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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

Unit 3 - Supervising community nutrition activities

SESSION 1: The Role of the Supervisor

SESSION 2: Identifying and Solving Problems

SESSION 3: Problem Solving/Role Play

SESSION 4: Planning and Conducting Supervision Visits

Session 1: The role of the supervisor


1. Analyze past experience as a subordinate and as a supervisor .

2. Define the functions of supervision in nutrition improvement programs.

3. Discuss the characteristics of community workers and volunteers that affect supervision.

Time: 3 hours


- Handout - "Supervisors I Have Known"

- Handout - "Supervising Volunteers"

- Flipchart and marking pens


Review handouts and prepare questions for discussion.


1. Introduce the topic of supervision by brainstorming the functions of program supervisors. Add the following points, if they are not mentioned:

- Direct and control program activities

- Provide support and encouragement to workers - Provide on-the-job training

- Monitor program activities

- Contact and share information with village leaders and other administrative officials

- Motivate staff and volunteers

- Set an example

- Reinforce work of subordinates

- Identify outside technical and financial assistance, if necessary

2. Distribute the Handout - "Supervisors I Have Known" and ask participants to read and answer each question.

3. Divide into two work groups. The task of each group is to share its answers to the first and second questions on the handout, then to develop a group list of the characteristics of an effective supervisor.

4. When groups finish, ask them to write their descriptions on the flipchart and to present them to the group.

5. Comment on the similarities and differences in the groups' definitions and add the following points, if they are not mentioned. An effective supervisor:

- Has a good understanding of the job of the worker/volunteer

- Listens

- Cares about the worker/volunteer

- Helps the worker/volunteer improve

- Looks at performance, not personality

- Gets the facts before making a decision

- Gives feedback

- Is specific about tasks to be performed - Is open and communicative

- Motivates through words and actions

6. Return to work groups. Ask work groups to share their answers to questions 3 and 4 on the handout about their own strengths and problems as supervisors.

7. Assign each group the task of designing a short role play to illustrate one or two of the problems they have encountered as supervisors of people and activities. Groups should choose problems that several of them have in common. (Allow 20 minutes for preparation of role plays.)

8. Work groups present their role plays.

9. After each role play, ask participants to summarize the problems presented. List them on the flipchart.

10. Lead a discussion based on the problems presented in the role plays. Possible questions to stimulate discussion might be:

- What are the causes of each supervision problem?

- What are the skills supervisors must have to overcome and avoid these problems?

- What kinds of support and training do supervisors need to overcome these problems?

11. Discuss the characteristics of workers/volunteers that affect how supervisors approach and work with them. These include:

- Often unpaid

- Low level of basic education

- Short training in nutrition

- Different motivations for becoming workers/ volunteers

- Age

- Sex

- Etc.

12. Distribute the Handout - "Supervising Volunteers," and discuss the differences between supervising volunteers and paid workers. Emphasize ways to motivate volunteer workers:

- Giving positive feedback, praise

- Working with them

- Helping them improve and acquire new skills

- Etc.

13. Summary: In this session, participants reviewed the functions of supervisors of community nutrition and health activities. They listed the characteristics of effective supervisors, and they discussed common problems faced by supervisors. The sessions that follow will help supervisors develop problem-solving, planning and communication skills needed for effective supervision.



1. When a supervisor inspires you to perform a job well, what does the supervisor do?

The supervisor_______________________________________________________________________

2. How would you describe your ideal supervisor?

My ideal supervisor is a person who___________________________________________________

3. If you have been or are a supervisor of people or activities, what are the things you like about your style of supervision?


4. What problems have you encountered as a supervisor?




The following chart compares the characteristics of leaders in volunteer organizations and in organizations with paid staff. These characteristics often determine the role and the approach of a supervisor.

Characteristics of LeadersVolunteer Organizations

Organization With Paid Workers

1. Leader/supervisor


Paid a salary

2. Subordinate/worker


Paid to perform tasks

3. Consequences for
the worker if work
is not completed

Not severe
Not financial

Worker could lose
job and salary

4. Duration of job

Volunteers often
want only short-
term responsibility

Paid workers want
long-term assurance
of job

5. Goals

Usually agreed
to & set by all

Usually set by top

6. Leadership style

Manager must
"consult" volunteers;
works with them

"Tell"; "sell"; "direct"

7. Authority

Comes from the

Comes from above

8. Personality

Dynamic, charismatic
personality often required

Dynamic personality
helpful but not critical

9. Expertise of supervisors/

Generalists-wide range
of people and technical


10. Job orientation

Must be people oriented

Task and/or people

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.

Session 3: Problem-solving/role play


In this session, trainees practice problem solving and communications skills by conducting a simulated meeting. During the meeting, supervisors discuss a problem with the individuals who could be involved in its solution.

Time: 1/2 hour


- One "Supervision Problem" description selected by trainees

- Chalkboard and chalk

Preparation :

- Ask trainees to select one of the supervision problems discussed in the previous session.

- Ask trainees to decide whom they might invite to a meeting to discuss this problem.


1. Introduce the session by explaining the purpose stated above. Review the specific problem to be discussed in the role play meeting and its possible causes.

2. Write the following objectives for the meeting on the chalkboard:

- To give everyone involved a chance to discuss the problem

- To discuss possible ways of solving the problem

- To agree on actions to solve the problem and who will take them

3. Ask two trainees to play the roles of the supervisors who are conducting the meeting. Give them ten minutes to plan how they want to conduct the meeting.

4. Assign the roles of the other individuals invited to the meeting to the rest of the trainees. Give them ten minutes to think about the attitudes and skills of the people they will play in the role play.

5. Conduct the role play. (Allow 15-20 minutes)

6. Conduct a discussion about the process and the results of the role play meeting. You may want to use the discussion questions on the next page:

Ask the two supervisors who conducted the meeting the following questions:

- Which of 'the meeting's objectives were achieved? Which were not achieved and why?

- How do they feel about the results of the meeting?

- How did they feel about the other trainees during the meeting?

- What would they do differently in a future problem-solving meeting?

Ask the trainees who attended the meeting, and those who observed it, to give their comments:

- How do they feel about the results of the meeting?

- How did they feel during the meeting?

- Did they have the chance to say what they wanted to say? If not, why not?

7. Based on their experience in the role play exercise, ask trainees to list the characteristics of an effective problem-solving meeting. These might include:

- The purpose of the meeting is explained and understood by all

- Everyone has an opportunity to express his/her opinion

- Realistic alternatives for solving the problem are discussed

- Participants respect and try to understand each other's opinions

- Specific actions to be taken are defined

- Tasks are assigned

- Follow-up is scheduled

8. Congratulate the participants for their performance in

the role play exercise. Review the steps for effective problem-solving mentioned in Session 1 of this unit.

Session 4: Planning and conducting supervision visits


In this session, trainees identify activities that might be part of regular supervision visits to workers and communities with on-going nutrition projects. They also review a supervision form that could be used to plan and record the results of supervision visits.

Time: 1 hour


- Handout - "Supervision Visits"

- Handout _ " Supervisor's Checklist"

- Flipchart and marking pens


1. Introduction: Supervision is an important part of project management. Supervisors monitor work in progress, help workers/volunteers to solve problems and provide new technical and programmatic information.

2. Ask trainees to describe a productive supervision visit to observe a community worker or group involved in an on-going nutrition activity. What does the supervisor do? What are the activities during the visit? How does the supervisor assess the workers, volunteers, others? You may want to use a role play or dramatization to illustrate a productive and an unproductive supervision visit.

3. Divide into work groups, and ask groups to brainstorm lists of the things they will want to observe and questions they will want to answer during supervision visits to communities.

Make sure that the following are included in their lists:

- Questions about planned and completed activities

- Questions about results of completed activities

- Observation about the workers' knowledge and skills

- Observation of worker's contacts with families (especially families of sick and malnourished children) with pregnant women, community leaders and others

- Review of program records and reports

4. Distribute the Handout - Supervision Visits. " Compare the trainees' lists of possible questions and activities during supervision visits with those on the handout.

5.. Distribute the Handout _ "A Supervisor's Checklist." Discuss the need to both plan for and record the results of supervision visits. This handout is only one example of many different types of forms that could be developed to guide supervisory visits, and to record the actions taken and those planned by supervisors. A form of this type also makes it possible for the supervisor-of-supervisors to assess his/her work with field workers and community groups.

6. Role Plays: Practice planning and conducting supervision visits to community nutrition workers through role plays. The following situations might be used:

- Several volunteers in this village have recently stopped participating in monthly weighing activities. The supervisor visits several of the volunteers to find out why and to encourage them to continue working with the monthly nutrition activities.

- The supervisor's objective is to assess the follow-up activities that workers are conducting with high-risk children. What will the supervisor do during the visit? What information will she need? How will she check the accuracy of that information?

- The supervisor has observed that workers have great difficulty filling out the Road to Health Chart. During this supervision visit, she wants to work with them to improve their skills in this area.

- The supervisor observes that weaning food demonstrations are carried out regularly by nutrition workers. However, the recipes they are teaching mothers to prepare require foods that are not available to families, unless they are purchased in the market. During this supervision visit she will try to solve this problem.

After each role play discuss:

- The problem the supervisor faced

- How the supervisor organized the visit to achieve her purpose

- What the supervisor did to help workers solve their problems

- What skills the supervisor needed to solve the problem

- What the other trainees would have done differently

7. Ask trainees to summarize what they have learned in the session. Discuss remaining concerns and possible topics for future training session dealing with supervision.



Project supervisors make many visits to workers and communities to check on the progress of activities, the knowledge and skills of workers and many other aspects of project operations and performance.

To be effective:

1. A supervision visit should be planned in advance based on specific needs and objectives.

2. The supervisor must have prepared him/herself for the visit.

3. The visit must assess progress made towards solving problems identified in past visits, while identifying new strengths and weaknesses in performance.

Planning/Problem-Solving: During the supervision visit, the supervisor should help workers assess completed activities, plan for activities in the coming months, identify any problems that are occurring and plan for the solution of those problems.

Motivating/Giving Feedback: An important part of the supervisor's job is to encourage and motivate the workers to carry out their tasks effectively. In community programs where many workers are volunteers, encouragement and praise for work well done are important incentives for continued participation. Volunteers, as well as salaried workers, will also appreciate suggestions of ways to improve their efforts, if the advice is realistic and constructive.

Assessing Skills: Supervisors should assess workers' technical and interpersonal skills through observation. This may be done by conducting activities (growth monitoring, home visits, education sessions, etc.) with workers during a supervisory visit.

Reporting: In many programs, supervisors assist community/ workers complete and/or compile reports of their activities and results.

In-Service Training: Supervisory visits should be used whenever possible to provide workers with new information and to upgrade their technical and interpersonal skills.

Follow - Up: Actions that will be taken by the supervisor and the workers to solve existing problems should be clearly defined during the visit. After the visit, supervisors and workers should follow through by carrying out the actions that have been agreed upon. During the next supervisory contact, the supervisor should follow up with the worker, upon giving feedback on the progress and actions that have been taken.

Supervisors are always limited in the amount of time they can spend with individual workers or communities. While all of the areas above may be of concern to supervisors, individual visits should be focused on one or two priority issues. For example, during one month, supervisors may be most interested in assessing workers' skills, the next, they may be asked to conduct in-service training on a topic that workers are finding difficult.



Worker/Group Name ________________ Location ____________________________

Name of Supervisor ________________________ Date ________________________




1. Purpose of the visit


2. Problems or issues remaining from the last visit that should be discussed


3. Information or issues that have come to your attention since the last visit that should be discussed


4. Activities planned during visit with village workers


5. On-the-job-training planned during the visit
Materials required:


6. Official visits and


7. Problems raised by the village workers during the visit


8. Problems observed by supervisor during visit


9. Follow-up required