Key findings from an assessment of eight technical assistance assignments by Nutrition International’s NTEAM

N-Lift TAN

From February to May 2020, Nutrition International’s NTEAM conducted progress assessments of eight technical assistance assignments concluded up to eight months earlier. The technical assistance assignments were funded with UK Aid from the UK government, under the TAN project. The progress assessment aimed to evaluate the contribution of the technical assistance to its expected intermediate outcomes, namely improved scale, coordination, quality, effectiveness, gender equality, inclusion, capacity, and capability. The progress assessments also sought to identify any limiting and enabling factors that affected these outcomes, derive lessons learned, and make recommendations for how to accelerate progress towards full effective implementation of the technical assistance’s products. The assessments made recommendations for accelerating progress, and generated lessons learned that are summarized here, and further detailed in the report Measuring Progress: Summary of progress assessments of eight technical assistance assignments from 2017-2019 by NTEAM’s TAN project, available for download, and in the following stories:

As detailed in Table 1, seven assessments were of technical assistance provided to the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) countries Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Senegal, and the eighth was of technical assistance provided to the SUN Movement Secretariat (SMS). Results from the progress assessments demonstrated that every piece of technical assistance has contributed in some measure to the majority of its expected outcomes, with a significant contribution having been made to at least one outcome in four countries and to the SMS. The strongest contributions were observed to increased scale of nutrition-related policy and program, improved coordination of multi-sectoral engagement, and improved quality of multi-sectoral nutrition actions.

Director General BNNC: “For the first time we have received such an objective and scientific assessment report identifying the current status, bottlenecks with apt workable recommendations”

A summary of the progress assessment results are as follows, and are also highlighted in Table 2:

  • Scale – Technical assistance support has contributed to increasing the scale of nutrition policies and programs in six of the seven countries. Technical assistance was timely, building on existing political commitment for nutrition to enable key organizational and policy steps to be taken. This in turn resulted in a greater number of sectors becoming involved in nutrition planning and programming at both national and subnational levels.
  • Coordination – Coordination improved in six of seven countries, often as a result of the participatory processes employed during the technical assistance, which was found to build broader awareness and support.
  • Quality – Technical assistance assignments have contributed to improved quality in planning and implementation of nutrition actions, as well as better monitoring of progress for nutrition in six of seven countries and at the SMS.
  • Effectiveness – Technical assistance contributed to improving effectiveness, most notably by leveraging resources for scaling up nutrition, in two countries and at the SMS, with further results being possible in the year ahead in at least two more countries.
  • Gender Equality – Nutrition International’s gender mainstreaming process has enhanced the integration of gender equality into technical assistance products in five countries as well as at the SMS.
  • Inclusion – In three countries, technical assistance contributed to greater inclusion, in multi-sectoral policy development and programming, of subnational levels of government, relevant sectors, and disadvantaged populations.
  • Capacity – Technical assistance contributed to increasing the capacity for the delivery of nutrition actions at both national and subnational levels in three countries.
  • Capability – Strengthened capability for steering, managing and/or tracking the scale up of multi-sectoral nutrition programming was seen in four countries and the SMS.

The progress assessments generated a number of lessons learned and recommendations that help inform further technical assistance, identifying enabling factors for, and barriers to, success:

  • Timing is essential to capitalize on existing political commitments for nutrition. Recommendation: The TAN project should ensure adequate preparation to develop realistic and flexible timelines for key counterpart processes, and schedule technical assistance inputs accordingly.
  • NTEAM’s TAN project uses a country-driven approach to providing technical assistance. Recommendation: Clearer articulation of needs by SUN countries could improve the product development process and subsequent use of technical assistance products.
  • Always developing a results pathway will ensure that technical assistance contributes to expected intermediate outcomes.
  • The inception phase of technical assistance must better support the roll-out of key deliverables.
  • The development of a plan of key actions to be undertaken after the technical assistance, including specific roles and responsibilities, would enhance the sustainability of the technical assistance products. Recommendation: This plan should be developed with key in-country stakeholders, including the SUN FP and other coordinating bodies.
  • The interviews of SUN FPs and other key stakeholders conducted as part of the progress assessments show the value of these follow-up conversations in jointly identifying the progress made and the actions needed to enhance use of technical assistance products, and in overcoming potential barriers to that process.
  • The political positioning of the nutrition coordinating body and/or commitment of the SUN FP to advancing progress and providing strategic leadership for multi-sectoral coordination mechanisms are critical dependencies to the achievement of expected outcomes.
  • Recommendation: To support use of technical assistance products and earlier identification of where additional support is needed, it is recommended that plans are developed for active follow-up by Nutrition International with SUN FPs and technical assistance providers of all completed and ongoing technical assistance assignments.
  • The value of providing ongoing support to medium- and long-term processes was also identified to mitigate the effects of government bottlenecks or changes to mandate of a key government agency. Recommendation: Building in multi-phase support to technical assistance can also provide a solution.
  • The value of participatory approaches used during the technical assistance process was acknowledged throughout the progress assessment. Recommendation: Engagement of a broad set of multi-sectoral stakeholders in the technical assistance provision helped to increase understanding of each other’s roles, and to increase collaboration, which resulted in more robust products, and greater accountability.
  • Recommendation: To enhance the contribution of technical assistance products towards achieving gender equality, Nutrition International’s efforts must continue to mainstream gender in technical assistance, engaging gender experts to input early-on during conceptualization and the development of terms of reference.
  • Recommendation: To proactively address the financial implications of nutrition policies and strategies, technical assistance providers and governments must be supported to include budgets and resource mobilization plans as part of all technical assistance products.
  • Recommendation: To foster increased experience-sharing, it is recommended that Nutrition International foster greater linkages between technical assistance providers and clients.