Conference report | Monitoring and evaluation for inclusive and sustainable food systems
A conference report by Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI), Wageningen Economic Research (WECR) and the Food and Business Knowledge Platform shares key insighs from a conference that aimed to seek clarity in the role that monitoring and evaluation (M&E) can play in informing and supporting transformation towards inclusive and sustainable food systems for healthy diets.
The main question of the conference was: “How should and can M&E (inform and) support the transition towards inclusive and sustainable food systems?”.
Having unhealthy and unsustainably produced food poses a global risk to people and the planet. Even the production of nutritious food can have negative environmental effects, which is only one of the trade-offs that exist. For a radical transformation of the global food system towards sustainable food production and healthy diets, there is a need for systemic thinking and systems approaches with multiple stakeholders in multiple sectors at multiple levels. Large-scale and coordinated efforts are required, which in turn requires a transformation of M&E.
M&E can inform and support the transition towards inclusive and sustainable food systems. It can generate information to help understand food systems (starting from consumption) and identify tradeoffs in order to support decision-making. M&E can build on and complement existing food systems frameworks. To fulfil these roles, M&E needs to be dynamic and flexible to allow for adaptive management, and use approaches that are sensitive and responsive to complexity. Flexible theories of change for systemic change can be used to inform decision-making, from a multilevel perspective.
Principles, rather than specific methods and techniques are crucial. Zooming in and zooming out is needed to make sense of critical drivers, interactions, and dietary choices. Scenario thinking and forward-looking evaluations are also needed, as food system transformation needs to focus on the future and be prepared for different scenarios as a result of critical factors. In turn, these processes need collaborative sensemaking and learning. This proposed M&E transformation requires adaptive capacities for collaborative sensemaking and food system transformation.