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IFPRI publishes a discussion paper on stories of change in nutrition

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Stories of Change TOOL POOL_001In December 2015, Transform Nutrition research consortium published a discussion paper which draws on inputs to, and discussions at, a ‘Stories of Change in nutrition’ methods development workshop held in January 2015. The paper recognises that examining various methods and tools together allows for a holistic consideration of the processes that—while challenging to document and measure— play a key role in improving nutrition-relevant policy and practice, which, in turn, drives national achievement in reducing malnutrition.

A recent multi-country review of scaling up impact on nutrition undertaken by the Transform Nutrition research consortium – Scaling Up Impact on Nutrition: What Will It Take? (Gillespie, Menon, and Kennedy, 2015) – summed up the challenge as follows: “Relatively strong consensus exists on what needs to be done, but much less is known about how to operationalize the right mix of actions in different contexts, how to do so at a scale that matches the size of the problem, in an equitable manner—and how to do so in ways that link nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions”.

The Stories of Change (SoC) initiative, under the auspices of the Transform Nutrition research consortium, seeks to help strengthen this evidence base by developing case studies that will capture experiential learning in six countries. These countries—Bangladesh, Nepal, India (Odisha), Senegal, Zambia, and Ethiopia—all have high burdens of undernutrition, but they have achieved notable results in improving nutrition outcomes in recent years. This paper provides an overview of the various analytical tools, frameworks, and methods that were considered for use by Stories of Change teams to examine nutrition-relevant change in these countries. The focus is on nutrition-relevant policy and practice. The tools apply to 11 subthemes, which are to some extent sequential within policy/programming cycles:

  • Assessing the nutrition problem
  • Stakeholder and institutional analysis/mapping
  • Understanding enabling environments for nutrition
  • Agenda setting and political commitment for nutrition
  • Policy formulation and policy processes
  • Multisectoral coordination
  • Implementation and vertical coherence
  • Scaling up
  • Assessing capacity
  • Assessing finance
  • Monitoring, evaluation, and accountability.

Find the discussion paper at the International Food Policy Research Institute E-Brary Knowledge Repository

Stories of Change in nutrition initiative

In recent years, the discourse around nutrition has, at a global level, gained major political momentum. Yet although there is substantial evidence on what is needed to improve nutrition outcomes, less is known about how to achieve it: how to operationalize actions effectively across sectors, at the appropriate scale, in line with local contexts, and in ways that link nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions.  To fill this knowledge gap, Transform Nutrition has identified a need for more experiential learning—that is, learning based on the experiences of policymakers, implementers, and nutrition leaders in formulating and implementing nutrition-relevant policies and programs.

Many countries are voicing a demand for a different type of knowledge and evidence—namely, evidence on how nutrition improves, and how to (proactively) improve nutrition outcomes. It is a call for experiential learning that draws upon the experiences of policymakers, nutrition leaders, program managers, and implementers in making decisions on what to do in real time, in different country contexts.

  • How should multisectoral nutrition plans be designed, coordinated, and implemented?
  • How do policymakers decide upon the right mix of programs for a given context and implement them effectively?
  • How do they move beyond asking “what has worked?” to understand why it worked?

To meet this growing demand, the Transform Nutrition consortium developed the Stories of Change (SoC) initiative, which involves the development of a set of in-depth case studies of countries that have achieved significant progress in nutrition in recent years.

SoC uses a structured, systematic, and comparative approach to document change in nutrition-relevant policy and practice at different levels, with a strong emphasis on facilitating shared learning across countries. Successfully undertaking the SoC research, using both secondary and primary data sources, involves the application and adaptation of a set of analytical tools, frameworks, and methods to assess and analyze changes and challenges in the case study countries. This type of study has rarely been undertaken in a comprehensive manner. Various country case studies of progress in addressing undernutrition have been developed in the past (see Gillespie, Mason, and Martorell [1996] and the UN Standing Committee on Nutrition [SCN] case studies of the early 1990s and mid-2000s).

Transform Nutrition identifies that there are now three advantages. First, there is a new global political momentum to address malnutrition (a momentum that now needs to be fueled by experience of positive change). Second, there have been significant advances in the development and use of a variety of methods and tools for analyzing the political economy of nutrition and change processes; no longer are political and policy processes locked into black boxes beyond the purview of nutrition professionals. And third, there are more data and more experience than ever before.

About Transform Nutrition

Transform Nutrition is led by the International Food Policy Research Institute and the Transform Nutrition consortium is made of up of five organisations, each with their own distinct roles. The Transform Nutrition management team, drawn from these organisations, leads the day-to-day work and a steering group, with representatives from each of the organisations, guides their work. Transform Nutrition is a six-year research consortium funded with aid from the UK government. Transform Nutrition aims to transform thinking and action on nutrition and strengthen nutrition-relevant evidence to accelerate undernutrition reduction in South Asia and Africa south of the Sahara. For more information, see

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