I started this blog in July 2013 to document my learning and reflection throughout a period dedicated to supporting a group of Tanzanian organizations. The project began in 2012 to see how to establish a mobile-optimized ePlatform for health workers in Tanzania, accessible through PC, tablet, and smart phone, with an offline version accessible through android.
Planning – a slow job!
Almost three years have passed, and it’s time to sit back and reflect a little. The concept to date has been developed through a process of listening to people from more than 100 organizations and finding ways to build their input into what aims to be an initiative that helps everyone involved in the human resources for health landscape to better achieve their goals – not necessarily to be the best project ever – the icing on the cake – rather to be the yeast that makes the cake rise. Almost three years have been spent building solid relationships with core organizations who were selected to be the ‘’founding partners’’. Countless discussions have taken place about the specific roles of each organization, the importance of inclusive and generous leadership from the coordinating organization, the absolute imperative of ensuring that everything we do is fully aligned with the strategies of the government, the need to look beyond the space where each organization works in order to build synergies with a whole range of other ministries, sectors and people who can help us to build a useful virtual learning community for all people who care about health and know what its like to be a health worker in Tanzania.
The work of preparing project documents, budgets, consortium agreements, beta versions of the eplatform, mockups of sample courses, local buy-in, senior level engagement and commitment of key consortium members – much of this has been done, and further updates will be on a new blog which will be established (‘’holding’’ blog at https://synergiesinhealth.wordpress.com/).
So with this post, I am now closing this blog – and now is the time to reflect on what has been learnt to date.
Shortly before going to catch my plane, the other day, a wise woman asked the question …”has all this time and effort been worth it, what have you or the people you have been working with actually learnt?’’
So here below are my thoughts so far on the learning which has taken place along the journey that began when I first got involved with Tanzania through my work at the Global Health Workforce Alliance.
A‘’good idea’’ is like a seed
- I have learnt that a ‘’good idea’’ is like a seed. The tree that grows bears no resemblance to the seed – but without the seed, there can be no tree. I would say that the idea that resulted from time working at GHWA and the 2 initial missions to Tanzania as GHWA staff member, could account for approximately 1% of the project as it now stands. Without an idea, a project will not materialize, but the gap between having an idea and actually converting this to a real initiative is massive.
Good partnerships are based on trust
2. I have learnt that solid partnerships are built on mutual respect and trust, and are not built with organizations but with people. Building trust takes time and is not something that can be rushed. It demands sincerity, patience and a willingness to understand others’ concerns. It requires honest efforts to see different perspectives and a willingness to at least try to help address challenges specific to each context. I have learnt that it is not a weakness to admit to mistakes as long as there is an accompanying openness to acknowledging when things are not perfect, and a sustained desire to make improvements. I have learnt that people working in different organizations and environments have particular constraints they must deal with, and a good partner will make efforts to be empathetic and try to help to overcome obstacles so that workable solutions can be found.
People make a difference
3. I have learnt that there are a lot of people who really want to make a difference to help find sustainable solutions for causes they really care about. I have been privileged to meet a fair share of such amazing professionals living and working in Tanzania, Switzerland, Ireland, Japan, USA, UK, Spain, Argentina, Nigeria, France, Russian federation, Kuwait, China, Azerbaijan, Scotland, Denmark, India, Portugal and plenty of other places, who have given of their time generously and have shared with me their considerable knowledge and insights and have on many occasions gone out of their way to open doors to help our project move another baby step forward.
Meaningful use of technology – a game changer
4. I have learnt that technology is amazing and holds incredible potential for changing our world. I have also learnt that real change can come about not through devices, but by chosing to use them meaningfully – technology is an enabler of positive change. I have learnt that many lessons can be learnt from the patterns of usage of technology in countries who enjoy high speed wifi and who have already reached the status of information society, and these lessons can be invaluable in the exciting project of shaping technology adoption in countries who are taking their first steps into the digital age. I have learnt to believe that the road ahead is clear and that sooner than we think, the majority of people even in least developing countries will have access to the internet and if harnessed properly , we can be at a game changing moment in the history of development.
Perseverence in ensuring high standards
5. I have learnt that perseverance is needed to achieve ambitious goals. I have learnt that when standards slip, there is sometimes a need to remind ourselves that if the objective is to have a gold standard project, then delivering something that is silver standard is just not good enough. The ability to have sometimes tough conversations, I believe, is linked to having a foundation of a good relationship where all concerned understand that harsh words are sometimes needed to keep things on track, but trust that there is no intended meanness or self interest behind such words, but rather a deep and shared interest in finding the best solutions for a project which will benefit everyone.
Locally-owned solutions: the ultimate objective
6. Finally, I have learnt to believe that when people with a shared interest and passion come together with a common purpose, and are supported to collaboratively identify their own solutions, the possibilities for success are simply boundless.
So – has it been worth it? It’s been a long road so far – it’s been a road full of potholes, ups and downs, slow and difficult at times, but with plenty of inspiring and wonderful moments, and always travelled in great company.
What lies ahead? Only time will tell – but hopefully something amazing!