Capturing End-User Feedback in Rwanda: Piloting a New PSE For Nutrition Tool
This post was written by Keilah Niyomutabazi, Communications Specialist with Feed the Future Market Systems and Partnerships Activity led by DAI. The Feed the Future Orora Wihaze (Raise Animals for Self-Sufficiency) Activity is working with local partners and private sector actors in Rwanda to strengthen the animal-sourced foods market system. The Activity is implemented by Land O'Lakes Venture 37 in partnership with Catholic Relief Services, MarketShare Associates, and The Manoff Group.
Far too often, our industry launches tools before really taking the time to test and refine them based on practical use. We are all guilty of this. Yet under the Feed the Future Market Systems and Partnerships (MSP) Activity, we recently resisted this natural urge to 'race to publish' and collaborated with the Orora Wihaze Activity in Rwanda to pilot a beta version of a new resource, Private Sector Engagement (PSE) for Nutrition: A Strategic Engagement Tool, Partnering Guidance and Case Studies.
As MSP's communications specialist and a Rwandan resident, I recently spent some time talking to the Orora Wihaze staff about what they valued most from the recent tool pilot experience and how, if at all, it has actually influenced their day-to-day. I also spoke with MSP's coach and co-author of the tool to get his perspective. In this blog, I summarize my big takeaways and reflect on how our experience is useful for others aiming to roll out a tool or guide.
In 2021, MSP developed the PSE for Nutrition: A Strategic Engagement Tool, Partnering Guidance and Case Studies resource with funding from the USAID Bureau for Resilience and Food Security's Center for Nutrition to support Missions and implementers in more strategically engaging the private sector to advance nutrition-sensitive outcomes—specifically dietary diversity, diet quality, and food safety.
As part of the process of refining the tool before launching it publicly, MSP recently completed a six-month pilot with the Orora Wihaze Activity in Rwanda. This pilot, which involved a review of the tool as well as follow-up coaching sessions with the MSP team, was part of an intentional strategy to capture end-user feedback on the beta tool.
- Interested in the tool and wondering how it might tangibly be applied? Keep reading to hear how the pilot impacted the OroranWihaze team and their work.
- Thinking of running a pilot yourself? Check out the lessons learned throughout and see the last section in which we share how the pilot is informing the finalization of both the tool (due to come out at the end of 2022) and the institutional structure that supports its use through offering ongoing coaching or troubleshooting accompaniment in real-life application.
PSE For Nutrition: A Strategic Engagement Tool, Partnering Guidance, and Case Studies
The tool provides a process to 1) define a prioritized set of nutritional problem(s), 2) identify strategic corporate partners in the market system that USAID could engage to address the nutritional problem, as defined, 3) determine the appropriate type of partnership archetype, and 4) guide the partnership co-creation process.
It outlines different private sector partnership archetypes in nutrition-sensitive food system areas. Practitioners can use these archetypes to determine how best to channel a selected partner’s assets and commercial incentives toward solving the target nutritional problem. The guidance for each archetype covers the justification for a market-based approach to the specific nutrition problem, the private sector’s role and interest in addressing the challenge, the types of potential private sector partners, constraints for involvement or investment, USAID’s potential role, and the expected results.
Why Orora Wihaze
Orora Wihaze was a natural fit because, as a program focused on sustainably increasing the availability of, access to, and consumption of animal-sourced foods through the development of a profitable market, they are already working at the nexus of nutrition and private sector engagement (PSE); albeit using a Market Systems Development (MSD) approach. From the team's perspective, the pilot was an opportunity for capacity building—particularly for those that came to the program with a strong nutrition background but were new to engaging the private sector to address a development challenge.
A Mindset Shift: Influencing the Orora Wihaze Team
The Orora Wihaze team noted that the pilot helped the team change their mindset towards their work. That shift played out differently depending on each staff member's core expertise and created a space for two areas of specialty to come together.
- For Vivekan Jeyagaran, an MSD Advisor on the team from MarketShare Associates, the tool and conversations with MSP reinforced some of the ideas they have been trying to bring to life on the team, such as being strategic with the activities they implement and the partners they engage—making sure that the ones they choose will initiate systems change by addressing bottlenecks common to other firms. For the team, he observed that it reinforced the message, "We have to stop looking at these partners in isolation. We can now provide partners with equipment, technical assistance, and market linkages—but what are the system's constraints stopping them from doing this themselves? How can our facilitation aid in alleviating those constraints so that the system collectively sees value in investing in such practices beyond the life of the project."
- Bahati Ramadhan, a nutritionist by background, and the Senior Nutrition Specialist on Orora Wihaze shared, "When we started these discussions [around the tool], I was quite new on the team, and I didn't have many ideas about how to work with these private actors." Noting that while digging into the tool and conversations with MSP was time-consuming, it gave him a new understanding of how to work with the private sector that he found very helpful. For example, the pilot started when the Orora Wihaze team was in the middle of launching an RFA to source new private sector partners. From the conversations with MSP, the team was able to narrow down the list of applicants from 200 to three, and the tool helped them feel confident that they were making the right choice of innovative firms that had the potential to create change within the system.
Lessons Learned: Orora Wihaze brings strong technical expertise in nutrition, and the tool and MSP engagement have helped them to leverage this tool to create a broader impact by better engaging with the private sector. It was helpful that they already had an MSD Advisor on board who could bridge the gap between the tool and their day-to-day implementation, but they reiterated that having a formal tool and external coaching sessions really helped them move their thinking on private sector engagement to the next level.
Changing How Partnerships Are Done: Impact of the Pilot on Orora Wihaze's Implementation Approach
One major takeaway from the pilot for the Orora Wihaze team was to reinforce their role as facilitators when partnering with the private sector. Bahati shared that their previous approach was to go to a business with solutions and ideas already in the mind of how to partner together rather than first pausing to understand the business's challenges, journey, and goals. "Now, our tactic is to first understand the business owner's plan and future direction and then build off their idea. They understand the market more than we do, so we have to build from them. We're no longer going in to convince them."
An example of how the team applied this mindset shift was in a new partnership they were establishing with a porridge supplier. Initially, they were hoping to work with the supplier to produce animal feed from his cereal waste. However, when the team visited him, they found that he had a background in nutrition and was already thinking about how to fortify his porridge. The team revisited its plan and is now going to help the business pivot to producing fortified porridge flour by providing technical assistance and co-investment in the form of equipment, marketing support, and restructuring of its business model. "Because we listened to him, we are now building off his idea. For the business owner, it made sense."
A second outcome of the pilot was helping the team think through a systems lens when designing partnership support. For example, the team was partnering with a poultry processor/abattoir to produce smaller cuts of meat that lower-income households could afford to buy. Orora Wihaze was facing a challenge in supporting the firm to design a sustainable distribution channel to get the chicken cuts to the target customers. During discussions during the pilot, they decided to work with existing retailers with small shops in the communities they were targeting—thus relying on actors already in the system—rather than partnering with unestablished youth agents, as was the original idea. The team realized this approach was much more sustainable and paired it with their already existing community volunteer model to assist with changing behavior around animal product consumption, as access was only one challenge to solve.
As the program heads into its fourth year of implementation, the team has also incorporated some of the lessons learned from the pilot into their current work planning. As Bahati shared, "Now we're thinking more about system change beyond grants. We revised our grant documentation and are intentionally thinking about how many people the [business we partner with] will be reaching, whether they will make a profit, whether they will be sustainable, and will they reach the target population." They are also taking a deeper look at the enabling environment, for example, forming a partnership with the government body in charge of monitoring the quality and hygiene of meat.
Lessons Learned: 1) The ongoing coaching provided by MSP was critical in bringing the tool to life and helping it feel applicable to the OW team. As Bahati shared, "We have a lot of work, and it's not easy to find time to sit and try to understand all the concepts in the tool. The discussions with the MSP team were so helpful because they helped me link the content in the tool to my actual work." MSP is currently looking into how the accompaniment support can continue once the PSE for Nutrition Tool is launched. 2)The case studies in the tool were also important in helping the concepts feel more practical. Vivekan shared, "It helps the readers realize it's been done before. We're not trying to do the impossible. We're trying to do something very challenging, but it's not impossible, and there are many entrepreneurs who are up to the task."
Impact of the Pilot on the Tool and Future Implementation
MSP is in the process of taking the learning from the pilot and improving the PSE for Nutrition tool to make it more user-friendly. Jonny Barnow, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives at TechnoServe—the main author (alongside MSP’s Daniella Maor) and leader of the accompaniment support—shared, “One initial challenge with the tool was that it was intimidating. “While it had a great deal of useful guidance, it wasn't clear to the user that they did not need to go through all the steps at one time. In addition, the tool was originally written for a new project being designed by USAID—not an already existing project like Orora Wihaze.
A key takeaway from the pilot for MSP was that the tangible framework and case studies were useful but the how-to guide needed to be modified. MSP is now revising the guide to give users the option to access the tool at different points in the project journey and make it more digestible. Jonny shared, "When you build a tool like this, there is a certain user in mind. In reality, there is a much broader set of users and situations. You need to structure it so they can navigate easily to what they need."
Lessons Learned: Jonny's advice for others designing tools like this is to first align on who the tool's users will be upfront and then engage with folks who might use the tool before you develop it. Sometimes we make assumptions about who a tool is for and how it will be used, and that's why having a pilot like this is so critical.
The Way Forward
MSP is encouraged to see that the PSE for Nutrition tool has impacted an already existing project. We've also learned a great deal about how to structure the tool to make it easier to navigate, and this is a learning that we've already applied to other resources we're putting out.
Stay tuned for a finalized version of the guide, and we look forward to hearing how you'll be applying the tool to your own contexts!
The Feed the Future Market Systems and Partnerships (MSP) Activity is advancing learning and good practice in market systems development and private sector engagement within USAID, USAID partners, and market actors. For more information, visit www.agrilinks.org/msp and sign up for MSP's newsletter, where we will announce the PSE for Nutrition Guide when it is available late 2022!