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close this book Community Nutrition Action for Child Survival
close this folder Part III - Project management systems
close this folder Unit 3 - Supervising community nutrition activities
View the document Session 1: The role of the supervisor
View the document Session 2: Identifying and solving problems
View the document Session 3: Problem-solving/role play
View the document Session 4: Planning and conducting supervision visits

Session 2: Identifying and solving problems


Participants will identify and suggest ways to solve common problems encountered by village supervisors. These might include low community participation in nutrition activities, high worker and beneficiary drop-out, continuing high rates of malnutrition and other related problems.

Time: 1-2 hours


- Handout - "Supervision Problem" exercises 1, 2, 3

- Chalkboard and chalk

- Flipchart or several large pieces of paper

- Marking pens


Several examples of common supervision problems are attached to this session plan. Trainers should adapt these examples or develop new problem descriptions based on situations identified by project supervisors.


1. Introduction: Problem solving is a basic function of all supervisors. Ask trainees to think about the problems that they have faced, or will face, when supervising village nutrition workers and volunteers. Write the examples given by participants on the chalkboard.

2. Review these basic steps in problem solving:

- Identify the problem and its causes

- Identify the people who will most likely be involved in solving the problem

- Discuss ways to solve the problem with them

- Agree on a plan of action

- Obtain resources, if necessary

- Take action

- Evaluate to see if the problem has been solved or if additional action is needed

3. Exercise: In this exercise, trainees are asked to work with specific problems that they might face as supervisors. For each problem, they will think about what they need to know about the causes of the problem before taking action.

Then they will brainstorm the types of actions that might help to solve the problem.

4. Part A: Distribute or read Part A of one of the problem exercises to the participants. Give them five minutes to think about and write the answer to the question:

"How will you find out what is causing this problem?"

When they finish, ask several trainees to read their answers. Write key words or phrases from their answers on the chalkboard. Continue until no new answers are given. Suggest additional items and sources of information that you feel are important.

5. Part B: Distribute or read Part B of the exercise to trainees. Part B gives more details about the actual causes of the problem. It also asks trainees to suggest different actions that could be taken to help workers and supervisors solve the problem.

Divide trainees into small work groups and ask them to read and complete Part B of the exercise together. Ask groups to write their suggested actions on large pieces of paper for presentation to the rest of the group. When work groups finish their presentations, suggest additional activities and approaches to solving the problem.

6. Group Work

- Give different problem exercises to each group Apart A only). Ask groups to read and answer the questions in Part A.

- When groups finish Part A, distribute Part B of each of the problem exercises for completion.

- When all of the groups finish, ask each one to present its problem. Their presentations should include:

- The problem

- Whom they went to

- What they did to determine the causes of the problem

- The causes

- The actions they will take as supervisors to help workers solve the problem

- Encourage the other trainees to ask questions and make suggestions after each group's presentation. Discuss the difficulties supervisors might have in solving each type of problem and whom they might ask to help them.

5. Summary

In this session, participants have identified ways in which they might identify the causes of specific supervision problems. They have also begun to think about the possible actions supervisors could take to help workers and volunteers solve these problems.

In the next session, participants will conduct a simulated meeting with the people who might be involved in the solution of the problem. The purpose of this meeting will be to discuss the problem and agree on a plan of action for its solution. In preparation for the simulated meeting, ask participants to:

- Decide which of the problems discussed in this session they will discuss during the meeting

- Decide who should be invited to participate in the meeting and where it will be held

Note: In several training programs, we noted that trainees had difficulty identifying appropriate ways to find out more about the problems. When confronted with a problem of low community participation, for example, they often selected upper-level community officials to discuss the problem with or pass the problem to. Encourage trainees to work with those affected by the problem - the beneficiaries, as well as their leaders and officials. Where women are expected to participate in activities, but men are the community's official leaders, the needs and expectations of the women are often not considered unless they are consulted directly.



Part A

PROBLEM: Low level of community participation in nutrition activities.

(Village) has a population of approximately 540 children under 5 years. Nutrition workers have been active in the village for the past 6 months. According to their reports, 500 children have been registered in the village growth monitoring activities. However, the participation of children at the monthly weighing sessions has been very low. Less than 30 percent of the registered children came to the weighing sessions during the past month.

QUESTIONS: How will you find out what is causing this problem? Whom will you talk to? What will you observe?

Part B


During your investigation, you found that there were several reasons for the low attendance at monthly weighing sessions:

- One of the five locations that should have monthly activities had not held a weighing session for the past two months. One of the workers responsible for this location has been sick; the other cannot read or write.

- Mothers in this village complain that they have no time to attend weighing sessions. They are busy in their gardens and cannot spend a full morning waiting for their children to be weighed.

- You also found that the last month's report from the village was incorrect. Attendance was actually 40 percent, not 30 percent.

ASSIGNMENT: Make a list of the actions you might take to help solve these problems.



Part A

PROBLEM: High community volunteer drop-out

Fifteen Community Nutrition Volunteers were trained in early 1984 in (village). The last reports you received for this village showed that only five volunteers are currently active. Volunteer activities in this village are very low.

QUESTION: How will you find out what is causing this problem? Whom will you talk to? What will you observe?

Part B


After talking to the active and inactive volunteers, to the clinic staff and to the local supervisor, you find that there are several reasons for this problem:

- Volunteers are frustrated by the lack of support from village leaders and the clinic. After training, volunteers began working very actively to register all the children in the village. They had been told during their training that they should carry out demonstration feedings at every weighing session and that they would be given a small fund to help with the expenses of this activity. When the funds did not arrive, they asked the village chief for help. He sent them to the clinic, but the nurse knew nothing about funding for the activity and told them that funding for the demonstrations was the responsibility of the village. The village development committee suggested that the volunteers raise funds for their own activities.

- In the beginning, volunteers spent their own funds and donated foods for the demonstration feedings on weighing day. This was very expensive, so they discontinued the demonstrations.

- When the volunteers stopped giving food to children at the weighing sessions, the mothers became angry. Many of them did not bring their children to be weighed. Many of the volunteers simply stopped working at that time.

- Local supervisors were aware of this problem but did not know whom to ask for help.

ASSIGNMENT: Make a list of the actions you would take to help solve this problem.



Part A

PROBLEM: Continuing high rates of malnutrition

(Village) started nutrition activities last year. So far you, the supervisor, have received three reports from the village workers. The first report showed that 5 percent of the children in the village were severely malnourished and that 45 percent were moderately malnourished. The last report from the village showed that 5.3 percent of the children were severely malnourished and 49 percent moderately malnourished. You are concerned about this increase and you wonder why the situation is not improving in this village.

QUESTION: How will you find out what is causing this problem? Whom will you talk to? What will you observe?

Part B


When you visit this village you find that:

- Village workers are active but their skills are very low. Most of them can fill out the growth cards, but none can interpret the growth curve.

- After observing the weighing activities in two locations, you find that workers are not counseling the mothers of "high risk" children on an individual basis. They say they were not taught to do this in their training.

- Five of the ten active workers are new replacements for workers who are no longer active. They have not received formal training.

- Workers refer severely malnourished and sick children to the nearest clinic. But the clinic is far away, and many families do not take their children for treatment.

- This is a very poor area. Families must work very hard to produce enough food for their families. In fact, most families do not have enough food to meet their needs for the entire year.

ASSIGNMENT: Make a list of the actions you would take to help solve these problems.