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Summary of Field Exchange Evaluation

From July to November 2012, the ENN undertook an evaluation of Field Exchange (FEX) use amongst its readers. The aims were to establish how FEX is used to inform programming, policy and research, to explore reader preferences for online and print access and to examine perceptions of the ENN and exposure to/engagement in other ENN activities.

The review was carried out for ENN by Bibi Tolulope Oni & Illyahna Johnson, both studying degrees in Nutrition at Oxford Brookes University, and Tara Shoham, who is studying International Development at the University of Sussex. The review was supported by Thom Banks, ENN Desk Operations Officer.

Method

The review took the form of an online survey that was highlighted in FEX, on the ENN website, ennet and Twitter. Targets were invited to complete the online questionnaire, with the option for email or phone call feedback if preferred.

Limitations

The survey was administered online which limited feedback from those with difficult online access (a key target audience of FEX print copy). While the evaluation survey was highlighted in print edition and telephone interview (ENN call back) offered as a substitute, this option was poorly taken up. An additional telephone questionnaire was planned with a sample of participants. This proved a challenge for the evaluation team to secure conversation time with targets, thus the evaluation has been largely based around the online feedback.

These findings should be interpreted as reflecting the experiences of a sub-group of Field Exchange users, biased towards those with online access.

Key findings

A total of 170 individuals completed the questionnaire, of whom 41% were based in Africa, 27% in Europe and 21% in Asia. North America accounted for 6% of respondents, Australia 3% and South America just 2% of the overall readership. Nutrition/emergency nutrition advisors/ staff were the dominant sectors of expertise of those responding; other professionals included senior management, academics and medics in areas including health, food security and livelihoods.

Use of FEX

The majority (71%) highlighted the significant contribution that FEX makes in updating their knowledge of the sector. Some of the topics in FEX which readers had learned from as well as valued most, included:

Topics that respondents would like to see covered more extensively in FEX included child and mother malnutrition, breastfeeding, water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) initiatives, obesity in developing countries, the effects of communicable diseases on nutritional status. and articles with a broader food security scope, reflecting the links between food poverty and economic development. Outstanding challenging areas were breastfeeding support and artificial feeding in emergencies, CMAM scaleup and programming.

Respondents would welcome more experiences from parts of the world other than Africa such as the Indian subcontinent, Afghanistan, Middle East, Latin America and the former Soviet Union.

Contribution to FEX

Over one quarter (28%) of respondents had contributed written content to at least one publication of FEX. Reported advantages of doing so included the accessibility of the publication and its worldwide reach. They praised the easy process of dissemination, which has been described as “An easier, quicker way to get information out to a large key audience” and “Is a unique platform for sharing practical field experiences.”

Among the 72% of subscribers that had never contributed to an article in FEX, the main reasons given were lack of time, [perceived] inadequate valuable experiences to share and limited knowledge of the submission process. A small number felt that they were not proficient in the English language skills required for writing an article.

Influence on programming, policy and research

About 40% of the respondents reported that FEX has influenced their agency programming or policy. FEX “kick-started” discussion within agencies about issues raised and acted as a catalyst for change. Experiences shared have informed the development of various projects that have yielded much success in otherwise challenging situations.

FEX was considered an important information source that was used to inform policy decisions, examples including help in amending public health policy, such as promotion of sub-contracting local partners to help reach remote areas and developing agriculture policy in response to nutrition forecasts. It has also helped inform NGOs to amend their policies to favour more sustainable programmes. Published experiences have also been used in developing, implementing and improving training packages.

There was clear consensus that FEX helped to clearly identify important areas for research and highlight important experiences gained through different programming. Overall, 37% of respondents were researchers.

“Most of my research ideas have emerged through research undertaken by FEX. This has especially included areas of CMAM, scale-up, livelihood programming, early warning, treatment and prevention of moderate malnutrition”.

Of note, however, 30% of researchers reported that publishing research findings in FEX had some disadvantages, citing competing interest with other scientific/academic journals and FEX may be viewed as a less credible publication due the lack of a peer review process.

Print and online access and preference

Nearly one-third of those surveyed (32%) had been receiving print copies for 5 years or more. Sixty percent of respondents accessed FEX content online and 21% accessed online content at least once a week. Of those that did not access FEX online, half (51%) attributed this to a “preference for print copy” while 15% stated it was due to a lack of online access and 13% of readers are now accessing FEX via smart phone or tablets.

Receiving print copies of FEX was rated as the most desirable format among respondents. While acknowledging the cost implications, respondents appreciated the accessibility of print – they can read it at times convenient to them and share between colleagues. It also catered for those without easy access to computers or the internet.

Perception of the ENN

The survey feedback continually highlighted how FEX creates a platform for effective communication, sharing of ideas and personal experiences between a multitude of professional bodies, from field workers and practitioners to policy makers. Many commented on ENN’s ability to bring together a network of agencies with shared interests. It is “an impartial sharing body, useful and valued voice to lobby for open debates and policy change when it may be difficult to do so as a single agency or where there is no time to create a network of agencies with shared interests”.

Other’s considered ENN has an important role in providing a vital link between the field, global activities, governing of NGOs and UN agencies and policy development:“ENN plays a significant role in the collating experience, facilitating the process of specific technical support for different areas, research, publication and dissemination of key outcomes and lesson to be learnt. ENN plays a huge part in knowledge sharing and providing technical clarity which can be otherwise limited in the field of nutrition”.

Respondents felt that without ENN there would be a lack of open access to learning and sharing of vital information, and unawareness of detailed key experiences of programmes taking place in different countries, which are useful for knowledge management in field practices. They also identified that without ENN there would be an increase in duplicated errors in practices and programming in humanitarian and developmental work, as success stories would not have been easily distributed globally. ENN provides a window into potential gaps in knowledge. It also acts as a centralised space for those with limited access to academic libraries, as it publishes well-researched articles addressing relevant issues in one space.

Only half (53%) of respondents were aware of ENN activities other than FEX. Amongst these, the most commonly known was ‘infant and young feeding in emergencies’ (92%). Around half were aware of operational research, special supplement publications, meeting facilitation/ reports and en-net.

Respondents would appreciate ENN becoming involved in activities such as provision of training, organisation of seminars, regional workshops, and capacity building programmes (in southern and developing nations). Specifically, suggestions were made for more training in data analysis, access to nutrition data analysis programmes, and methods for assessing nutrition and health status aimed at researchers. More guidance on tools for CMAM and ready to use supplementary foods (RUSF) and better integration of implemented programmes worldwide was also highlighted. Sponsorships, scholarships, training certifications and awareness session were mentioned for students. It was suggested that “ENN should engage more with local humanitarians in developing countries. As of now, more focus is given to international agencies.

One quarter (24%) of respondents expressed interest in receiving regular updates from ENN via email including were more regular updates about jobs, consulting opportunities and research opportunities.

Conclusions

This evaluation reflects the experiences of a sub-group of FEX users and provides valuable insights into their use and opinion of Field Exchange. Findings from this evaluation will inform ENNs planning for Field Exchange in 2013 and under consideration are:

As discussed, this evaluation had significant limitations and is not necessarily or likely representative of all print and online users. A means to evaluate more thoroughly the experiences and needs of FEX readership will be pursued by ENN in 2013 as part of a larger piece of work within ENN to strengthen monitoring and evaluation.

The ENN welcomes feedback at any time regarding FEX or other ENN activities. Any comments or suggestions you have, please share them with Thom Banks, thom@ennonline.net

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Reference this page

Summary of Field Exchange Evaluation. Field Exchange 45, May 2013. p37. www.ennonline.net/fex/45/summary