implementation of standards center on compliance standards and certification cost. There is consensus that the producers' capacity to comply with standards is critical and must be developed.
- Most multi-stakeholder initiatives are primarily business-driven, using a demand-oriented strategy rather than a producer-driven one to meet a needs-based strategy.
- Partnerships can initiate change that, over time, can have a chain-wide effect on governance. In some supply chains, such as coffee and cocoa, dominant brands can lead to the mainstreaming of sustainability - but their participation can also exacerbate the imbalance of resources and market power in the supply chain. Such a concentration of market power is not as significant in more fragmented supply chains, such as cotton.
- Limitations of partnerships and gaps in their solutions should be addressed. This may require an adjustment in the role of NGOs - and businesses - and more participation by governments.