Partnership for Child Nutrition

The Bhavishya Alliance was created in 2006 as a nonprofit organization to tackle the intractable issue of child undernutrition.

Bhavishya was established by Synergos, Unilever, UNICEF, and local stakeholders as a unique multi-stakeholder partnership in India to develop a cohesive response to child undernutrition in the State of Maharashtra. Despite enormous social, economic and technological advances in the years prior, India continued to suffer from extreme poverty and preventable disease, including child undernutrition. India has rates of underweight and stunted children that are much higher than in many other developing countries.

photo of group of girls gathered around health diagram
Participants in the Girls Gaining Ground empowerment initiative.

Against this backdrop, Bhavishya was conceived as a fresh way to problem-solve a complex and deeply rooted issue. Between 2006 and 2011, Bhavishya served as a rare opportunity for those in corporate, government and civil society sectors who are committed to reducing undernutrition to plan and implement a series of innovative pilot projects in target areas of Maharashtra.

Bhavishya launched pioneering initiatives in working toward its mission to co-create solutions to address complex problem of child undernutrition.

Key Achievements

  1. Succeeded in scaling up innovations beyond pilot stage. Bhavishya utilized an iterative prototyping approach to test, refine and implement several innovative concepts as pilot projects. Examples of pilots that successfully met objectives and are being scaled up include:
    • The Food Diversification project improves the quality and variety of supplementary nutrition foods provided at anganwadis (child care centers). As the food became more nutritious and palatable, attendance at the anganwadis rose. Taj Hotels and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) are looking to scale the project across Maharashtra and possibly replicate in other states.
    • The Girls Gaining Ground initiative worked to build the knowledge, skills and self-confidence of adolescent girls, as key change agents for influencing child malnutrition. Results showed significant improvement in the girls’ knowledge of good nutrition practices, health and hygiene, and in their levels of self-confidence. The project model is being integrated by ICDS and Department of Women and Child Development into the national SABLA program for the empowerment of adolescent girls.
    • In the Day Care Centers project, anganwadis were expanded to provide day-long care to children of working mothers in two slums and at three construction sites in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, where migrant worker families often lack access to services for their children. In addition to day-long care, the centers provided improved nutritional supplements to children and more closely monitored their nutritional status. The project is being taken up beyond the pilot phase by the NGOs Mobile Creche and SNEHA, together with ICDS.
    • The Computer-Aided Literacy, Health and Nutrition Awareness Programme worked at the community level to provide training in literacy, health and nutrition to local women. Local women facilitators trained 1,260 participants at 30 centers. Of those trained, 815 women (63 percent) achieved functional literacy and 291 (55 percent) successfully completed the health and nutrition training.
  2. Created a unique, multi-stakeholder partnership that harnessed the commitment of leadership at the highest levels of key, relevant government agencies, businesses and civil society organizations to tackle the complexity of child malnutrition. The partnership established new relationships and accessed competencies, resources and expertise among partners required to design and implement an innovative series of initiatives to reduce child malnutrition.
  3. Introduced a groundbreaking model for problem solving that blended a new social technology with an entrepreneurial approach for developing, testing and refining new ideas or ways of doing things and a firm grounding in developing trusting relationships with project partners.
  4. Shifted stakeholder engagement practices within partner organizations. Bhavishya’s approach has been successfully adopted by some partners, who have learned and established new and more effective ways of working directly with government and other stakeholders in engagements beyond Bhavishya activities.
photo of training in a hotel kitchen
Food diversification project with Taj Group of Hotels.

Lessons Learned

Bhavishya placed great importance on monitoring and evaluating its work, resulting in a body of learning to guide the scale-up of key initiatives and to be shared with others, in addition to impact studies of its projects.

  1. Invest time and trust to establish strong multi-stakeholder partnerships. In Bhavishya’s experience, opportunities to negotiate and reach a shared understanding were provided by convenings of project partners and regular engagement through Governing Council meetings and other day-to-day interactions.
  2. Seek an enabling environment and ensure conditions favourable to establishing successful innovation projects, such as clear government commitment and commitment to the issue, active and interested corporations and the presence of strong and capable NGOs and CBOs.
  3. Prototype the viability of interventions to gain insights into the challenges of implementation. Bhavishya allowed modifications to be made, early and often, resulting in interventions that were better suited to field conditions.
  4. Maintain continuity of key personnel and contributing team members to benefit optimally from the deep relationships, commitment to issues and different way of working established among its partners. Bhavishya engaged with stakeholders at multiple levels to reduce the risk of over-investing in key persons, whose departure or transfer could end a valuable and important relationship. This risk also can be minimised by building and maintaining networks with key individuals in peer organizations that can provide leverage and entry points.
  5. Identify and foster government commitment on the importance of child malnutrition and the need for programs to address it. Bhavishya’s experience showed there was a need to interact with various departments of the state government to enlist their support in deploying personnel and financial resources to implement the pilot projects.
  6. Ensure authentic involvement of community and nongovernmental organizations. The most successful pilot projects were those that involved meaningful interaction with community members, through community-based organizations (CBOs) and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), particularly those with the greatest stake in successful outcomes.
  7. Identify and tap the diverse resources of the corporate sector partner to ensure its meaningful participation and maximise its contribution, beyond traditional corporate social responsibility engagements. Corporate sector partners provided invaluable and different skills, perspectives and knowledge, in addition to financial resources and staffing to Bhavishya, at the institutional and project levels.
  8. Rather than taking on the role of government, model the potential for its role. Bhavishya did not, nor was it intended to, assume the role of government. Instead, it provided a space to demonstrate what could be achieved through cross-sectoral, multi-stakeholder partnership, while laying the groundwork for government to eventually take up initiatives.
  9. Engage and involve partners in meaningful ways for resourcing efforts. While Bhavishya needed funds to operate at the institutional level, at the pilot project level a variety of in-kind inputs often were offered freely by partners to sustain and boost the work in the field.

Stakeholder and Partner Organizations

  • Aroehan (Nirmala Niketan School of Social Work)
  • ASHRAY Sevabhavi Society
  • B.G. Shirke Constructions
  • BAIF
  • BMC
  • Department of Health and Family Welfare, Maharashtra
  • Department of Tribal Welfare, Maharashtra
  • GAIN - Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition
  • Green Kettle Consulting
  • Hindustan Unilever Ltd
  • HDFC-Housing Development Finance Corporation Ltd.
  • ICICI Bank Limited
  • ICICI Center for Child Health & Nutrition
  • ICICI Foundation
  • Indian Hotels Company Ltd. (Taj Group of Hotels)
  • Institute of Health Management, Pachod
  • Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Maharashtra
  • International Center for Research on Women
  • KHOJ
  • Media Matters
  • Mumbai Mobile Crèches
  • Nehru Yuva Kendra
  • Nike Foundation
  • Nirman
  • Ogilvy Action
  • Rajmata Jijau Mother and Child Health & Nutrition Mission
  • Shell Consultancy
  • Shriram Ahirrao Memorial Trust
  • SNDT University
  • SNEHA-Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action
  • Synergos Institute
  • Tata Consultancy Services
  • Tata Industries Limited
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences
  • UNICEF, Maharashtra
  • VACHAN
  • Zilla Parishads (Nandurbar, Amaravati, Thane, Nasik, Gadchiroli)

Governing Council