The challenge

National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) operate in charged atmospheres of competing interests from donors, government, stakeholders, beneficiaries and researchers. In this swirling and uncertain structure, NARI plant breeders are forced to make breeding decisions with limited resources and human capital. Lacking in-depth analysis to back strategic priority decisions, breeders run the risk of investing years in development of a variety that may not be adopted. Without clear and actionable priorities, scientists could breed for plant traits that are not prioritized by farmers and consumers, triggering misaligned cycles of supply and demand throughout the food system.

“We need to think critically about how we operate, because at the end of the day priority setting is political. Donors have their priorities; programs have their priorities; breeders have their priorities and the nexus of all of that, often results in decisions that aren't made through a well-thought process. At ILCI, we want to challenge that.”

Hale Ann TufanPriority setting co-lead

Our approach

Recognizing that programs cannot breed for everything at once, we encourage breeders to think critically about multidimensional priorities across economic, environmental, nutritional, gender equity, youth engagement and resilience considerations. We partner with Centers of Innovation to analyze optimal impacts into particular decisions and investments. This collaborative approach includes important conversations about long-term assessments, whose voices are heard, what assumptions are embedded in decision making, the role of power dynamics, and the relationships between suppliers and consumers. We believe that crop improvement is central to addressing grand challenges such as youth unemployment, climate change, malnutrition and gender inequality. However, aligning these ambitious efforts with rigorous analysis is critical to bring the potential impacts to life.

Recent highlights

Ex-ante analysis

To analyze potential benefits for each product profile over the next 25 years

Gendered value chain analysis

This tool will assess who is growing, processing and consuming the crop

Supplier-consumer disconnect

Study how to improve communication between diverse stakeholders

Research from our experts

In progress

  • Impact Centered Varietal Design Framework: will take a human-centric approach to help National Agricultural Research Institutes assess their breeding priorities, challenge their assumptions, perform engaged research and ultimately prioritize the impact they want to make through crop improvement.
  • Ex-ante analysis: will help breeders analyze product profiles with a 25-year forecast of potential benefits with goals to reduce poverty, promote gender equality, boost economic growth and more.
  • Adapt and customize existing tools: help Centers of Innovation optimally use surveys, analyses and investigation strategies that are tailored to their unique needs.

Recent research from our experts

Priority setting team

Martina Occelli

Martina Occelli

Priority setting co-lead

Hale Ann Tufan

Priority setting co-lead

David Brown

David Brown

Postdoctoral associate

Miguel Gomez

Robert G. Tobin Associate Professor in the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

Sergio Puerto

Ph.D. candidate in Applied Economics