The CGIAR crop improvement (CI) programs, unlike commercial CI programs, which are mainly geared to profit though meeting farmers’ needs, are charged with meeting multiple objectives with target populations that include both farmers and the community at large. We compiled the opinions from more than thirty experts in the private and public sector on key strategies, methodologies and activities that could the help CGIAR meet the challenges of providing farmers with improved varieties while simultaneously meeting the goals of: (i) nutrition, health, and food security; (ii) poverty reduction, livelihoods, and jobs; (iii) gender equality, youth and inclusion; (iv) climate adaptation and mitigation and (v) environmental health and biodiversity. We review the crop improvement processes starting with crop choice, moving through to breeding objectives, production of potential new varieties, selection and finally adoption by farmers. The importance of multi-disciplinary teams working towards common objectives is stressed as a key factor to success. The role of the distinct disciplines, actors and their interactions throughout the process from crop choice through to adoption by farmers is discussed and illustrated.