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Building nutrition leadership skills in SUN countries

  |   SUN Country Network, SUN Donor Network

The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement’s progress relies significantly on national government Focal Points for galvanising in-country stakeholders to come together, align contributions and implement multi-sector plans for improving nutrition. Focal Points are central to multistakeholder nutrition platforms: they are conveners, facilitators, coordinators, problem-solvers… In addition to understanding health-related aspects relevant to malnutrition and the complexity of food-system approaches, Focal Points need to resolve conflicts of interest and rally people with differing views behind a shared vision: there may be more chance of eradicating all forms of malnutrition when stakeholders join forces and collaborate effectively.

In 2015 the Global Nutrition Report identified leadership as a key factor limiting progress in multi-sector nutrition actions and highlighted the need to address leadership gaps for improved nutrition outcomes. This was a catalyst for the SUN Movement to devise a strategy for providing functional capacity support to SUN Focal Points, together with key partners such as MQSUN+, Nutrition International, International Food Policy Research Institute and the African Nutrition Leadership Programme. Agriculture was also identified as a field where nutrition leadership was urgently needed and the strategy targeted programmes such as the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

Fifteen participants from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Liberia, Zambia, The Gambia, Lesotho and Kenya, including SUN and CAADP Focal Points, took part in a three-day retreat before engaging with other participants at the EAT Stockholm Food Forum in June 2019. The diversity of positions held across the nutrition continuum, from health to agriculture and from political to technical levels, allowed for rich discussions. “Leading from where you stand” was the thread that weaved all sessions together and participants were asked to leave their job titles at the door and learn for the sake of their own personal growth. The training had, however, to strike a fine balance between working on themes such as self-awareness and providing more content-related support.

Participants learned and exchanged ideas on what it takes to be an effective leader on nutrition and the skills needed to plan, lead, communicate, manage and sustain action with multiple stakeholders and across different levels of government, from national to community levels. Role-plays were designed so each person could step into another’s shoes and understand what it takes to appeal effectively to this person, in their particular position. Significant time was allocated on how best to incorporate gender considerations and embrace a food-system approach in multi stakeholder action on nutrition, and why this plays such a critical role in sustaining national progress.

Overall, the training was successful in boosting participants’ confidence in their leadership capabilities and feeling of legitimacy in the field, which was demonstrated when training participants enthusiastically and confidently took part in the Stockholm Food Forum. Some spoke on stage in front of hundreds of nutrition experts, bringing their own critical perspectives to the global conversation, while others participated in high-level roundtable discussions.

The EAT conference called for a paradigm shift towards food systems that deliver not only food for all, but healthy and sustainable diets for people and the planet alike.

The SUN Movement experience is that empowering in-country nutrition leaders is a critical step towards this goal. A second leadership training programme is planned for French-speaking and Spanish-speaking SUN government Focal Points after the 2019 SUN Global Gathering on 4-7 November 2019 in Kathmandu, Nepal.

* Article originally published in the ENN online’s Nutrition Exchange – July 2019 issue


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