The IGNITE mechanism is a five-year investment implemented by Tanager, Laterite, and 60_Decibels to strengthen the ability of African agricultural institutions to integrate nutrition and gender into their interventions. As part of the work, IGNITE has developed a diagnostic tool to identify areas where institutions can work to institutionalize gender and nutrition, and assess the progress of an institution towards the goals of gender and nutrition mainstreaming.

The first version of the diagnostic tool was rolled out in 2019 and scores institutions across eight domains: 1. Policies and Approaches; 2. Culture and Capacity; 3. Budgets; 4. Data Collection; 5. Data Analysis & Use; 6. Do No Harm; 7. Accountability and 8. Integration of gender and nutrition.

The diagnostic assessment was built to:

  • Demystify gender and nutrition, by helping organizations get up to speed with industry best practices, and by providing a first step towards mainstreaming gender and nutrition.
  • Identify opportunities, both by stimulating the institution to reflect internally and spot gaps where they exist; and by offering opportunities for IGNITE to support with technical assistance and capacity building.
  • Spur institutional commitment, by ensuring senior leaders buy-in to the diagnostic process, providing accountability for the team involved, and showing the institution is focused on gender and nutrition.
  • Provide a tool to measure IGNITE’s impact, which is necessary for continued learning purposes and assessing impact.
  • Stimulate relationships based on mutual understanding and trust between the institutions and IGNITE.

From theory to practice and lessons learned

Between December 2019 and June 2020, the IGNITE team completed four diagnostic assessments with agricultural institutions operating in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Tanzania. In a feedback survey, the institutions noted the process had high value for effort. All institutions have used the findings to identify where they can improve on gender and nutrition.

The iterative process of developing the diagnostic tool and completing assessment was also useful for the IGNITE team to understand the landscape of gender and nutrition mainstreaming and reflect on ways to improve the tool itself and the value for the institutions. Numerous lessons were learned throughout the process, which are fully detailed in IGNITE’s case study – linked below. Below are a few highlights from those lessons:

  • Gender and nutrition: complementary, but different. Although nutrition and gender outcomes affect each other, institutions tend to see them as distinct topics. Therefore, for a diagnostic to be successful, the tool must be flexible and not always treat the two themes in the same way.
  • Iterate and learn by doing. IGNITE benefited from an iterative approach to tool development, which allowed the team to make mistakes, learn, and make improvements based on what works and what does not. IGNITE found that moving to piloting once a minimum viable product was ready and keeping the overall goals in mind was important to keep up momentum.
  • Balance a participatory and top-down approach. Any diagnostic process includes a level of collaboration between client and advisor, from purely participatory, to a full top-down approach, depending on the actors involved. Each approach has pros and cons, and each client has different needs and expertise. Therefore, while the scoring pieces of the tool remain concrete, IGNITE has learned to tailor the process and client approach to best serve the institution.
  • Strike a balance on rigor and efficiency. Conducting a diagnostic is a time- and resource-intensive activity, as it requires planning, interviews, and analysis. For IGNITE, finding the right balance between rigor and efficiency is imperative, particularly on the interview process which is the most intensive aspect of the diagnostic. It is also important to note that this intensiveness is felt differently by IGNITE and the client, so this balancing must be done for both sides to ensure continued engagement.

More about the IGNITE diagnostic tool

IGNITE diagnostic tool – case study


This blog post was written by Tessa Ahner-McHaffie and John DiGiacomo, Research Associates at Laterite Kenya.