AIM is a Dutch-based multistakeholder network of organisations from government, civil society, business and research that serves as an innovation platform for different pathways to reducing malnutrition. The panels and presentations were interesting but, as usual, I was left wondering what will success look like? What will be AIM’s impact? It has been going for 3 years, so it is too early to find real change yet, but the question remains--what will change look like and who will benefit?
As an intro, Jay Naidoo gave a rip-roaring speech about how malnutrition is a political statement (couldn’t agree more) and how it would require a whole of society approach to struggle for change.
David Nabarro, as ever, crystallised many of the ideas in the room. He said these kinds of multistakeholder platforms:
- have 5 features of success: Inclusiveness, innovation, impact, inspirational, and be inspected
- usually go through 5 stages: transactions, transformation, time, trust and totality, and
- have 5 characteristics of operation: sticking to the issue, sustainable models, struggle for equity and change, sharing of principles and a scale up where possible
This is also my conclusion. Without credible impact assessment, ideology wars just play out in the same old boring way. We need to occupy the space between “puff” and “plunder” when it comes to the role of business in nutrition.
In the absence of credible independent evidence on impacts, for those not ideologically opposed, “Puff” (or public relations) is what business initiatives often seem to be. For those who are ideologically opposed, the absence of independent evidence allows the “Plunder” narrative to go unopposed. We must begin to occupy the space between puff and plunder.
AIM has the potential to do this because it has a monitoring and evaluation budget (process and impact). There was a lot of talk about the risks involved in engaging in these multistakeholder partnerships involving the private sector—financial, reputation, and livelihood risks and strategies for sharing, pooling, and managing those risks.
But I suspect the lack of credible independent effort to assess impact is the biggest risk of all. I hope AIM will begin to change all that.