Tufts University leads the Learning Agenda, which builds and expands on what was learned in the USAID's prior ENGINE project and other relevant activities such as the Tufts-led Nutrition Innovation Lab (NIL) and AKLDP project. Learning activities will be designed to provide evidence on an on-going, timely basis to allow for improvements or adjustments in implementation of nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions, and inform the National Nutrition Programme (NNP) and ONE WASH National Programme (OWNP). Areas of focus will emphasize technical areas critical to achievement of Strategic Objectives (SO) and Intermediate Results (IR), as well as research priorities identified by Government of Ethiopia (GoE) partners and USAID.
The two main arms of the Learning Agenda are the support and carrying out of operational research and the dissemination of research and learning findings. Research activities may include but not be limited to, small operational research studies, M&E data assessments, qualitative studies, literature reviews, and small research grants to support local researchers and students. Tufts leads and implements operational research studies, provides technical support to partners implementing research and learning as part of their work plan, and provides technical oversight and support to small grant recipients.
Managing the knowledge and learning generated through the project and disseminating it widely is an important part of the research and learning agenda. Tufts is responsible for the development of a project Knowledge Management (KM) system to ensure information is managed and shared quickly and broadly within the project and beyond. This website is one product of the KM arm of the Learning Agenda which will be integrated into government institutions such as EPHI and others, as appropriate, to ensure ownership and the sustainability of the KM process beyond the time frame of the project.
The Learning Agenda is implemented using a Learning Agenda Strategy and Knowledge Management Plan that were developed based on feedback from partners and stakeholders.
Key Progress in Project Year II
During the reporting period, Growth through Nutrition completed the multisectoral coordination study report, SBCC literature review manuscripts on nutrition sensitive and nutrition specific activities, data collection for study on barriers and facilitators to production and consumption of healthy foods, established the project nutrition, agriculture and WASH research and learning group and two successful meetings, building external and internal capacity through learning events, and the selected of three awardees under the small grants program.
In implementing the knowledge management plan, the Growth through Nutrition launched the project learning website https://gtn-learning.org, dissemination of project research findings, knowledge and learnings by presenting and participating in learning events such as the Annual NNP Implementation Review Meeting, African Nutrition Epidemiology Conference, and 2018 Hawassa International Nutrition and Food Industries Conference, conducting a project-wide Learning and Knowledge Management (LKM) assessment and establishing and supporting online systems for knowledge sharing within the project.
Key Progress in Project Year III
In addition to publishing the “Impact of SBCC on nutrition specific interventions on selected indicators of nutritional status” manuscript in the Journal of Human Nutrition in October 2018, the project held an OR prioritization workshop to identify OR topics for the year selecting “Evaluating effectiveness of QI initiatives” among its topics.
Quarterly meetings for the project research and learning working group were held in year three, covering topics such as Seasonal Calendar study, Nutrition HR Needs Assessment and Food intake and appetite of infants: a missing link in stunting reduction efforts in Ethiopia.
The project also continued to support the three previously awarded small grant recipients through proposal as well as tool refinement, local IRB applications, and the release of funds. Additionally, four learning documents were developed and shared – including a synopses of the Gender Integration Strategy, Gender Analysis Report, Summary from Panel Discussion Event on Bridging the Gap between Research and Policy, and Summary of Lessons from JSS.
Key Progress in Project Year IV
During year IV, Growth through Nutrition partner Tufts University made progress on several operational research studies, including data collection, data analysis and final report preparation on two OR topics on the added value of the Virtual Facilitator SBCC tool and on the role of Quality Improvement Initiatives in PHCUs. An additional report comparing findings from the policy work under ENGINE and the Growth through Nutrition multisectoral coordination study was jointly developed with EPHI and completed during year IV. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new OR study using remote data collection was conducted called “Assessing the impact of COVID19 on key health and nutrition service and agriculture and potential mitigation strategies in Growth through Nutrition supported woredas.”
Furthermore, 3 learning learning events took place in year IV with one in-person event before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ethiopia. The first was the 7th learning working group meeting, which focused on two key elements of improving women’s empowerment and featured Small Grants researcher Meskerem Jisso as well as cross-project learning with CARE Ethiopia. In the second workshop, key lessons from studies, including ECC baseline and endline study, livelihood support inputs post distribution to MVHHs were shared. The third focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting and discussing at length the lessons learned and sharing practical & innovative approaches.
On the 18 of March 2021, Growth through Nutrition members joined a Feed the Future initiatives experience-sharing visit focused on implementation, technical aspects, and best practices in the Sokicha and Wonago kebeles of the SNNP and Sidama regions.
The paper below is a summary of key research findings, lessons learned and program/policy recommendations from operation research studies conducted under the Growth through Nutrition and its predecessor ENGINE project. It also highlights some of the ways the project learning, research dissemination and capacity building activities have had a positive outcome of turning “research into action” and summarizes the way forward.
The attached document is a summary of the report on a quasi-experimental study Tufts University conducted to evaluate the added value of virtual facilitator as an SBCC approaches to improve IYCF, women diet diversity, women empowerment and WASH practices of Enhance Community Conversation participants in selected project intervention woredas in Amhara (Basoliben Woreda) and Oromia (Becho and Girar Jarso
The learning document is based on the comments of a panel discussion through the Project Research and Learning Working Group platform to discuss potential strategies and solutions to bridging the gap between research and practice/policy.
Issues raised include:
Capacity building is an integral part of the Growth through Nutrition learning agenda strategy. Learning events serve as an opportunity to disseminate research findings as well as build capacity around research and learning among the research and learning communities in Ethiopia. Tufts hosted a half-day learning event on Dec 14 at the Capital Hotel. During this event, two recent Ph.D. graduates sponsored by USAID ENGINE presented their dissertation topics:
Summary of research assessing the links between agricultural production, commercialization, markets and gender on household diet diversity and to discuss resulting policy recommendations.
Summarizes research examining the drivers of dietary choices in Ethiopia focusing on the role that seasonality, food distribution, and women play in household diet patterns.
Summarizes key findings on maternal nutrition and health indictors from the ENGINE Birth Cohort Study, along with policy and future research recommendations.