19 July 2012 zichtbaarzijn

By Lisette van Benthum

Introduction

Co-Funding NGO’s nowadays do not hesitate to invest in production cooperatives and companies in developing countries to stimulate economic development. It is the aim of these NGO’s that farmers take over the NGO’s responsibility as shareholder in the company in the future. Funding NGO’s and companies both acknowledge that in reality it is difficult to create the right understanding with farmers on their role as a shareholder: executing and assuring the long term objectives of a company. In practice it therefore too seldom happens that farmers successfully assume the role of shareholder in the company.

Idea

Observing this ‘deadlock’ in improving this situation, FSAS decided to bring the debate on this issue a step further by launching a discussion in which practitioners and researchers would be given the opportunity to reflect, debate, propose and conclude. We decided to use the online tool MIXXT and developed a strategy for innovative online debating.

The lessons: how to organize a quick and focused online debate

  • Choose one, well defined, focused and current subject, on which no other focused discussions are taking place at that moment.
  • Actively market the discussion on your own website, through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, not only prior to the launch but also during the e-discussion.
  • Keep the moderation and content development in one hand and assure daily active attention for moderation / direction of the discussion.
  • Plan the discussion and take measures in advance (such as having discussion subjects and statements, practical cases and even new participation of knowledgeable and experienced people, ready) to get the discussion back on track and lively.
  • Keep the debate limited in time and close it officially. It avoids everlasting discussion groups in which nothing happens anymore; this e-discussion was live only for 3 weeks.

Results

  • Almost 200 interested people signed in, 10% of them actively participated in the debate, including key specialists.
  • Regarding Shareholding by Farmers the following issues were worked out and discussed:
    1. Advantages of shareholding by farmers
    2. Critical circumstances in which the model itself could hamper the business
    3. Risks and prerequisites for shareholders
    4. Minority/majority shareholding
    5. Farmers’ long term commitment
  • A focused exploration took place of 6 Alternative Business Models, which reinforce the position of the farmer in the value chain, without the farmer being a shareholder:
    1. Shareholding by Farmers Model
    2. Collaborative Trade Model
    3. Cooperative Model
    4. Contract Farming Model
    5. Leasing Model
    6. Hybrid Model
  • The marketing of FSAS itself was a good side-result. More specialized organizations such as Agri Pro Focus, Wageningen University (CDI), Van Hall Larenstein and KIT have shown concrete interest in the methodology, systems and approach used and in continuing the debate on the role of farmers in shareholding.
  • The discussion has been closed, but is still viewable through http://shareholdingbyfarmers.mixxt.com

Enthusiastic? Realize that organizing such a discussion takes daily substantial time from both the support staff operating the discussion tool as well as the specialist moderating its content.

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