3 min.

CapDev Grand Challenge boosts capacity of next-generation livestock researchers to influence decision makers


The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) started the CapDev Grand Challenge process to strengthen its capacity development support to individuals, national institutions and partners working in research and development in the livestock sector in West, Eastern and Southern Africa, as well as East, Southeast and South Asia.

Launched in 2019, the process aims to equip next-generation livestock researchers and livestock sector professionals with the leadership and interpersonal skills needed to be effective leaders and science communicators in the agriculture research landscape.

Those registered to join the challenge take part in a 10-month long capacity strengthening process as ILRI fellows. By the end of the process, the fellows are expected to become better in:

  • writing their science well,
  • pitching their research and ideas in a compelling way,
  • communicating their research to policymakers, decision makers and funders effectively and confidently,
  • preparing and making effective presentations,
  • working with, and managing, teams and engaging effectively with people from disciplines different from their own, and
  • complying with ethics in research and the workplace.

The capacity strengthening process has two parts. It begins with a pitching contest, where those selected each make a three-minute pitch of their research project to a panel of judges comprised of a donor, communications expert/journalist, policy development expert and a researcher. The judges select and award the 15 to 20 fellows with the most successful pitches. The overall winner receives a trophy, certificate and cash prize. The winners in other categories get certificates and cash prizes. Within the 10 months, each category winner is entitled to attend an international conference of their choice or one recommended by ILRI.

After the pitching contest, all fellows undergo a two-days hands-on training on project impact pathways, including how to work in and with teams. This training helps them start to think and work together as a multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary group.

In the second part, the selected fellows are trained on soft skills and given mentorship talks by renowned personalities from diverse fields and regions across the globe. The soft skills training and mentoring aim at strengthening their capabilities for systems thinking, stakeholder engagement, effective team building, partnership building and management, ethics and personal development. This second part of the process is open to all ILRI fellows, interns and staff.

Since its inception, the ILRI CapDev Grand Challenge has trained and mentored more than 300 young researchers from more than 50 national institutions that are ILRI’s partners.

Testimonials from some of the ILRI fellows who took part in the CapDev Grand Challenge process in 2019


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‘Boosting the capacity of young researchers in the livestock sector to effectively engage with others and communicate research findings clearly to policymakers, government officials, donors and other experts, will strengthen evidence-based decision-making in the livestock sector. It will also accelerate ILRI’s research to scale for societal impact,’ says Wellington Ekaya, head of Capacity Development at ILRI.

The second round of the ILRI CapDev Grand Challenge process will be launched at an online Fellows’ Science Seminar on 17 November 2020.

‘We look forward to another 10 months of exciting engagement, learning, honing soft skills, connecting and fun.’

Click here to join the launch event.