Evaluating the Nourishing Power Network

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

We evaluate our network using a case study approach, which helps us understand complex systems change better.

Here's what we focus on:

  • Implementation and Reception: We study how participants and the community perceive and adopt the network.
  • Responsive Changes: We quickly address gaps in the network and make real-time adjustments to improve it.
  • Strategies and Differences: We analyze different strategies individuals and communities use and how they lead to various results.

To ensure a comprehensive understanding, we use a multiple-case study approach, comparing participants' experiences in different parts of the network – Advisory Council, Nourishing Power Fellows, Nutrition Equity Fund grantees – and across different cohorts. This way, we gain valuable insights into the changing dynamics of the food system.

Please see below for more specific details about the methods used by Nourishing Neighborhoods and Empowering Communities researchers.

We repeatedly collect data to assess changes in social networks for participants in both the Nourishing Power Fellowship and Advisory Council. The goal is to understand how and why their involvement in the Food Systems Change Fellowship and Nourishing Power Advisory Council affects social capital, resource access, and the resulting influence on food systems change in Greater Cleveland.

Our specific focus is on examining how the Nourishing Power Network brings about changes in the following areas:

  • Decision-Makers in Local Food Systems: We want to identify who guides decision-making efforts concerning local food systems.
  • Funding Recipients for Local Food Systems Change: We will analyze who receives funding for implementing local food systems change.
  • Inclusivity of Lived Experiences: We aim to understand to what extent local food systems' change efforts center on the lived experiences of people of color.
  • Community Linkages: We will assess to what extent local food systems efforts connect within communities.
  • Addressing Nutrition Equity Feedback Mechanisms: We seek to determine how local food systems efforts address the ten feedback mechanisms structuring nutrition equity.

For the 6-month Fellowship, we will conduct baseline, immediate post, and 6-month post-interviews, along with social network mapping.

For the 15-month Corps, the process will include baseline, mid-point, and immediate post-interviews and social network mapping.

During each phase, we will work closely with participants to:

  • Understand the factors influencing their efforts to advance nutrition equity.
  • Analyze power relations related to information, social capital, social support, financial resources, and decision-making authority.
  • Examine external investments in their food systems work.
  • Learn about their experiences navigating policies and practices that support or hinder their efforts to advance nutrition equity.

Drawing from our prior social network research with people receiving SNAP benefits, farmers’ market customers, and food security coalition participants, we will collect social network data to map connections in participants’ social network structure, composition, and the shape of personal power networks concerning accessing resources, normative pressures, and influence on food systems actions.

We hypothesize that the intervention will lead to network growth, increased access to quality resources, more interactions with different alters, greater connectedness to previously unconnected alters, and stronger ties to non-redundant alters. Through this analysis, we aim to gain insights into the dynamics of the emergent network of Black, Brown, and Indigenous food systems leaders and allies.

We employ a real-time implementation evaluation for robustness and reproducibility, utilizing the well-established RE-AIM framework from implementation science research. This systematic evaluation covers the intervention's Reach, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation, and Maintenance aspects.

  • Reach: we assess the engagement of individuals and their representation of prioritized groups.
  • Effectiveness: we analyze the intervention's impact on individuals, organizations, and communities, particularly fostering a culture of nutrition equity within food systems initiatives. This includes examining both positive and negative effects and any unintended consequences.
  • Adoption: we determine the feasibility and acceptance of intervention components for adoption by others. We develop toolkits to facilitate intervention replication and document responsive adaptations.
  • Implementation: we evaluate adherence to implementation principles and explore adaptations to tailor the intervention to diverse contexts.
  • Maintenance: we assess whether intervention components have a process in place for sustainability or a de-implementation plan.

Through this comprehensive evaluation, we aim to ensure our initiatives' effectiveness and long-term success in advancing nutrition equity within food systems.

We employ the powerful PSDM (Participatory Systems Dynamics Mapping) method, a complex systems science approach, to engage stakeholders in analyzing feedback mechanisms. In our foodNEST 2.0 project, PSDM plays a key role in understanding how equity is structured within the Fund. We'll derive principles to infuse equity into the funding model through an iterative and adaptive process, ensuring fair and inclusive support.

We integrate PSDM into the Fellowship using our Vision Board Toolkit developed in foodNEST 2.0. This integration allows us to gain valuable insights into how grantees of the Fund envision their interventions leading to meaningful changes in nutrition equity.


Contact us: nourishingpowereval@case.edu