Activity A: Setting the agenda of the workshop (3/6)
4. Adopt an ‘impact pathway’ approach to help formulate policy questions
Using an impact pathway approach can be helpful for unpacking broad policy questions, which are often related to impact, into sub-questions which are more likely to be answerable with existing data.
For instance, it is difficult to answer the following question: “Did the investments in nutrition-specific interventions in the Multi-sectoral Nutrition Policy and Plan of Action, phase II (MPPA-II), reduce stunting significantly over the same period?”
The question asks whether the inputs at the start of the pathway resulted in impact at the end of the pathway. Yet, there are so many different factors along the pathway which could have intervened that it is impossible to answer this question without a controlled research set-up which measures all these (confounding) factors. It is, however, possible to break down this broad question into a set of smaller questions pertaining to each step of the impact pathway.
The impact pathway model is a logical way to organise the various elements (inputs - activities - outputs - outcomes - impact).
As shown in the animation below, the logic can be tested by moving from one element to the next. The relationship between two elements is based on underlying assumptions. For instance, at implementation stage the overall assumption is that if the multi-sectoral plan is well designed, and the interventions are implemented according to the planned coverage and with the desired quality, this would lead to measurable impact on the intended outcome (e.g. stunting).
It is important to test the relationship between elements as well as the assumptions themselves.
Following the impact pathway, policy-relevant questions and sub-questions can therefore be formulated with respect to each individual element, the relationship between elements, or the underlying assumptions.
Impact pathway models or a theory of change already adopted by the country to monitor the MPPA may be a good basis for triggering the discussion and preparing the workshop exercise.
These models will be particularly useful for identifying the intervention logics of the MPPA and the existence (or gaps) in indicators. However, the actual categorization chosen for the question formulation purpose and for the MPPA’s purpose may be slightly different.
In the absence of impact pathway models or a theory of change adopted to monitor the MPPA, impact pathways models of the REACH Compendium of Actions can serve as a good basis from which to start the exercise.