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					Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


               1. Setting Information Priorities




                                This lesson will help you answer three
                                questions.

                                •Why is it important for your organisation to
                                set information priorities?

                                •Who are your target users and what will
                                they use your information for?

                                •What are the first steps and decisions that
                                you must take?




                                                                                1
          Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


                         1. Setting Information Priorities



Dr. Carama is the Director of Information
Services at the Mulalo Maize Research
Institute (MMRI). MMRI has three
mandates: one for research, one for
outreach, and one for training.




                                                                                  2
            Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


                           1. Setting Information Priorities


Research.

MMRI carries out research in many
locations. Most takes place in fields and
labs at the central campus near the capital
city. Some happens at provincial research
stations. More-and-more is being done in
cooperation with farmers on their own
fields. And some is even done outside the
country, as part of cooperative maize
research programmes between countries in
the region.




                                                                                    2a
            Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


                           1. Setting Information Priorities



Outreach.

MMRI recognizes that its research will only
be valuable if it reaches people who can use
it. These potential audiences range from
farmers, to teachers at agricultural schools
and universities, to scientists within MMRI
and outside, to managers in agricultural
development organizations, to
policymakers, to NGOs, and to international
donors.




                                                                                    2b
            Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


                           1. Setting Information Priorities
                                   training
Training.

MMRI conducts an active education
programme. Participants in its courses and
seminars include mostly farmers and
extension workers, and sometimes
policymakers.




                                                                                    2c
Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


               1. Setting Information Priorities



                                 Dr. Carama has just received an urgent
                                 request from the Director General of MMRI.
                                 The DG wants a clear statement of
                                 information priorities for the institute.




                                                                          3
Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


               1. Setting Information Priorities


                                 Dr. Carama:


                                 I have just received your budget request
                                 for next year. You have proposed an
                                 ambitious programme. I commend the
                                 enthusiasm of you and your staff, and I
                                 congratulate you for the progress you
                                 have made in making MMRI one of the
                                 leading providers of agricultural
                                 information in our country.

                                 My only concern is vision. Where is the
                                 MMRI information programme going? Where
                                 should we be in five years? What are our
                                 priorities?




                                                                            3a
Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


               1. Setting Information Priorities




                                 Your request contains budget lines for
                                 hardware and software, improved Internet
                                 access, subscriptions to hardcopy and
                                 electronic journals, publications in hardcopy
                                 and electronic formats, training of MMRI
                                 staff and our clients, and content
                                 development. But can we afford all these
                                 activities and improvements? Again my
                                 question: what are our highest priorities?


                                 The purpose of this letter is to request you
                                 to undertake a systematic priority-setting
                                 exercise. I have two specific reasons for this
                                 request at this time.




                                                                            3b
Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


               1. Setting Information Priorities

                                 First, the Ministry has asked MMRI to
                                 develop a 5-year information plan, and I
                                 believe that priority-setting is a good first
                                 step. Second, MMRI is running a budget
                                 deficit this year, as you know, and some
                                 people have suggested that we might
                                 consider reducing the size of our
                                 information programme. I am not in favour
                                 of this last alternative, but I need
                                 systematic priority-setting data in order to
                                 support my case.

                                 Please think urgently about your "Priority
                                 Information Themes". I look forward to
                                 receiving a progress report from you within
                                 the next two weeks.

                                 Yours sincerely


                                                                            3c
Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


               1. Setting Information Priorities

                              Dr. Carama is proud of the Information Services
                              Department.

                              In his three years as Director, he has increased
                              the number of computers in the institute so that
                              there is now one for every two MMRI staff. Each
                              computer is part of an institute-wide network,
                              which in turn is connected to the Internet.

                              He has also encouraged MMRI scientists to use
                              electronic journals for their research. (If you are
                              connected, you may click to see two of the
                              major resources that he suggests.)

                              • AGORA, Access to Global Online Research in
                              Agriculture, www.aginternetwork.org/en

                              • TEEAL, The Essential Electronic Agricultural Library,
                              teeal.cornell.edu



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Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


               1. Setting Information Priorities



                                Dr. Carama has also developed an active
                                MMRI publications programme, as well as
                                an information training programme.

                                •His monthly newsletter, MAIZE NEWS,
                                reaches approximately 5,000 producers,
                                wholesalers, and scientists. He publishes a
                                semi-annual scientific journal and many
                                extension brochures.

                                •In cooperation with the MMRI Training
                                Department, he and his staff conducted
                                more than 15 courses, workshops, and
                                seminars last year for institute users.




                                                                              5
            Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


                           1. Setting Information Priorities



What to do about the request from
the Director General?

Dr. Carama decides to call two MMRI staff
to his office for a brainstorming session.
Shema is a scientist in the Department of
Breeding and Genetics, and Akil is in
charge of publications within the
Information Services Department.

Dr. Carama has questions. How should
MMRI best use the information resources
that the Department has been able to
make available? Will MMRI information
users and uses be the same in three years
as they are now?



                                                                                    6
             Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


                            1. Setting Information Priorities




Shema and
Akil have
three
responses
to Dr.
Carama's
questions.




                                                                                     7
          Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


                         1. Setting Information Priorities




Dr. Carama is convinced.

He decides that MMRI will undertake a
systematic exercise try to set its
information priorities.

But he still has two more questions.




                                                                                  8
              Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


                             1. Setting Information Priorities




Will not different information USERS
have different SUBJECT priorities?

The problem is that a farmer may think
that information on pests is a high priority,
while a scientist will be most interested in
material on breeding, and a policymaker
will want data on marketing.

Can we make just ONE list of information
priorities?




                                                                                      9
Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


               1. Setting Information Priorities




                                    Dr. Carama wonders...

                                    Do we need to do a priority-setting
                                    exercise for EACH of these user
                                    groups?




                                                                          10
             Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


                            1. Setting Information Priorities

I can think of three
questions that we
should try to
answer.




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Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


               1. Setting Information Priorities




                                                               Dr. Carama is
                                                               beginning to see
                                                               that a priority-
                                                               setting process
                                                               should take
                                                               many different
                                                               considerations
                                                               into account.




                                                                            12
Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


               1. Setting Information Priorities




                                                                        13
                   Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


                                  1. Setting Information Priorities

Dr. Carama is
becoming
more-and-
more
committed to a
priority-setting
process. He
likes the
bottom-up
approach.

He decides
that they
should go for
a one-day
meeting and
he proposes
three actions.



                                                                                           14
Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


               1. Setting Information Priorities




                                                          Akil returns to his
                                                          office. He decides
                                                          that he will
                                                          actually make two
                                                          lists of potential
                                                          participants.




                                                                            15
Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


               1. Setting Information Priorities


                                                       Meanwhile, back in her
                                                       lab, Shema gets started
                                                       on two draft lists of
                                                       information subjects.

                                                       She knows that these
                                                       lists are only
                                                       preliminary. Dr.
                                                       Carama will use them
                                                       as starting points for
                                                       discussion in the
                                                       meeting, and
                                                       participants will be
                                                       invited to change
                                                       them in the course of
                                                       the priority-setting
                                                       process.



                                                                             16
Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


               1. Setting Information Priorities




                                 While his two colleagues are working on
                                 their assignments, Dr. Carama drafts an
                                 announcement for the meeting.




                                                                           17
Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


               1. Setting Information Priorities




                                Dear Colleagues,

                                We are at the beginning of an "information
                                revolution" for agriculture in our country.
                                Organizations like MMRI have invested
                                heavily in new information technology, new
                                means of accessing scientific journals and
                                databases, new types of electronic
                                publications, and new approaches to
                                training.

                                But where is MMRI going with its
                                information programmes?




                                                                              17a
Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


               1. Setting Information Priorities




                                Where would we like to be in five years?

                                I have decided to call a one-day meeting to
                                discuss these issues. I hope that the output
                                of the meeting will be agreement on a
                                series of information investment
                                PRIORITIES for MMRI.

                                This meeting will be both timely and
                                urgent. Our Ministry has asked MMRI to
                                develop a 5-year information plan. It wants
                                to know how we intend to reach
                                agricultural producers with our information
                                products and services.




                                                                           17b
Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


               1. Setting Information Priorities




                                We are inviting about 20 people. We would
                                like to keep the group small. Participants
                                will include MMRI staff, representatives of
                                the farming community, as well as officials
                                from government organisations, NGOs, and
                                commercial companies.

                                I look forward to seeing you there.

                                Yours sincerely,
                                Dr. A.B. Carama
                                Director of Information Services, MMRI




                                                                              17c
Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


               1. Setting Information Priorities




                                                                        Dr. Carama,
                                                                        Shema, and
                                                                        Akil are
                                                                        pleased with
                                                                        their
                                                                        preparations
                                                                        for the
                                                                        meeting.




                                                                                18
Priority Information Themes for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development


               1. Setting Information Priorities



                             In this lesson, we have covered five topics


                             • The rationale for setting information priorities
                             (Screens 6-7)
                             • Different audiences, different needs =
                             Different priorities
                             (Screens 8-10)
                             • Resource constraints
                             (Screen 11)
                             • A participatory approach to priority-setting
                             (Screens 12-13)
                             • Stakeholders, themes, and a call-to-meeting
                             (Screens 14-18)



                                                                        Summary

				
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