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Ensuring no one left behind with FAO’s social analysis guides


The FAO Investment Centre has today launched a three-volume series, Social analysis for inclusive agrifood investments.

Together with three innovative e-learning courses, these guides aim to boost the effectiveness of investments in agriculture and rural development through gender equality and social inclusion.

“Now more than ever before, it’s vital that we put people at the centre of agrifood investments,” said Mohamed Manssouri, Director, FAO Investment Centre. "These guides highlight how social analysis can inform agrifood investments in order to reduce inequality, empower women and youth, protect human rights, and provide food and nutrition security.”

Seismic shifts, turbulence and transformation

Over a decade has passed since the first release of FAO’s Social Analysis Guidelines. The world has witnessed significant changes, from escalating conflicts and climate change, to economic turbulence.

In response, new analytical concepts and development approaches have emerged, broadening the scope and complexity of investment operations.

International financing institutions (IFIs) have adapted by engaging with private enterprises more closely and emphasizing social risk assessments and safeguards.

This has, in turn, amplified the need for robust social analysis studies to enrich the quality of investment strategies and projects.

“These guides are unique because they focus on agrifood investment against the background of rural transformation and social challenges," said Beatrice Gerli, Senior Technical Specialist, IFAD. "IFAD and other IFIs are raising the bar for gender equality and social inclusion, requiring managers and practitioners to deliver on increasingly complex objectives.”

Practical guides to putting people at the heart of planning

Social analysis is a process that examines the social and cultural context of stakeholders and communities that benefit directly or are impacted in some way by the planned investments.

This includes analysis of the historical context and local power dynamics, as well as gender, and diversity issues. It helps ground investments on social realities, gather stakeholder input, set strategies for inclusion, and assess social impact.

Agrifood investments informed by social analysis can contribute to better targeted investments, fostering local ownership and consensus, empowering local people to lead development and drive change.

Underpinned by a new conceptual framework for social analysis, the guides offer a wealth of methods, resources, links to reference material and practical, participatory tools.

The Manager's Guide offers a roadmap for directors, coordinators, team leaders, task managers to seamlessly integrate social dimensions throughout the investment cycle, from design and implementation to evaluation.

The Practitioner's Guide delves into how to conduct social analysis within the context of food systems. It provides a framework to guide the analysis, and gives practical tools and resources needed to support each task.

The Field Guide provides hands-on, practical guidance, with participatory guidance, data sources and checklists on how to embed social analysis effectively into field work.

In addition, Social analysis for inclusive agrifood investments is a series of certified e-learning courses from the FAO Investment Centre and FAO e-learning Academy (PSU), targeted at managers, practitioners and field experts. The courses are available for free online, through the FAO elearning Academy.

The guides and elearning courses can also be a valuable resource for private companies, foundations, impact funds and other investors with social responsibility programs.

At the heart of these guides is the recognition that investments are shaped primarily by the national landscape and enabling environment.

“It’s not just about what to invest in; it's about how to approach investment options and solutions,” said Ida Christensen, Senior Rural Sociologist at the FAO Investment Centre, and lead author of the Guides. “Building more sustainable and inclusive agrifood systems requires investment approaches to be integrated and grounded, empowering vulnerable people.”

With the clock ticking towards 2030, these guides strive to ensure that no one is left behind in the pursuit of food systems transformation.