Decision Making In The Guatemalan Food And Nutrition Security Policy Community: Reflections On "Good" Process

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There have been many recent efforts to develop national policies, strategies and programs for the reduction of chronic malnutrition and food insecurity in Guatemala. While there are recognizable strengths of the decision making processes in the development of these policies, strategies and programs, there are also many apparent challenges within the Guatemalan Food and Nutrition Security (FNS) policy community. Previous findings show that among the main challenges are 1) fragmented and competing efforts of different actors and institutions, 2) a lack of true, sustained commitment, and 3) inter-personal and inter-institutional aspects such as rivalry, differing perspectives, values and interests, lack of trust and the desire to maintain bureaucratic territory. Challenges like these also have been observed within other national nutrition policy communities, the international nutrition community and policy communities in general. These limitations have led many scholars and practitioners, especially those outside of nutrition, to seek out improved approaches for decision making. However, decision making in policy communities typically lacks processes for systematic, open and inclusive dialogue, argumentation and deliberation in order to address these issues. These observations and the researchers' prior experiences in Guatemala led to asking the following questions: "what is a 'good' decision making process?" "why does a 'good' process matter?" and "are people willing to accept the resulting decisions resulting from a 'good' process even though they do not agree on all of the substantive issues involved?" This research was a case study designed to provide an opportunity for actors in the Guatemalan FNS policy community to reflect upon their own perspectives and experiences with decision making in this policy community in order to explore what they think constitutes a 'good' process and both the importance and desired consequences of such a process. Results revealed that 1) a 'good' process is valued by this group of actors, 2) literature-based characteristics of such a process resonate considerably with them, and 3) they are willing to participate in a process like this, which they feel is needed and possible in this context, and to accept the resulting decisions. These findings can help provide the actors of the FNS policy community in Guatemala with the awareness that other actors in this community also feel that a 'good' process is needed in this context and that they are willing to participate in and accept the resulting decisions, as long as they result from a 'good' process. These points of common understanding can serve as the foundation to initiate conversation about 1) the need for such a process and 2) the feasibility of carrying out a formal decision making process in order to improve actions around the national strategies for the reduction of chronic malnutrition and food insecurity in Guatemala. These findings also provide a decision making framework that can be adapted to other settings where the national or international nutrition communities have a need to form collective decisions about interventions, policies, strategies and related issues.

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