N4D Manifesto – Transforming knowledge into action for nutrition and development

by | Jun 2, 2020 | Latest News

Transforming knowledge into action for nutrition & development

Welcome to the N4D website! We have established N4D because we are committed, like many others, to the goal of ending malnutrition. 

With nearly 100 years collective experience of working in public nutrition, we have a strong sense of where gaps and pinch-points are in national and international efforts to combat malnutrition. We are very concerned at the slow progress being made in relation to global nutrition targets and that these currently seem like distant aspirations rather than realisable goals. 

Yes, there has been some significant progress, particularly in reducing the stunting burden. However, many of the countries with the highest burden of undernutrition are also experiencing escalating levels of overweight, obesity and diet related NCDs amongst children and adults. Therefore, nutrition challenges are heightened and increasingly complex. Whilst it is too early to accurately predict what the impact of COVID-19 will be on nutrition globally, we can be quite certain it won’t be good news.

Despite these enormous challenges, we remain optimistic that progress can be accelerated if the abundance of human skills which exist from community up to global level are harnessed to find context specific solutions to local nutrition problems. 

A defining feature of N4D’s work will be to support the operationalisation at scale of evidenced based programmes that tackle malnutrition, taking account of critical political and economic barriers.  For us, key challenges reside in facilitating the articulation of need and agency over nutrition policies and governance at the national and local levels. This in turn influences resourcing, public service delivery and the utilisation of knowledge and learning. N4D hopes to play its part in this facilitation. 

N4D believe that those most at risk of malnutrition, including small-scale food producers, workers and traders, poor consumers, indigenous and landless peoples, the urban poor and women, need to be at the centre of decisions about how to prevent and end malnutrition. 

In some small but hopefully significant way, N4D is committed to supporting national voices at all levels. Whilst doing so, we must be careful not to crowd out their words or speak on their behalf but rather support them, where needed, to take control of their own narratives and amplify their own voices.  

At government level, policies, legislation and services need to be aligned and enabling. Businesses – especially small and medium enterprises – need support with efforts to build resilient, local food systems which provide sustainable livelihoods and healthy diets. International organisations (donors, UN, INGOs) have a duty to support governments to implement policies and provide resources in a way which builds national capacities. 

Currently, N4D sees a global support system which has enormous potential but can be too top down and proscriptive. Where it lacks context awareness, it comes up with solutions which can fail to fit the political and economic context of countries. The lack of national voice and articulation of needs and solutions is a key weakness in how we do business. If this kind of assertion needs evidencing, take a moment to reflect on the countless international pilot programmes which never go to scale. N4D aims to help countries operationalise policies and plans as well as strengthen country nutrition systems and capabilities. We intend to use and build on country experiences to help frame how international actors and systems can better support countries. 

N4D have a small number of priority areas where we initially want to focus our efforts; 

  • Strengthening linkages between countries and regional and global supports systems including the SUN Movement.
  • Linking humanitarian and development efforts and helping capture good policy, coordination, financing and programming practices that prevent malnutrition. 
  • Influencing food systems policies and architecture to simultaneously and collectively address multiple, inter-connected forms of malnutrition, rather than through a siloed institutional architecture.  

N4D will place emphasis on using knowledge and learning to influence. The ‘how’ of scaling up systems and programmes is a critical knowledge gap. At the same time, we must endeavour to support the embedding of knowledge and learning capacity within countries and regions.  

We want to be results focussed and challenge prevailing ideology where necessary. All knowledge and ideas can be revised on the basis of better evidence. We are pragmatic optimists who believe progress can be built around listening, understanding and partnerships. We believe it is possible to constructively challenge conflict of interest but in order to do this effectively, N4D will need to maintain independence of thought and direction.  

The plethora of new digital media and tools means that knowledge and learning no longer need rely on lengthy written narratives. There is a generational change to information capture and sharing which is now filtered through a very different assortment of media. An habituation and expectation of succinct multi-media messaging and evidence is the norm and thus oral and visual communication will be given the same import by N4D as the written word.  As we set off on this new N4D journey, we do not know exactly which paths we will take, and we will need to learn from others as we progress. We are excited as we take our first steps and look forward to engaging with you along the way.