I came to work at the college as an employee of Engineers Without Borders Canada on the Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services (AgEx) team. One of my roles was to help facilitate the first year of the Innovation Committee.
The Innovation Committee was created out of the excitement and empowerment felt by lecturers coming out of the Dreams Assessment process. Many lecturers held ideas for bringing innovation into the agricultural extension curriculum at their college, but there was no platform or method for gaining resources to implement these ideas. Therefore AgEx partnered with the lecturers at this college to develop a platform where they could share their ideas with one another and with administration, and where the lecturers could democratically choose which ideas to focus on or support in a given year. I was asked to help facilitate the creation of the committee as a multi-partial actor in the system.
The context of the college is important for understanding why I was an appropriate choice of facilitator. Staff and administrative appointments at public agricultural colleges in Ghana are controlled by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. In past years, the Ministry had elected a new principal to the college. About half the staff at the college was in support of the new principal, and half were not, creating an atmosphere of mistrust, disenfranchisement, and frustration. When I arrived at the college, it was common for certain groups of lecturers to work together on projects, and certain individuals to be left out. Therefore, in order to create a platform for innovation that was truly inclusive, it was most effective to have an outsider facilitate meetings and other aspects of the committee during its first year.
With this context in mind, I started with a “callout” for the committee that was intentionally inclusive by using the voice of AgEx rather than specific lecturers, so it didn’t come off as belonging to any particular group. However, it should be noted that the intention was to eventually transfer the committee entirely into the hands of lecturers once enough trust was built amongst the group.
During the first meeting, I facilitated a collective defining of the committee’s purpose so that lecturers would feel total ownership over the committee after my exit. I used a combination of group brainstorming, visioning, and conversation to reach consensus on a purpose definition.
The group collectively defined the following purpose of the Innovation Committee:
- To solve societal problems;
- To act as a platform for the generation of ideas, mobilization of resources, and implementation and evaluation of ideas;
- To provide innovative practical learning opportunities on campus;
- To keep [the college] competitive and different;
For the rest of the meeting I facilitated a process for choosing which projects the committee wanted to work on for the 2013-14 school year.
The committee split into three sub-groups, each tasked with designing a proposal in one of the following areas:
- The creation of a Department of External Affairs to facilitate partnerships between the college and other agricultural stakeholders
- Designing a student practical program that will simultaneously be income-generating for the college
- Designing a process for improving the lines of communication at [the college]
In November 2013, the committee came together to present the various proposals and provide collective feedback. In December 2013, each sub-group brought actionable proposals to the committee, and their programs were implemented in January.
The committee was and continues to be successful in cultivating a more trusting and team-building atmosphere, as well as providing institution-wide support for lecturers to implement their innovative curriculum ideas.
The committee facilitation was transferred to college staff in 2014, and continues to thrive today (November 2015). A recent update from the college provided evidence of the lasting impact of the Dreams Assessment Process, and the value of the Innovation Committee. Read the November 2015 update below:
UPDATE ON Innovation committee and subsequent programs
Provided by the collegein November 2015
The committee have been working hard in serving as a platform for all staff members come together, share ideas and gets informed on what is happening in each of the departments either than theirs. It has organized a number of meetings where all staff and committee members are brought together to make suggestions and contributions towards projects and programs going on, on campus. Below are some of the activities committees and departments are engaged in.
External Affairs Unit
The unit since its inception has been working hand in hand with external partners or collaborators in helping the college, the staff and the students to grow together. As part of its efforts to make everyone understand and be part of building the college, it effectively carried out orientation for new leaders (principal and vice) and new lecturers transferred to the college. This was done for them to know where it’s coming from, its responsibilities, what it has done so far and what it intends doing in the near future.
Currently, the unit is working on helping to improve on the student’s external practical attachment for second years. It has also been collaborating with organizations like Farmer to Farmer, Royal Bank of Africa, Self Help, and Center for no-tillage (Dr. Kofi Boa).
The unit have also been working on how to improve on student’s external practical attachment. In view of this a committee have been put in place to visit some of our partners that are closer to the school or within Ashanti Region to find out how we could collaborate to make it a reality. We believe that if they agree, students could be given letters to specific organizations were they could be visited or traced during the period of the attachment and also interact with whoever will be in charge of them. This will help to give a new dimension to student’s external attachment and also aid in students attach importance to it.
Farmer to Farmer
So far the External Affairs Unit in collaboration with Farmer to Farmer organization have been able to successfully organize two workshops for two departments out of the six planned workshops. The aim of organizing these workshops is to build the capacities of lecturers in areas each department deem necessary to aid lecturers give off their best to students and farmers as a whole.
The first workshop was a two week workshop organized for the Engineering department and it was based on the use of GIS and GPS. I in this workshop, the opportunity was given to other lecturers in the other departments to participate if they were interested. In the end, 15 out of the 22 College lecturers participated. Also lecturers in [removed] Agric College were also informed and invited to participate. Two lecturers, including the Current vice principal [removed] and [removed] attended. In addition to the participants, Dr. Kofi Boa’s son Kofi Boa (the son of one of our partners, Center for no tillage) also took part in the two week workshop.
The second workshop which was also organized for a period of two weeks, was for the Extension, Economics and Agribusiness department. The area chosen by the department was Project Management. With this particular workshop, the External Affairs Unit, thought it wise to allow all lecturers in all the six departments to participate so they were given the opportunity and encouraged to get involved. This was to help build the capacities of all the lectures to be able to handle the various income generating activities they were engaged in. It was massively attended by lecturers in all the departments. In the end, three departments were able to come up with project documents with regards to the projects being carried on. The departments included the Animal Science, Non- Traditional, and Crop Science. Animal Science prepared a project document on broiler production, Non Traditional worked on mushroom production and Crop Science worked on vegetable production.
The principal was invited and briefed on the outcome of the of the workshop by the consultant and he agreed that he was going to do his best in providing the resources required to start these projects. In all, 22 people participated of which 7 were females and 15 were males. Certificates were also awarded to all participants by the Farmer to Farmer organization.
The third workshop which is scheduled for December 2015 will be the Animal Science department and area to be trained on will be on broiler bird processing. The broilers which will be used have already been purchased so preparations are underway.
The committee has finally come out with an organogram that is specific to the college. This was done by seeking comments and suggestions from all the staff members. Just when a meeting was to be convened for both teaching and non-teaching staff to be informed about it, some lecturers were transferred and new ones brought in, including the leadership (the principal and the vice).
The new people were briefed on it and they also made some suggestions and contributions. It is now complete but a meeting of all the teaching and non-teaching staff is yet to be convened for the necessary education to be given.
Income generating committee
Currently, departments that are currently into income generating activities are Non-Traditional and Animal Science.
Non-Traditional department is into the production of mushroom
Animal Science is into eggs and broiler production. The department has about 450 layers which are now producing about 70crates per week @ 10 cedis per crate.
Internal attachment committee
The committee since its inception have been able to successfully organize three internal attachment program for the students. In all the three, the committee worked in bringing students to nearby communities, to stay with and interact with farmers to know how life in rural communities is like, tap into farmers experience, know some of the problems they face, think critically and come out with practical solutions to the problem. This program is also seen as a way of bringing the community and the school together. In addition to going to the communities, students also visit the six departments to go through practical sessions. In all 6weeks is allocated to the practical learning of students.
Out of the three organized there were some challenges regarding the recent one. Although it was well planned and took off well, it faced some challenges. Some of the challenges were in relation with transportation, students mess and also finance. Due to the challenges, the program had to be brought to an end.
The Principal was later contacted and he suggested the committee meets to come out with suggestions on how the problems encountered could be curtailed in subsequent programs.
The committee thinks if all the financial problem is solve then a bigger chunk of the problem has been addressed. In view of this, it’s been suggested to the principal to bill students who are yet to participate in the program for their mess over the 6week period and buy fuel for transportation. Also, Dr. Kofi Boa of center for no tillage is to be contacted to find out how KAC and his center could work together to address the transportation problem of students traveling to his place by getting accommodation for students over the 3days.
Royal Bank of Africa
The college has partnered with Royal Bank of Africa. Through the relationship, the bank will have the opportunity get sell their products to both staff and students in the college and also get to promote their products to farmers from nearby communities during the student practical attachment period.
On the part of the College, the External Affairs Unit is currently working on a proposal to solicit for funding for the capacity building workshops being organized for staff in collaboration with Farmer to Farmer organization. This will help curtail any future financial problem that could lead to the inability of the four remaining departments to go through their workshops. Proposal writing has already started and very soon it will be submitted to the bank.
Self Help International
Last semester, two students from the college did their external attachment with the organization. Currently those two students, who are now in their final year have their project work being sponsored by Self Help International.
Center for No-Tillage
In collaboration with the Center, a No-Tillage Ambassadors Club consisting of over a hundred students including 16 executives has been formed and it was inaugurated at the recent launching of the student representative council (SRC) week. In Addition to the inauguration, Dr. Boa also donated one thousand cedis (₵1,000.00)to the club.
UPDATE ON INNOVATION COMMITTEE AND SUBSEQUENT PROGRAMS
Provided by the college in June 2016
The Innovation Committee is still running with active External Affairs and Internally Generated Funds (IGF) groups. The External Affairs group is working on the second stage of a new funding partnership and a new set of pigs arrived for IGF activities.
A few colleges are continuing to run the Internal Attachment program, and some have continued to innovate on the idea, adapting it to new opportunities and constraints.