An American businessman, Gerhard Gschwandtner, once said:
“The purpose of life is to collaborate for a common cause; the problem is nobody seems to know what it is.”
One of the foundation's grantees is working to turn that quote on its head, and is an impressive force to be reckoned with in the field of nutrition.
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) was recently highlighted in an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, detailing the "collective impact" approach. This approach uses structured collaborative efforts with an aim to achieve substantial and sustained impact on widespread social problems. In this case, the social problem is under-nutrition in women and children in developing countries.
What does this mean in practice? GAIN uses this approach to build partnerships that enable innovation in the area of under-nutrition.
The organization brings public and private sectors together to increase access to the missing nutrients in diets necessary for people, communities, and economies to be stronger and healthier. GAIN partners with business, governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia, and other key players in the nutrition sector to deliver programs to vulnerable populations.
But simply bringing partners together isn't enough. GAIN engages partners and motivates members to work together and the results reflect the inspiration GAIN provides.
The Stanford Social article highlights some of the characteristics of this alliance that are the key conditions necessary for the success of such a collective impact approach. In its decade of existence, GAIN has brought together over 600 companies around the world to focus on a clearly-defined common agenda: reduce under-nutrition through sustainable strategies aimed at improving the health and nutrition of populations at risk, particularly in the 1000 days from conception to age two years.
Anyone who has ever worked in a group knows how difficult it can be. But GAIN does two things: it keeps the group’s focus on the common goal, and the group’s strategic framework for action is dynamic. It responds to feedback from programming, incorporating best practices and lessons learned along the way.
But all of this partnership wouldn't mean much if it didn't have impact on the lives and health of those we're trying to reach.
GAIN reports that efforts through this collaborative approach have enabled more than 530 million people worldwide to access nutritionally enhanced food and have significantly reduced the prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies in a number of countries. Examples include China, South Africa, and Kenya, where micronutrient deficiencies dropped between 11 and 30 percent among those who consumed GAIN’s fortified products.
This collaborative approach has also strengthened quality control of iodized salt in India, promoted local complementary food products that are affordable and accessible to the poorest of the poor in Côte d’Ivoire, and promoted micronutrient powders to enhance the nutritional value of children’s food.
So if, in fact, an important purpose in life is to collaborate for a common cause, GAIN is showing deep commitment to rallying together the key players in the nutrition sector and establishing an inspiring common cause: a world without undernutrition.