Following the success of the inaugural meeting of the Nutrition, Agriculture and WASH Research and Learning Working Group, Growth Through Nutrition hosted a second workshop this past September that brought together more than twenty Learning Advisors, Research Advisors and Heads of Nutrition, WASH and Agriculture Projects.
The initial meeting in April brought together experts in research, learning, and knowledge management in the various nutrition-related sectors to discuss the proposed operational terms and structure for the group. Following up on those discussions, the second meeting served to finalize the terms of reference for the group and to commence the group’s first activity: a panel centered around discussing the challenges and solutions to bridging the gap between researchers and policy makers.
The event began with opening remarks from Dan Abbott, Growth Through Nutrition’s Chief of Party, followed by a keynote speech from Stephen Morin, Chief of USAID’s Office of Economic Growth and Transformation. Morin acknowledged Growth Through Nutrition for its initiation of the platform and stressed the importance of such platforms in mobilizing research for greater impact. As a follow up to the inaugural meeting, Tufts’ Senior Learning Advisor, Rahel Gizaw, then presented updates on the terms of reference (TOR) for the Working Group which had been finalized in consultation with EPHI. Participants then provided a final round of feedback.
Following the updates, Jim Sitrick, USAID’s Nutrition Coordinator moderated the panel discussion on Bridging the Gap between Researchers and Policy Makers. Panelists for the discussion included Dr Yewelsew Abebe, Technical Director at Alive and Thrive; Dr. Kaleab Baye, Director of the Center for Food Science and Nutrition at Addis Ababa University; Anne Bossuyt, Senior Technical and Policy Advisor at IFPRI; and Ato Ambachew Deresse, Program Quality Country Coordinator at Oxfam International Ethiopia.
The discussion centered around the barriers to sharing research findings to inform policies and potential strategies to dismantle these barriers. Some of the main issues raised as barriers were the unmatched pace between research and policy outputs, the lack of formal communication between professionals working in the two fields as well as the poor translation of vital research findings into policy briefs. Panelists also discussed potential strategies to remedy some of these challenges; for example, government agencies taking the initiative to map the various research activities conducted by government bodies, NGOs’ projects, academic institutions and others on its national platforms.
With government agencies taking the lead to facilitate and expand such platforms, civil societies could then strengthen relationships and establish trust between researchers and government officials. With these relationships given room to develop, policy makers would then be more likely to include researchers within the policy formulation process. On the part of researchers and academia, panelists suggested that researchers become more informed about the research question needs of policy makers and to adjust to the quick pace of the policy cycle.
With regards to donors, panelists deliberated on the possibilities around the provision of resources and technical expertise to projects when they are lacking while also advocating for certain priority research findings to be incorporated in policy decision-making processes
If these efforts are to be realized, panelists suggested the possible outcomes would include better use of financial resources with numerous and robust research findings capable of supporting the desired impact of implemented projects and policies.
Following the panel, Tufts Senior Learning Advisor presented a briefing on the Working Group’s strategy to strengthen existing national Research & Learning platforms. The strategy outlined by Tufts proposed to hold events in tandem with EPHI’s National Nutrition Program Monitoring, Evaluation and Research Steering Committee and to have a cohort of working group members participate in the Steering Committee’s as well as the FMOH – RAC’s meetings as a subcommittee. In addition, it was proposed that the Working Group would work to facilitate the transfer of information between projects as well as communicating them to the existing research and learning platforms.
The workshop concluded with participants having given approval on the working group Terms of Reference, and action items having been fixed to elect a co-chair and 3 technical committee members.