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10 Sep, 2018


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Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources will partner with Michigan State University to lead the Innovation Scholars Program at Malawi University of Science and Technology. Select faculty who participated in the program when it was implemented at LUANAR in 2016-2017 will co-facilitate the program with MSU’s Global Center for Food Systems Innovation.

GCFSI and LUANAR originally created the Innovation Scholars Program in 2015, and implemented it the following year to a group of faculty and university leaders. It was designed to support LUANAR in the quest to develop innovative responses to agricultural challenges that impact the food supply. The program’s success—illustrated by faculty who integrate the approach into research and teaching, and the recent introduction of a new Bachelor of Science degree program in agriculture innovations—led GCFSI and LUANAR to consider how the ISP could be scaled to other regional universities.

Funded through a $1 million grant awarded to GCFSI by the United States Agency for International Development, the program will serve 10–15 MUST faculty, 8–10 MUST administrators, and up to 15 members of the Malawi National Engineering Ecosystem Network (MNEEN), a convening body.

“The program is based on two key principles,” said Richter. “First, innovation is a process, not a product, and it can be learned. Second, individuals best learn the process of innovation through practice. Given that, we really emphasize experiential learning. We did that with LUANAR, even going on an excursion to see the Nairobi innovation ecosystem, and will do the same with MUST. But, this time, we’re adding a peer-to-peer element. We are very excited to work with a handful of outstanding graduates of the LUANAR ISP. Together we will co-lead the MUST program. Looking ahead, MUST graduates can co-lead future iterations of the program.”

Through workshops, applied research, and partnerships, scholars learn how to use design thinking and systems thinking to better understand and address specific problems. Outside the workshops, they practice what they learn by working with a group to identify a solution to a real-world challenge. Scholars choose a research topic relevant to their field, select a solution design team made of public and private representatives, and then connect with end-users to discuss the proposed solution before implementing.

“People who are impacted by the problem, who have a stake in finding a solution, provide essential perspectives that are all too often overlooked. Maybe they point out an underlying issue or social dynamic that previously wasn’t seen as a related concern,” said Amy Jamison, co-director of MSU’s Alliance for African Partnership and gender advisor for the MUST ISP. “When researchers develop a more complete perspective, they can preempt potentially unforeseen consequences of an intervention.”

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Communications Contact: Katie Deska, deskakat@msu.edu