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I am excited to launch Food Security Evidence Brokerage. The organization is addressing the challenge of making dense food security and nutrition research accessible to donors and implementers who need it most. Our mission is to translate complex data into actionable insights, facilitating research-based decision-making to enhance program efficiency and save lives.

Through countless discussions, it’s become clear that donors and implementers are eager to utilize research-based approaches but struggle with accessing and interpreting the data they need. Food Security Evidence Brokerage steps in as the essential link, acting as a broker to connect the dots between detailed research and practical application, ensuring that decisions are informed, leading to more effective and life-saving programs.

Mission

The mission of the organization is to use the most rigorous possible methods to answer decision relevant questions using a collaborative approach to research. To break down what I mean:  

  • Most rigorous: The most rigorous approach is the one that provides the answer with the least amount of uncertainty and most precision. Often, it requires advanced research techniques, which need to be translated into clear findings and conclusions. 
  • Possible: The most rigorous approach is not the best approach if it is not feasible. Some information, even imperfect, is better than none. I believe in practicality with an appreciation of limitations. I function within the real-world data constraints of my clients, and make sure to clearly communicate what can and cannot be concluded from each piece of research. 
  • Decision-relevant questions: In this context, these are evidence-oriented questions clients need answered to make programming decisions. Not all questions need to be answered, so I work with clients to identify the information they need.
  • Collaborative approach: Determining the most rigorous possible approach to answering decision-relevant questions requires collaboration. An external person can identify information needed to answer a question, but they cannot know the right question or practical limitations without input.

What I do differently

I expect a lot of people in the EA community might be a little surprised, but, in my experience, most of the research conducted in the international development community is driven by researchers. Even when it is commissioned by donors or implementers, researchers often come into projects with their own preferences and pre-conceived notions of what donors and implementers “should” be asking. This can result in funders never getting the information they actually wanted. This then forces them to act without information, and feel disheartened about any future attempts to integrate research into their decision-making process. 

Diverging from research-driven norms, I prioritize client needs, offering practical, actionable insights. As an example, I recently worked with a client to review their nutrition-sensitive agriculture programming. They had conducted a series of performance reviews of their work, but these were generally descriptive pieces. I reviewed the information available and developed an understanding of the change in outcomes observed over time in their intervention areas and plausible mechanisms for this change based on qualitative interviews. While we cannot be certain how observed changes were achieved, this evidence gives useful information to improve programming. I also provided them with advice on how they could improve their reviews going forward so they would have better information in the future. My attitude is, and will be, that we should work with the information we have, and try to generate better information when we can. A lack of perfect information should not be conflated with a lack of any information.  

How it makes a difference

This approach has the potential to make a serious difference in the world by increasing the cost efficiency of each dollar spent in international development. Although uncertain, I estimate that my research to date has informed projects worth over USD 100 million, spanning topics from land tenure in Malawi to women’s empowerment across Africa. Small efficiency gains of less than 1% offset my research costs. Any further gains would result in more real-world impact than could have been achieved without my work. Aiming to impact USD 1 billion in funding over the next four years, a mere 0.1% efficiency increase would justify my projected costs. This scalable impact offers substantial advancements in global prosperity and well-being. 

Why I’m doing this

This project started while I was in the Peace Corps in 2013. I lived in a small village in rural Burkina Faso, about 18 kilometers from the nearest paved road. There were two adult women in my host family. Each had two children, a son and a daughter. The sons were adorable, chubby little boys who were constantly covered in shea oil and would wear eyeliner regularly. The girls were sickly and too skinny. One was being treated at the health clinic for malnutrition. So, this started me thinking: why? If the boys had enough to eat, why were the girls malnourished? 

I saw another travesty of aid-gone-wrong while I was there too. A group of well-meaning foreigners showed up to my village with a trailer full of goods. They had flown from France, with all the items, and started giving them away to whoever showed-up. Some villagers tried to maintain order, but it became bedlam. I was soon privileged to the site of a strapping young farmer in rural Burkina wearing a bright pink swimming cap because… well someone had decided to fly it from France and dump it in my village. I also had to explain to the villagers that I have no idea why they were given a plow that was meant for a horse when they only had donkeys, and there was nothing I could do to get it exchanged. 

It is not enough to just provide aid. We need to provide smart aid. Aid that gets to the right people and actually helps them. That means working with the people providing aid and making sure that they implement projects that work and are, at least to the extent possible, based in critical thought and research. 

If you can help, what I’d appreciate

First and foremost, any connections you have would be greatly appreciated. Do you know of someone who could use my services or would just be interested in the work? Maybe you can just share the website so I can start getting more exposure. 

Second, let me know what you think of this idea. Does it resonate with you? How can I improve the concept of the pitch? 

Third, share any opportunities you come across with me (clane@foodsecurityevidence.com).

Finally, if you support the mission, please consider donating to the GoFundMe for this work. 

Thank you for your support.

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Executive summary: Food Security Evidence Brokerage is launching to translate complex food security and nutrition research into actionable insights for donors and implementers, enabling research-based decision-making to improve program effectiveness and save lives.

Key points:

  1. The organization aims to use the most rigorous possible methods to answer decision-relevant questions through a collaborative approach.
  2. It prioritizes client needs and offers practical, actionable insights, diverging from researcher-driven norms in international development.
  3. Small efficiency gains in projects informed by the organization's research could result in substantial real-world impact.
  4. The founder's experiences in the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso motivated the creation of the organization to provide smart, research-based aid.
  5. The post requests help through connections, feedback on the concept, sharing opportunities, and donations to support the mission.

 

 

This comment was auto-generated by the EA Forum Team. Feel free to point out issues with this summary by replying to the comment, and contact us if you have feedback.

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