Understanding Organizational Network Capacity in the Context of Nutrition Incentive Programs
Using systems science to understand network capacity and its role in the implementation of nutrition incentive programs for low-income populations in the US
Project Lead: Ligia Paina
Providing low-income families with incentives for the purchase of locally grown fruits and vegetables contributes to the prevention of childhood obesity. This research pilot is a partnership between researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) and Wholesome Wave’s (WW) National Nutrition Incentive Network (NNIN). WW is a "501(c)(3) nonprofit that strives to create a vibrant, just and sustainable food system. By making fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables affordable and available, it enables underserved consumers to make healthier food choices. Its innovative initiatives are improving health outcomes among low-income families, generating additional revenue for small and mid-sized farm businesses and bolstering local and regional economies.
NNIN is a network of nutrition incentive programs operated at farmers markets in 31 states and the District of Columbia. The program provides a monetary incentive to low-income customers who spend their federal nutrition benefits at participating farmers markets on healthy, fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables.
The overall goal of our pilot is to explore how state level nutrition incentive networks are structured and how network capacity develops in two states where NNIN is being implemented and scaled-up – New Hampshire and Vermont. During a period of 18 months, the pilot will aim to (1) understand and describe the entities and individuals that form existing networks in two states implementing nutrition incentive programs, and (2) measure changes in interorganizational network capacity, over a 6 month period of time. In the initial phase, qualitative research will help our team to understand the nature of existing networks, as well as the network members perspectives on network capacity – both within their own networks and more broadly. In the second phase, a survey will be developed based on our initial qualitative findings, to measure whether and how network capacity changes over time.
Phase One: Initial network mapping and collection of qualitative data from organization leaders engaged in the NNIN in New Hampshire and Vermont
- Wholesome Wave counterparts trained in Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis (PIPA)
- PIPA workshop implemented by Wholesome Wave in New Hampshire
- In-depth interviews conducted with 16 organizational leaders part of the nutrition incentive programs in New Hampshire and Vermont
Phase Two: Defining and measuring changes in inter-organizational network capacity.