Challenge questions

OUR research, learning and innovation agenda

In April 2022, we held our first community of practice meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. With participants, we identified five core workstreams in the form of ‘challenge questions’ 

    • Data for effective early action
    • Coordinating for effective early action
    • Financing for effective early action
    • Trust in data and evidence for early action
    • Effective early action at Community level

Around each of these, we are working with collaborators and partners to convene dialogues, undertake action research, co-create learning and policy products, strengthen capacities, and give voice to local knowledge. One key approach we are using is to develop ‘impact collaborations‘ that bring together partners and collaborators to co-develop solutions to questions identified by the community.

Data for effective early action

Anticipatory action requires reliable prediction of forthcoming shocks. There are various existing early warning systems in the Horn of Africa. Although the quality and reliability of predictions has improved considerably in recent years, the effective action to mitigate the worst effects of drought in advance of them taking on crisis proportions is still missing. This Challenge Question considers how existing early warning systems are used and what could be done to improve their usefulness. This could include better visualization, improved accessibility by communities affected by food shocks, the use of impact-based forecasts and better explanation of uncertainty associated with forecasts. [news updates]

Coordinating for effective early action

Responding effectively to food shocks involves stakeholders involved in prediction, preparedness and response. There are many actors in the food security sector in the Horn of Africa, including regional bodies, researchers and national/county government stakeholders. Preparedness and response to food shocks is the responsibility of national government actors, county governments, development partners and local communities. Co-ordination of prediction, preparedness and response as crises unfold is complex and entails multiple actors at different levels. This Challenge Question considers how co-ordination among disparate actors could be improved so that scarce resources can be used more effectively and to avoid duplication of effort. [news updates]

Financing for effective early action

It is generally agreed that acting in advance of a crisis is cheaper and more effective than dealing with an emergency. However, drought emergencies continue to recur. There are various structural reasons for this related to lack of agreement on triggers for action, bureaucracy surrounding timely release of funds, perils of false alarms, lack of evidence of effectiveness of early financing and so on. This Challenge Question looks for ways of improving access to and use of funds to deal with food shortages in advance of them taken on crisis proportions. [news updates]

Trust in data and evidence for early action

Primary food security data is not neutral in the humanitarian/development sector and can quickly become a political tool, especially when there is competition for scarce funds among humanitarian actors and between communities. Loss of trust in data can quickly undermine efforts to use/align funds effectively. This Challenge Question will assess this issue and identify appropriate incentives for different actors to develop and embrace a unified and trusted framework for robust data / evidence generation. The Challenge Question will also assess the capacities of policy makers and communities to make meaningful decisions on early action on food and nutrition security based on data, and consider ways of enhancing capacity in this area. [news updates]

Effective early action at community level

There is often a disconnect between formal national/international efforts to deal with food crises and more informal local/community actions to deal with crises. Formal systems often miss local perspectives and needs and fail to harness local expertise and energy. This Challenge Question will look at the disconnect between formal and informal prediction and response and identify ways to build systems that are more locally responsive and locally effective. [news updates]