Capacity development Ethiopia case study
The Ethiopia NIPN country team is adopting a dual approach to building capacity by addressing immediate needs for NIPN specific capacity while developing a long term and systematic capacity strengthening strategy which supports the overall monitoring, evaluation and research agenda of the national nutrition program.
NIPN capacity needs assessment
To develop Ethiopia’s long-term capacity to manage and maintain a NIPN, it is important to identify existing capacities as well as any additional capacities needed to sustain the NIPN approach in the country. A Capacity Needs Assessment (CNA) was launched in 2018 to explore capacity gaps related to evidence based policy making and the monitoring, evaluation and research agenda of the National Nutrition Program (NNP).
This process was initiated by a workshop, facilitated by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), which brought together 36 nutrition monitoring and research experts from various sectors and institutions in October 2018. Most of the workshop participants play a role in the National Nutrition Monitoring, Evaluation and Research Steering Committee, which also has an advisory role for NIPN. The aims of the workshop were:
- To define a framework for the capacity needs assessment and subsequent strategy related to strengthening the national nutrition monitoring, evaluation, and research agenda, and within it specific needs related to NIPN
- To agree on the current architecture for nutrition related policy processes, monitoring and evaluation and research i.e. assess the capacity of this aspect of the nutrition system in Ethiopia and how NIPN could strengthen it.
Workshop participants developed a framework, which included the ‘demand capacity’ for evidence by the policy makers as well as the ‘supply capacity’ of existing evidence, across three related levels (individual, organizational and systemic). As a result of this workshop an approach paper was developed, which guides the subsequent steps of this multisectoral process.
The next step is the actual assessment of the existing capacities and capacity needs, which was launched in the first trimester of 2019 through an elaborate multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholders participatory process. It included questionnaires, interviews and follow-up consultations with key stakeholders from different ministries, national institutions and universities responsible for collecting and monitoring data for nutrition, and for nutrition-related evaluation and research. Information was sought from over 20 national institutions, in addition to key informant interviews with multisectoral users of these data, including programmatic and policy decision makers.
NIPN capacity development strategy
The findings of the capacity need assessment will be used to develop a capacity strengthening strategy, which will be finalized in the second trimester of 2019. In the meantime, action is already underway to address immediate capacity needs within NIPN.
Short-term capacity development
A number of activities were undertaken during the first year of NIPN implementation to address the immediate capacity needs at the individual, organizational and systemic level .These needs were identified through the experiences with the “Learning-by- Doing” demonstration project (see later), rapid capacity needs assessments by direct NIPN stakeholders and were initiated in advance of the NIPN capacity assessment workshop.
Different approaches have been used, including short training courses, ‘learning by doing’ and peer learning. Details of individual capacity development activities undertaken by Ethiopia in 2018 and 2019 are summarized in the table below.
Within EPHI a small, dedicated, team has been assigned to NIPN which collaborates with additional nutrition researchers from EPHI’s Food Science and Nutrition Directorate and other relevant directorates. Their capacity has been strengthened in project management, creating a common understanding of the NIPN approach, analytical and communication capacities and finally creating a better understanding of the different elements of a data repository.
- Research-Policy seminars
EPHI has started organizing regular NIPN Nutrition Research and Policy Seminars. These seminars bring together researchers, program implementers and policy decision makers to discuss and disseminate existing policy-relevant research findings. Participants come from research institutes, universities, non-government organisations and development partners.
- Multi-sectoral involvement
Selected staff of key ministries involved in the National Nutrition Program (NNP) and research institutions that are key for NIPN have been able to access the training opportunities provided under NIPN thus strengthening the long-term capacity of the broader Ethiopian nutrition system and forging partnerships. Members of the Nutrition Monitoring, Evaluation and Research Steering Committee as well as of the Food Based Dietary Guidelines Technical Committee and various universities participated actively in the analytical training.
Long-term capacity development
In parallel to addressing short-term needs, the NIPN aims to address long term capacity requirements to manage and maintain a NIPN. Besides the research policy seminars and the multisectoral engagements, they also include:
Long term capacities are being strengthened by involving PhD students from local universities in the formal NIPN training courses. In addition, EPHI has a capacity building budget for staff linked to the NIPN analysis unit or the NIPN advisory committee to attend training (online or formal) in Ethiopia or overseas, which will lead to a certificate, diploma or master’s degree at an overseas university. EPHI can also hire local training institutes and subcontract local universities. There is also a small grant scheme to encourage and support the enrolment of about six staff involved in the NIPN to pursue a PhD programme to sustain capacities beyond the project timeframe. Two researchers have been identified and started their PhD programmes at Addis Ababa University in September 2018.
The Senior Technical and Policy Advisor and the National Research Officer at IFPRI are assigned to support the NIPN full time and they provide continuous support and on the job training for staff and organisations involved in NIPN. In addition, IFPRI provides needs based technical support, which covers a wide set of NIPN skills, including writing, communication and analytical skills. In 2019, a report writing mentor was assigned to provide temporary support to the team. In 2019, IFPRI also assigned a researcher to guide a specific analytical process for further analysis of existing data.
A set of guidance notes on different aspects of the NIPN approach have been prepared by the NIPN GSF. This guidance aims to facilitate a coherent approach to implementing the NIPN operational cycle. NIPN team members from EPHI as well as from other key partner’s institutions from the national nutrition Monitoring, Evaluation and Research Steering Committee participated in webinars as well as in an on-site country workshop on the content of the guidance notes. The NIPN team in Ethiopia will adapt the guidelines to the local context. The NIPN Global Support Facility (GSF) based in Europe also provides direct technical support to NIPN country teams.
Challenges and opportunities
While embarking into developing the capacity development strategy, the Ethiopia country case shows the importance of focusing on the bigger nutrition governance structure, national policies and programs in order to prevent overlap and ensure a sustainable system which supports the long-term objectives of NIPN:
- Importance to set aside sufficient time which allows for a participatory process. The capacity needs assessment should involve all those who will ultimately be involved in NIPN
- Assess earlier experiences and the existence of capacity needs assessment potentially conducted by partners’ institutions or sectors. Often, sectors or partners have conducted their own assessment already. Thus, it is useful to avoid duplication and focus on the yet ‘uncovered’ or ‘un-addressed’ elements of capacity need assessment.
- In developing the evaluation tools for the actual capacity needs assessment, be mindful about what the objective is and how to formulate the demand on capacity needs. The questionnaire design is an important element of the capacity need assessment as it influences the final output and its scope. Thus, the questionnaire and evaluation tools have to be designed to explore and capture the capacities to be developed as a matter of priority and that will help to unlock potential bottlenecks and bring solutions to the key sectors and partners involved in the national monitoring, evaluation and research agenda in nutrition.
- Be mindful of the selection of the respondents for the capacity need assessment and make sure to involve those linked to the national nutrition program. Where NIPN is supporting a national policy or program, it is important to link this capacity assessment and strategy on the actors involved in monitoring, evaluation, research or policy relevant of this national program.