Synthesis Documents

LINK methodology: A participatory guide to business models that link smallholders to markets, CIAT 2012

    The LINK Methodology aims to promote the engagement of small holder producers with modern markets by guiding a multi-stakeholder process of shaping or upgrading inclusive trading relationships with the potential to create win-win situation for all actors involved. For that reason, four key tools are designed to kick off, implement and conclude a participatory innovation process in the iterative manner of a “design-test-check-act” cycle.

    Key tool 1 - Value Chain Map: A strongly visual approach to the classic value chain analysis, divided into a nested perspective of core processes, partner network and external influences.

    Key tool 2 - The business model canvas: Adapted from Osterwalder’s innovative approach, this participatory tool has proved to be extremely valuable for small-scale farmers, NGOs and buyers in understanding business goals and practices.

    Key tool 3 - The new business model principles: Represent a set of signposts to help evaluate current business practices in terms of their inclusiveness and to deliver practical ideas on how to enhance a business’ inclusiveness.

    Key tool 4 - The prototype cycle: A mixture of iterative learning and formal monitoring and evaluation approaches, the prototype cycle aims to design, test and evaluate the progress of innovative elements for an existing or new business model on a regular basis and to facilitate the decision between up-scaling aspects that work and redesigning elements that fail.

    Methods for info gathering
    The LINK methodology is based on: a) direct experiences of research projects in several countries in Latin America and Africa; b) more than twenty business model case studies which have proved to work for small-scale producers; and, c) the growing literature around business models as a design/development tool to augment the effectiveness of business processes to fight poverty. The methodology is highly adaptive, participatory and open to improvement. The exercises and approaches in the guide are not carved in stone but should rather be used in the way most beneficial for the involved actors.