Morten Siggaard joined a project with BCG’s Social Impact practise to reduce child stunting in Tanzania in collaboration with The World Food Programme. Read what he learned here.
As part of my work with BCG’s Social Impact practice, I was staffed on a case part of the firm’s partnership with the World Food Programme. Our project took me to Tanzania, where I joined an effort to help reduce child stunting, a direct result of malnutrition that affects approximately 34% of Tanzania’s children and hinders the country’s economic potential. Using BCG’s Smart Simplicity framework, we took the 12 elements that were the success factors behind the quick reduction of stunting in other countries and embarked upon driving their full implementation in Tanzania. These elements included a dedicated team, attention to data, leadership, and strong community engagement in the country, among others.
After teaming up with the prime minister’s office and Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre (TFNC), we quickly aligned on three core objectives:
- Improve local capability and data quality. Address data collection issues by making the reports from in-country NGOs publicly available (in a nutrition library), encouraging collaboration, reducing redundancy, and increasing efficient and effective implementation of future nutrition projects.
- Redefine collaboration. Reframe the local nutrition steering committees to focus on action-oriented discussion and encourage frequent information sharing to increase collaboration among stakeholders within the districts.
- Empower the Catalyst team. Establish a dream team to drive forward the Smart Simplicity tool on a country-wide scale, providing detailed planning and implementation, and ensuring data systems and tools are running efficiently and reporting is accurate and consistent.
Quickly, I realized that communication norms in Tanzania were rather different compared to my usual style of communication in Denmark.
Locally in Tanzania, a common approach to managing conflict was more consensus-oriented than my own; when talking with the teams, I needed to typically leave my direct communication and feedback style behind and focus first and foremost on finding common ground. I quickly came to see the value in this approach, realizing I needed to reevaluate what makes an effective conversation. This was most apparent when we faced data challenges. Due to a variety of constraints, it was difficult to obtain data on the entire country. Our hope was to reach more local facilities to implement height-measuring boards to check for warning signals in a baby’s growth.
My Tanzanian colleagues’ approach to problem-solving emphasized reflection and collective brainstorming, rather than quickly forcing through things, which is something I often see at home. This not only generated creative ideas in the face of a tricky data situation, it also made adapting to different working environments in the field easier. I learned to adapt my skillset to different meeting habits and hierarchies to keep up.
Throughout the project, I was inspired by the passion of every team member with which I worked. It was promising to see how simple changes can have such an exponentially larger impact in solving an issue.
The local authorities’ commitment to finding new ways to tackle stunting meant they found opportunities to play a systemic role in championing this cause, and, therefore, much progress was made by working with the existing hierarchies, roles, and responsibilities. I’m grateful to take this new understanding of collaboration and dialogue to my next project, whether it be in the social or private sector!
About the author
Morten Siggaard was a Consultant at BCG in Denmark from 2017-2019.
He is a GLOBE-Scholar from Copenhagen Business School, and holds a M.Sc. from London Business School. In 2018 worked for our global Social Impact project with the UN World Food Programme. Today Morten is an Investment Professional at Cinven.