(See the first and second parts of this story.)

In 2015, Heifer decided to train its technical staff in South America, Mexico, and Haiti to use the LINK Methodology, as it had already done in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. This followed a decision by the organization´s management to include LINK in its tool kit for fostering more inclusive businesses.

For this purpose, a workshop on the LINK methodology was held in Cusco, Peru, on 4-10 October, which brought together two members of the team in Bolivia, three from Ecuador, and four from Peru as well as three from Mexico and two from Haiti to continue expanding in the Americas, while one team member from Africa and another from Asia took part, with the aim of sowing the seed in their regions.

As a result of this event, not only did more Heifer staff members become familiar with the LINK methodology, but they also laid the foundation for a learning cycle around LINK, which currently involves the following nine cases:

Peruvian producer who shares her organization’s business model for the production and sell of alpaca fiber. Video captured on 2015 during a follow-up visit to the field implementation of LINK.

Lessons learned so far 

Some of the lessons that Heifer has learned about LINK, based on its institutional experience and reflection, are as follows:

  • Tools for costing, budgeting, and financial record keeping need to be incorporated into the implementation process of LINK for detailed analysis of the business´s capacity to cover its operational costs, particularly given that there are cases in which the organization´s sustainability depends on donations, which make the analysis more complex.
  • Businesses that are already well established lend themselves most readily to the analysis of inclusion and market links. From Heifer´s perspective, the LINK methodology is not suitable for new businesses but rather for those already possessing at least minimal market connections and accessing these markets with their products.
  • In the future, it will be important to see how the improvement cycles of the business models (LINK’s key tool 4) are sustained over time. The actors initially tend to be enthusiastic, but then what happens with them six months or a year later? The critical point is to determine whether the business model is generating impact and changes in the long term.

In the prototype cycle (see key tool 4), it is important to capture experiences and lessons learned in relation to fundamental types of changes. In other words, the analysis should consider not just market links, but rather how organizations have strengthened their capacities, so that they derive lasting benefits from implementation of LINK. To this end, Heifer is planning to evaluate within a year how well the process has functioned or not and what factors have made it possible or not to sustain change over time.

“These experiences suggest that it´s worthwhile for us to continue with this process, facilitating market links, promoting dialogue, and learning more about the LINK methodology.”

Jennifer Zapata

Regional Director for Mesoamerica, Heifer International

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The LINK Methodology was developed as part of the New Business Models for Sustainable Trading Relationships Project, managed by the Sustainable Food Lab in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Rainforest Alliance (RA) with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) has supported further development of the toolkit with international NGOs in Latin America, including CRS, VECO and Heifer International.

The authors of this post:

Erika Eliana Mosquera

Erika Eliana Mosquera

Communications Analyst, Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area

Jhon Jairo Hurtado

Jhon Jairo Hurtado

Researcher, Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area

Natalia Gutiérrez

Natalia Gutiérrez

Communications Analyst, Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area

Mark Lundy

Mark Lundy

Theme Leader of Linking Farmers to Markets, Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area

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