From the Eye of the Storm

Mediating Decisions, Facilitating Solutions, Sustaining Prosperity

Case Study – A Nutrition-Secure India: How do we get there?

Navigating Change When the Stakes Are High


  • To facilitate new and creative thinking
  • To produce a short list of priority actions for improving nutrition security in India
  • To re-energize the expanded nutrition community and increase collaboration and commitment to take the selected actions forward


India is at an important “tipping point” with respect to nutrition and public health. The achievement of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) objectives as well as many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) depends on addressing the critical problem of malnutrition in India, which underlies many other health problems (such as high maternal, newborn and child death rates). There is increasing evidence that current approaches are not adequate to achieve the desired objectives and need refinement (e.g., National Family Health Survey III shows that nutrition has not increased commensurate with increases in general economic growth in the country). There is a critical need for agreement, leadership and collaboration on the way forward in nutrition security. There is currently momentum, which includes increased political, public and health sector interest in the issues of malnutrition in India and availability of public sector financial and human resources to address these problems. In this background the National Nutrition Conclave (NNC) was organized from August 12-14, 2007 at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), Chennai, India.

Project Description

MSSRF, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and United States Agency sponsored the National Nutrition Conclave for International Development (USAID), along with support from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MHFW) and the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD). The National Nutrition Conclave was facilitated as a participatory, broad based dialog on how to improve nutrition in India. It was held at the MSSRF in Chennai, India from August 12- 14, 2007.  The conclave was designed and facilitated by Emily Page of E. A. Page Consultancy and Steven Alston of Split Screen Consulting.


Through a participatory meeting methodology called Open Space Technology (OST) the NNC generated many insightful and innovative ideas (thirty-six of which are documented in a “Book of  Proceedings”). As a result of the OST, participants released the Chennai Declaration calling for a “nutrition revolution” in India. The actions as outlined in the Chennai Declaration are as follows:

  1. Articulate nutrition as a national agenda priority
  2. Advocate for and implement a Citizen’s Charter on Nutrition
  3. Produce a “white paper” on nutrition, which includes action plans
  4. Develop and promote a comprehensive nutrition strategy for children under two yrs. of age
  5. Launch a nutrition education and communication campaign
  6. Develop nutrition strategies specifically for the urban poor
  7. Link nutrition with household food security
  8. Improve nutrition indicators and the monitoring of outcomes
  9. Take NNC recommendations to action

Over 100 professionals attended the conclave from Government service, non-governmental organizations, academia, the corporate sector, and multilateral and bilateral assistance agencies.

Key Learning

The wisdom for what needs to be done lies within the nutrition community of India. A new approach was required to establish common ground and agree on priorities. A different way of working together, in this case, a facilitated OST was required in order to achieve the desired results.


  • Deciding to change the format of the National Nutrition Conclave
  • Preventing anxious sponsors from controlling the outcome
  • Establishing trust in the Open Space Technology process
  • Maintaining focus on the objectives
Emily, Steven and the National Nutrition Conclave Participants in Chennai, India

Dr. Swaminathan, Steven, Emily and the National Nutrition Conclave Participants in Chennai, India

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