Evaluating the Nourishing Power Network

Produce at a farmers' Market
Photo by Ready Made from Pexels

The Nourishing Power Network will be evaluated using a case study approach. This case study approach is especially helpful for studying complex systems change because it explores:

  1. How the Network is being implemented and received by participants and the community
  2. What gaps exist in the Network and makes responsive changes in real-time to fill the gaps
  3. Why different strategies might lead to different results based on underlying heterogeneity among individuals and communities. 

A multiple case study approach will be used because it allows for comparison across cases. This means we will compare the experiences of participants in different components of the Network  – Advisory Council, Nourishing Power Fellows, Nutrition Equity Fund grantees - and across cohorts of the same components. This study aims to provide broader insights into what it takes to change dynamic systems like the food system. 

A more specific description of methods Nourishing Neighborhoods, Empowering Communities researchers will use are described below. 

We will evaluate changes in social networks for participants in both the Fellowship and Council using repeated data collection to evaluate how and why participation in the Food Systems Change Fellowship and Nourishing Power Advisory Council effect social capital and access to resources, and the power resulting from these, that can be leveraged to influence food systems change in Greater Cleveland.

Specifically, we are interested in assessing how and why the Nourishing Power Network results in changes in:

  • Who guides decision making of local food systems efforts?
  • Who is getting funded to implement local food systems change?
  • The extent to which local food systems change efforts center on the lived experiences of people of color?
  • The extent to which local food systems efforts link together within communities?
  • The extent to which local food systems efforts address 10 feedback mechanisms structuring nutrition equity

For the 6-month Fellowship, this includes baseline, immediate post, and 6-months post interviews and social network mapping. For the 15-month Corps, this includes baseline, mid-point, and immediate post interviews and social network mapping. Each time, we will work with participants to determine:

  1. The confluence of factors influencing their efforts to advance nutrition equity
  2. Relations of power related to information, social capital, social support, financial resources, and decision-making authority
  3. External investments in their food systems work
  4. Experiences navigating policies and practices within organizations and communities that accelerate or impede their work to advance nutrition equity

Building on our prior social network research with people receiving SNAP benefits, farmers’ market customers, and food security coalition participants, social network data will be collected to map connections in participants’ social network structure, composition, and shape of personal power networks related to accessing resources, normative pressures, and influence on food systems actions among each participant. 

We hypothesize the intervention will result in growth within networks, greater access to quality resources, more interaction with different types of alters, more connectedness to otherwise unconnected alters, and more ties to non-redundant alters. This socio-centric analysis provides insights into the dynamics of the emergent network of Black, Brown, and Indigenous food systems leaders and allies.  

To ensure robustness and reproducibility, we will conduct real-time implementation evaluation based on the RE-AIM framework commonly used in implementation science research to systematically evaluate the Reach, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation, and Maintenance of the intervention.

  • Reach will be assessed by examining individuals engaged and the extent to which they are representative of prioritized groups.
  • Effectiveness will be assessed by examining intervention effects on individuals, organizations, and communities reflecting a culture of nutrition equity in food systems initiatives, including examination of positive, negative, and unintended consequences.
  • Adoption will be assessed to capture the extent to which intervention components are feasible and acceptable for adoption by others including the development of toolkits for intervention replication and documentation of responsive adaptations. 
  • Implementation will assess the level of adherence to implementation principles and adaptations made to better fit the intervention in different contexts. 
  • Maintenance will assess the extent to which intervention components have a process for sustainability or a de-implementation plan.

PSDM is a complex systems science method designed to engage stakeholders in the analysis of various feedback mechanisms. Applied by our team in foodNEST 2.0, we will employ PSDM to understand dynamics structuring equity within the Fund. This iterative and adaptive approach will result in a set of principles for “baking equity” in the funding model.

In addition, PSDM will be integrated into the Fellowship through our Vision Board Toolkit developed in foodNEST 2.0 and to understand how grantees of the Fund anticipate their interventions will result in changes in nutrition equity.

Please feel free to reach out to nourishingpowereval@case.edu with any questions.