Virtual consortium workshop 2020 – reviewing progress, evaluating our tools and planning our next steps
As you may have read previously on this blog, because of the COVID-19 pandemic the PERFORM2Scale annual consortium workshop had to be held online. Rather than meeting for five days of face-to-face workshops and discussions in Lilongwe, Malawi we were limited to less than three days of virtual discussions. While there were a few glitches it was generally a successful experience, and we have learnt a lot about managing such virtual gatherings in future.
The purpose of the meeting was to progress the PERFORM2Scale programme; to continue the development of the scale-up framework and strategies, to review the implementation process of the management strengthening intervention (MSI), and to review the progress of our research and outcome evaluation. Through a series of short presentations, group activities and feedback we examined each in turn.
The post-workshop feedback surveys showed that participants felt that good progress was made. Most importantly embryonic scale-up strategies have been developed - these will support the handover of the initiative to country-based staff for much wider roll-out and sustainable scale-up. We also discussed possible adaptations to data collection tools, and how we can ensure that the consortium has the most relevant and robust evidence with which to answer our study questions.
Opportunities and challenges
Inevitably COVID-19 featured in our thinking. Aside from our deep concern for the wellbeing of our district health manager-partners in Ghana, Malawi and Uganda we also discussed the impact on the project’s progress. How do we maintain the enthusiasm and momentum of managers during this period? Can our researchers continue to support the MSI? Once the pandemic is over will other stakeholders be willing and able to take over support for the programme from PERFORM2Scale and build on what has been achieved so far? I’m sure that programmes, businesses and individuals around the world are facing similar predicaments and are feeling similarly blindsided by the rapid onset and unpredictable nature of the pandemic.
However, we also realised that as a consortium we can do a lot more online, including those workshop activities that had to be shelved for lack of time during the virtual meeting. Through adversity has come opportunity.
The next step
So, how did we end the workshop? As expected, we have a long list of follow-up activities. The further development of countries’ scale-up strategies is an important focus for the coming months, as is planning for years four and five. Distilling the most persuasive evidence of the MSI’s impact and using it to convince stakeholders to become champions for the programme is a vital part of that process. And possibly most importantly, especially during World Health Worker Week, we left with both a need and desire to maintain links with the DHMTs struggling with COVID-19 in Ghana, Malawi and Uganda.