Laura Platenkamp

What are your responsibilities as Senior Associate for the Urban Governance for Nutrition programme?

I work within the Programme Services Team at GAIN, which is responsible for supporting the design and implementation of GAIN’s projects. As Senior Associate for Urban Governance for Nutrition, I’m responsible for quality assurance of our different projects. My main task is to assess whether our projects contribute to and are aligned with our programmatic strategy and approach. I also look at the sustainability, scalability and impact of our projects. At the same time, this involves generating new knowledge for the programme, as well as creating visibility internationally for urban governance for nutrition in general and for our organisation in particular. I also contribute to fundraising efforts.

Which is the greatest nutrition challenge in urban settings?

Cities are growing rapidly, in particular in Africa and Asia. Currently, many new cities are being built. Our challenge is to make sure that all people in urban areas have access to nutritious and safe foods. We focus on availability, affordability and convenience. We also want nutritious foods to be tasty. We know that this is not the case now: currently, we see both undernutrition and overweight and obesity occurring in cities, resulting in very serious health problems. 

In your view, what does it take to end malnutrition in cities?

Dedication, collaboration, and funds. We need politicians in cities to put nutrition high on their agendas and commit adequate budgets to implement their nutrition strategies. We also need increased collaboration between government, private sector, civil society and academia in cities. Having strong urban governance for nutrition is incredibly important, and at the same time we need to make sure that this is inclusive, transparent and accountable.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?

We are an incredibly dispersed organisation with colleagues in many different countries. It’s a great pleasure working in a global team, as we all bring different cultural perspectives and skill sets to the organisation. Also, there is a strong emphasis on providing a sound academic basis for our work, whilst still being innovative in our approach and flexible in how we respond to the world changing around us. This means that, in my role, I get to develop strategies and manage projects, but also deep-dive into content.

What are the most challenging aspects of your work?

Time-zones! Only partially joking. Seriously, I would say that the most challenging aspect is to bridge the gap between the different players and sectors needed to solve the complex problem of malnutrition. Non-governmental organisations, governments, academia, and private sector don’t necessarily speak the same language. How we communicate is incredibly important in bringing people into the discussions and building those partnerships required to end malnutrition. 

What inspires you to work in this programme, regardless of its challenges?

Nutrition should be at the centre of attention in urban policies. Yet, it doesn’t always receive the attention it deserves. At the same time, there are cities that are doing great things and others can learn from them. It’s rewarding to be part of a programme that advocates for nutrition, supports cities both in developing nutrition policies and sharing valuable best practices.



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