Over 200 implementers, donors, and researchers from over 60 organizations joined us for the final TOPS/FSN Network Knowledge Sharing Meeting on July 19-20, 2017 in Washington, DC. The conference not only looked back over the past seven years of The TOPS Program, but also looked forward to productive discussions about our collective accomplishments and innovations, lessons learned, and ways in which the greater food security and nutrition community can keep advancing in the years to come.
Click the links below for more information on Wednesday's sessions. You can also view Wednesday's lunchtime table topics, Thursday's sessions and lunchtime table topics, or return to the main meeting page.
Welcome and Keynote Address
FSN Network Task Forces: The Building Blocks of a Community
Mark Fritzler, Director, The TOPS Program
Matt Nims, Acting Director, USAID's Office of Food for Peace
FSN Network Task Forces: The Building Blocks of a Community
MODERATOR: Shelia Jackson, Knowledge Management Senior Specialist, The TOPS Program
The Food Security and Nutrition (FSN) Network Task Forces are where we as a community come together to share technical expertise, exchange program knowledge, and collaborate across organizations. The Task Forces provide a venue for innovation as members work together to develop tools and methods that address gaps and promote promising practices in agriculture and natural resource management, commodity management, gender, knowledge management, monitoring and evaluation, nutrition and food technology, resilience, and social and behavior change. As Task Force members learn from one another and build consensus around challenges and opportunities affecting food security and nutrition programming, relationships are formed that serve as the foundation for the FSN Network. Attendees reflected on the accomplishments of the FSN Network Task Forces and discussed considerations for continued learning, sharing and collaboration.
What to Consider When Programming Food Aid Products: Operational Research Findings from the Food Aid Quality Review (FAQR) Project | 10:55am-12:15pm
PRESENTERS: Elizabeth Brown, Nutrition Security Team Lead, USAID's Office of Food for Peace; Shelley Walton, Project Manager, Food Aid Quality Review, Tufts University; Breanne Langlois, Data Analyst, Food Aid Quality Review, Tufts University MODERATOR: Lindsey Green, Project Administrator, Food Aid Quality Review, Tufts University
Tufts University has been carrying out a Food Aid Quality Review (FAQR) Project for USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP). The FAQR Project seeks to provide USAID and its partners with actionable recommendations on ways to improve nutrition among vulnerable people for whom the direct distribution of food aid can make a significant impact. The project does this by implementing three cost-effectiveness studies to understand core components of food aid programming. The FAQR session focused on research findings surrounding three themes relevant to the future of the food aid agenda: 1. Sharing and selling of food aid products, 2. Behaviors surrounding food aid products in the household, and 3. Messages and education on beneficiary uses of food aid products. The session aimed to explore these three themes and discuss how FAQR findings will influence future programming decisions, monitoring, and evaluation of food aid operations. By the end of the session, attendees gained a new evidence base on food aid programming; exchanged information about common issues on food aid programming to increase cost-effective decision making; and identified research needs and evidence gaps in food aid programming.
Resilience Evaluation, Analysis and Learning | 10:55am-12:15pm
PRESENTERS: Lloyd Owen Banwart, Economist, TANGO International; Tiffany Green, Advisor, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Strategic Analysis, USAID's Center for Resilience; Jon Kurtz, Director for Research and Learning, Mercy Corps MODERATOR: Tom Spangler, Director, Resilience and Livelihoods, Save the Children
Resilience has become a central organizing framework to address the challenges faced by some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. This has led to a demand for rigorous, yet practical, resilience measurement and analysis approaches and tools. This session provides an opportunity to pose critical questions regarding the practice of resilience analysis: How has resilience analysis changed over the past five years? What have we learned about how to enhance resilience capacities and how to measure resilience at various levels? What challenges have we encountered and, what are the emerging priorities for analysis? Presenters and participants discussed these questions and offered examples of how USAID and implementing agencies are using resilience analysis to inform policies and programs. The session provided an overview of the USAID-supported Resilience, Evaluation, Analysis and Learning (REAL) award, which is working to produce and share a strong body of evidence on how to analyze and strengthen resilience. By the end of the session, attendees achieved better understanding of the current state of resilience measurement and analysis approaches, and findings related to USAID-supported food security and nutrition activities; explored linkages between research activities, programs, and policies; and identified knowledge gaps and emerging priorities for the future of resilience analysis.
CM for PM - Commodity Management for Program Managers | 10:55am-12:15pm
PRESENTER: Virginia Vaughn, Training Senior Specialist, Commodity Management, The TOPS Program
Food program audits routinely include findings of improper commodity handling, storage, and distribution. These problems can result in considerable financial loss to the program; yet most can easily be avoided with adequate oversight by Program Management. Program Managers are aware of this need, but often lack the time or the commodity-specific knowledge to ensure adequate oversight. This session highlighted the minimum mandatory activities any Program Manager should implement to ensure due diligence in the control of project commodity. These activities are illustrated through the user-friendly TOPS Commodity Management Toolkit, an interactive online program that also provides simple tools to facilitate the process. By the end of the session, attendees understood the importance of Program Manager invovlement in the commodity management (CM) process; gained new insights on CM-related activities for which a Program Manager is responsible; and briefly explored the CM Toolkit.
Exploring Effective Models for Agricultural Extension | 3:30pm-5:00pm
PRESENTERS: Maria Jones, Project Specialist, INGENAES Project, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Gitau Mbure, Senior Technical Advisor for Agriculture and Natural Resource Management, World Vision; Chris Walker, Social Innovations Director, Mercy Corps; Jennie van der Mheen, Liaison Officer for Africa, Wageningen University & Research (WUR); Kyle Murphy, Policy Manager, Jameel Poverty Action Lab MODERATOR: Andrea Mottram, Agriculture Senior Specialist, The TOPS Program
Agricultural extension - activities that provide the information and advisory services that are needed and demanded by farmers and other actors - plays an important role in agricultural and rural development. Agricultural extension contributes to changing behavior of producers and other stakeholders to increase agricultural productivity, food security, and rural livelihoods. However, agricultural extension is challenging. Often, public extension services are underfunded and inefficient, private services are limited to specific technology transfer, and non-governmental organization services are unsustainable. In addition, providers often use different approaches to affect behavior change; by persuading farmers to carry out a specific practice, or by educating farmers about different options so they can choose what works best for them. This session explored different models of agricultural extension, providing practical examples as well as an opportunity to discuss experience and address key questions. By the end of the session, attendees gained new insights into effective extension models beyond technology transfer; explored practical examples of different extension models; and shared experiences in using different extension models and methods, and discussed key questions to improve extension effectiveness.
Best Practices and Lessons Learned for Assets and Infrastructure in Food for Peace (FFP) Projects | 3:30pm-5:00pm
PRESENTERS: Scott McNiven, Regional Food for Peace Advisor, USAID/Ethiopia; Kyla Gregoire, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Advisor, USAID's Office of Food for Peace; Nicole Van Abel, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Advisor, USAID's Office of Food for Peace
Assets and infrastructure, such as irrigation schemes, water catchment systems and feeder roads, are a foundation for the recovery and resilience-building efforts to overcome food insecurity. Often implemented as food or cash assistance in exchange for working to construct lasting assets for their communities, this programming can assist vulnerable people in times of crisis while simultaneously supporting communities’ efforts to build resilience. Through this work Food for Peace (FFP) helps communities to prevent or mitigate shocks. And well-designed, planned, and executed assets/infrastructure projects can be a powerful tool to recover and build the foundation for long-term development. This session discussed lessons learned and best practices from the field as well as the regulations to guide design and implementation. By the end of the session, attendees reviewed lessons learned on assets and infrastructure activities from development and emergency programs in East and Southern Africa; discussed best practices for assets and infrastructure work; and learned about regulations associated with best practices and how they apply to FFP projects.
The Gender Status Quo in Food Security: Where to Next? | 3:30pm-5:00pm
MODERATOR: Kristi Tabaj, Gender Senior Specialist, The TOPS Program
After USAID updated their gender equality policy in 2012, there was a surge in attention and activities involving gender. We saw increases in programming, attention within organizations, monitoring and measurement, and staffing. However, we know that once a trend has been recognized and funded, conversations can fade to the background as the next new trend enters the picture. Has gender plateaued? Or are we waiting to take the next big step? This session offered the opportunity to explore the ebb and flow of prioritizing gender and what’s next. An overview of research on donor government trends over the past 35+ years was presented along with one-on-one and plenary discussions on current initiatives and trends driving gender equality in food security forward. By the end of the session, attendess increased their awareness on common themes and trends among donor countries over the past 35 years; explored continued and current initatives drivign gender equality in food security; and discussed key emerging trends.