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Welcome to the Media Hub

By Tui Swinnen on 26 January 2017

Firstly, a very warm welcome to ENN’s blog! We are very excited to launch this today as part of our new Media Hub.

For those of you who know ENNs work well, this new platform and digital work may seem like an exciting (even radical!) departure from what we currently do. In this post I will make the case that despite the appearance of being new-fangled, it is consistent with ENN's existing approach and way of working. The Media Hub was set up to support sharing and learning in the nutrition sector giving priority to the experiences and voices of those at the “sharp end” of programming and policy making. It is ENN embracing a new set of tools to achieve some rather old (but still very relevant) goals. So let’s look at how we got here.   

Many of you will be familiar with how the ENN came into being. For those who don’t, ENN was conceived at an inter-agency UNHCR meeting on nutrition in emergencies in Ethiopia in 1995, reflecting on lessons learned post-Rwanda genocide. The hot topic of conversation was how can we avoid making mistakes and re-inventing the wheel in such a disparate, scattered community of practitioners? How can we capture the collective wisdom and build the institutional memory of the nutrition sector from many years of field work, practice, mistakes and successes? These conversations turned into a first edition of Field Exchange (FEX) in 1997 which contained field articles “by practitioners for practitioners”, curated by a small team of peers. While a lot has changed in the intervening years since this first edition (20 years to be precise!), the founding purpose of ENNs work has endured to this day – a commitment to “building the evidence base” and institutional memory of the sector.  We do this through our work to generate “hard” evidence (through research reviews and technical brokerage), and the important and often underestimated “soft” evidence (through our work capturing experiences and learning from practitioners).

To get to the story of how the Media Hub came to be, let's skip the story forward by about 18 years. My work with ENN started towards the end of 2015 when I joined to lead work on a 5-year project supporting knowledge management within the SUN Movement (funded under the DFID Technical Assistance for Nutrition programme). ENN brought to this project the same commitment to work on a peer-to-peer model of sharing, learning and exchange – a model refined through years of working in this way.

While the broad approach to this SUN project was clear from the outset- there were a lot of questions to grapple with about exactly what set of tools, content and opportunities would best meet the learning needs of practitioners and policymakers involved in nutrition scale up in SUN countries. For example, how do we address learning needs around governance not covered by the more “techy” nutrition evidence ENN has been so involved with?  What about nutrition sensitive programming, for which we do not yet have sufficient “hard” evidence? How could we ensure that there would be sufficient engagement and ownership among practitioners working at the “sharp end”?

That was just start of the questions: Who exactly is the SUN audience? What are their knowledge gaps and needs? What content do they want to access? What content would they want to contribute to? Is there a culture of peer learning and exchange that would support our peer to peer sharing model? What support is needed to document learning? What KM work is already out there? What is changing about the way people are accessing information? How do we define uptake? Trust me - this list of questions could go on for pages. I benefited from many conversations with people working at different levels of the SUN Movement and in nutrition and related sectors, and from time spent investigating who is doing what online (... and not just what and who, but also where and how, and on what device… online analytics are amazing tools!). Based on this work we developed an approach to support sharing and learning that incorporates both the tried and tested, as well as the innovative and new.

Thus, the Media Hub was conceived and born. A new tool in our toolkit to support sharing and learning in the sector, focusing on experiences at the “sharp end” of nutrition policy making and programming. A way of keeping pace with the rapidly changing way that people are accessing information and sharing experiences and a response to the dramatic increase in the use of smartphones and other devices in all the countries we work in. This new ENN platform will allow us to capture and share content in new ways -through videos, podcasts and blogs. It will serve as a repository of learning generated through our SUN focused work, as well as supporting the work we do on both our publications and on other projects.

So, returning to what I set out to answer in this post: is this foray into the digital a departure for ENN? And to this I say no. It is a logical next step for us to support our ongoing work to support sharing and learning in the sector. Twenty years ago, Field Exchange was born out of a need identified by nutrition practitioners for a relevant platform to support sharing and learning. We know that this in-depth technical publication is still relevant and valid, and fills a need in the sector. Twenty years on, we know that there are new opportunities to support learning and sharing that build on our existing work and can enhance the experience of our network including those who have supported and contributed to our established mediums Field Exchange, Nutrition Exchange and en-net. This is a new step for ENN, but one in the same direction. 

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