Michelle Thompson, Director, Partnerships & Brands
Chris Skeet, Director, Finance
In the first of a series of blogs with the people behind The Power of Nutrition, two of our leadership team describe the foundation’s evolution since forming in 2015, our progress in advancing investments in nutrition, and their hopes for the future. Meet our Director of Partnerships and Brands, Michelle Thompson, and Director of Finance, Chris Skeet in this Q&A interview.
Chris: Having joined The Power of Nutrition at the very start in July 2015, I feel privileged to have been able to be part of this transformative journey since the infancy of this dynamic organisation. We have grown from a relatively unknown start-up to an influential foundation in the nutrition space and beyond, transforming the global nutrition funding landscape.
What brought me to The Power of Nutrition in the first place was the excitement of what could be achieved in a braver new world of nutrition financing and programme development.
Michelle: We have come a long way in five years and our accomplishments are testament to the support of our incredible partners. We have built a strong network of like-minded partners from a variety of sectors – foundations, corporates, bilaterals and HNWIs – all sharing the mission of eradicating undernutrition. The increasing number and diversity of our investors and partners reflects The Power of Nutrition’s convening and defragmenting power. Within only 5 years we are proud to have mobilised close to $500 million for nutrition programming and convened over 30 strategic partnerships with like-minded organisations.
Michelle: One evolution I have noticed within the nutrition sector is a shift towards Multi Micronutrients Supplementation, away from simply providing Iron and Folic acid to address deficiencies, especially in pregnant women. This move has the potential to significantly decrease risk of low birth weight, whilst giving pregnant women a wider range of micronutrients that are important during pregnancy, and is backed by many of our partners, such as Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who nominated a MMS provision initiative as an Accelerator towards achieving SDG2 at their 2019 Goalkeepers awards. We know that evidence to support MMS is growing and has the potential to make a significant difference in tackling root causes of stunting, and we hope The Power of Nutrition will have a key role in convening actors in this space.
Chris: Nutrition is under-represented in terms of overall funding compared to other development sectors, with less than 1% of global ODA channelled towards nutrition interventions in 2019. With budgets being even more stretched due to the Covid-19 pandemic, one change I would like to see is increased investment in nutrition.
We know that investing in nutrition has one of the highest ROIs in development, building healthier, more productive and more resilient societies and economies. A core part of The Power of Nutrition’s role as we evolve will be communicating this narrative to wider and diverse audiences. For example, we are championing new research on the direct link between childhood stunting and weakened business and economic performance – evidence we hope will catalyse action. This research is expected to launch in Summer 2021.
Michelle: The number one challenge is inadequate funding for nutrition. Despite the progress made in the last decade, globally 144 million children under five are still suffering from stunting, a figure which is the reflection of an alarming financing gap for nutrition. With the 2013 Nutrition for Growth pledges expiring this year, we were hopeful that 2020 would be a milestone year for new and renewed financial commitments. With the Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit now a year away, we do not want nutrition to become a casualty of 2020 in terms of future financing. However, we are confident that our work over the last five years to diversify funding and attract investments from non-traditional sources will remain a tangible example of success and a model to aspire to, as government budgets become more stretched.
Chris: The community of large, educated and dedicated funders is a relatively small one – this is one of our main challenges and goals as a convening platform – how can we grow the number of players investing in nutrition? This is vital if we are serious about eradicating undernutrition and achieving the SDGs. Through our innovative financing mechanism, we have been quite successful, but there is a long way to go.
Michelle: Securing strong partnerships between great organisations – such as the Eleanor Crook Foundation, Comic Relief, Medicor Foundation and Bernard van Leer Foundation – a number of which had never invested in nutrition before. Attracting new funds to the nutrition cause is extremely rewarding.
One partnership I am particularly proud of is the Rotary Foundation’s investment in a programme in Ethiopia which is still under design. Recognising the huge success the Rotarians have had towards eradicating polio, having their involvement in a nutrition programme will be hugely impactful not only for financing but advocacy, engagement and governance. Convening different voices in the nutrition agenda is essential – and we are doing just that through our diverse and expert range of partners.
Chris: It’s been very exciting to see The Power of Nutrition develop from a concept to reality and have a concrete impact in the world. I am incredibly proud of the number of large-scale programmes – 14 to date – that we have been able to get off the ground within just five years. Already we have exceeded our target of reaching 45 million people by 2022 – we’re currently helping over 48 million women and children access vital nutrition services, through just 9 of our programmes. This is a remarkable accomplishment. It’s one we were only able to achieve by navigating complexities as a strong team and working alongside our trusted partners – a community of inspiring people I am proud to work with.