New Program Oversight Panel Chair Jo Luck shares her thoughts
Two sentiments that come across strongly when speaking with Jo Luck about her appointment as Chair of the Program Oversight Panel (POP) are excitement and enthusiasm.
For those unfamiliar with the Program's governance, the POP provides strategic oversight and monitoring, together with guidance on science quality, gender, partnerships and networking.
Just after confirming her appointment, Jo relayed some of her thoughts about the role she is taking on and the Program itself.
What motivated you to take on this role what excites you about the Program and the POP?
“I’m very excited about taking on this role”, Jo says, “especially when thinking about the Program's possibilities. As we collectively face the challenge of how to ensure there is enough accessible, affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate food to feed 9 billion people in 2050 without compromising natural resources, issues such as gender equity, just practices, and participatory decision-making are going to be critical. There are so many challenges that need to be faced – climate change, the economic downturn, scarcity of water, discontent over the growing disparity of wealth, post harvest waste in emerging countries – that need to be taken into account when considering how to improve the wellbeing of the millions of people dependent on aquatic agricultural systems. As I come to know more about the Program and its goals, I feel sure that the approach being taken is right on target and so I’m honored to be a part of it.
Since you mentioned the Program's approach, you will have noted that one of the most important aspects is its research methodology which is community centered and highly participatory and iterative. How do you see this approach delivering greater impact in the communities will engage with?
“This approach is just right and is, in my opinion, the only way to success. My experience from Heifer is that project interventions, such as those the AAS Program will make, need to listen and learn from these interventions. I remember visiting a village in Ethiopia a short while back, and seeing a woman that had been given 6 goats. What we learned from that intervention is that, not only the woman herself had improved her livelihood prospects from these few animals, but others in the village had also benefited. The other villagers had drawn from that woman’s experience and their own entrepreneurial spirit had started to flourish and they were contributing to the overall development of the village community. Drawing from my own leadership experience, talking to stakeholders about their needs, core values and vision and trying to get their full participation will lead to greater ownership. People need to own and believe in the program and what it is offering.
What do you see as the major challenges facing the Program and the POP?
“It is a challenging Program but then everything worthwhile is challenging. We are living in a time of economic uncertainty and as such there is increased competition to find funds. We need to better learn how to involve decision makers and change agents in our agenda and understand what speaks to them. We will have to reach out to these audiences, listen to what they say and build trust. For general audiences we need to help them to understand that research is not an ‘extra’ but part of the development process. “
How would you judge success for the program in the short and long term?
“The short term success of the Program will rely a lot on setting realistic expectations and desired outcomes. We will need concrete specific targets and outline the steps it will take to get there. Then take the time to reflect and look back – where are we behind and where are we ahead? Why?”
“In the longer term I would judge the program successful if it stands on its own, is sustainable, more partners have joined and if the elements of the Program are being replicated. “
This Panel has a large number of independent members. What do you think is the importance of having independent members on the POP and how will this independence help address the challenges being taken up?
“I think it is a very healthy approach in having such a large proportion of the POP being independent. It’s good to look outward to get differing perspectives and will be valuable as we guide the Program. In my experience from being a member of the Board for the International Livestock Research Institute, I’ve seen that outside perspectives can help the research process by allowing us to look at other aspects besides research.”
What message would you like to convey to stakeholders at this stage?
“Firstly, I’d like to say how honored and excited I am to work with the other members of the Panel and the staff involved with the Program. This Program is one that will have us all working together to meet the challenges I mentioned earlier. I really do believe that the approach being taken in this Program will lead to success building on increased investment in quality research and transparent dissemination of findings at every level. I very much look forward to being part of this and contributing how I can to the success of the Program.”
A little bit more about Jo
Jo brings a wealth of experience and skills to her role with the Program being a 2010 World Food Prize Laureate and former president of Heifer International. In addition, Jo has been appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on USAID’s Board for International Food and Agricultural Development, which advises USAID administrators on agricultural development priorities and issues as they relate to famine and hunger. As well, Jo is a member of the “DuPont and Pioneer Advisory Committee on Agriculture Innovation and Productivity,” charged with recommendations for feeding a billion people in 2050; The Chicago Council’s “Global Agricultural Development Initiative,” charged with recommendations to the presidential administration for implementation and monitoring of Feed the Future; and the Steering Committee of the Farm Foundation “Dialogue on Food and Agriculture in the 21st Century.”
Interview Notes: 28 November 2011