The business meeting of the Thematic Working Group on Health Systems in Fragile and Conflict Affected States was held on the 2nd October at the Cape Town conference. A crowd of over 30 people came together to think through some priority areas for the group’s work over the coming year and how best to organize and communicate.
There was a desire to work together to develop proposals and projects collaboratively. Some members were keen that we focus on research which is useful in practice (i.e. implementation research) which can support people working on the ground. This entails partnerships and knowledge generation with implementers.
There were also calls for a community of practice which would enable practitioners to share across different country contexts. Knowledge sharing more broadly was also thought to be important, for example creating opportunities for researchers to reflect on experiences in encouraging the uptake of evidence. Participants felt that the LinkedIn group could be used to flag up interesting/highly relevant papers/research. There could also be a mechanism by which people could post requests relevant to certain countries or areas of work.
Country ownership and leadership was also a theme that was raised. Particularly the need to support researchers and their organizations who are working in conflict zones who may lack capacity and/or funds or who could benefit from mentoring.
The importance of challenging other TWGs to reflect on what their work means to fragile and conflict affected states was raised. Our member Sally Theobald has written more on this in a Health Systems Global blog.
Some participants thought that there was scope for the group to become a ‘constituency’ which could represent its members in dialogue with donors.
Communication, governance and membership
There was some discussion about the composition of the Advisory Group or leadership of the TWG. There is currently a Steering Committee and it was proposed that an Advisory Group be set up to guide the work of the TWG. There was a desire for the leadership to be representative (i.e. include people from sub groups such as people from fragile states, implementers and academia).
We were cautioned to manage expectations about what the group can and can’t do. That we need to define the scope of the group and make it realistic. For example if the group becomes more than a network, and starts to do advocacy, the governance structure and accountability becomes more important. This is something we will be taking forward in the immediate future. Terms of reference are needed for the proposed Advisory Group and these should include monitoring the progress of the group against objectives. Whilst structure is necessary some also felt that that governance should be ‘organic’. It should facilitate activities of the group, not be a bottleneck to action.
In terms of group composition some thought that we should reach out to new members from the humanitarian community and harness their energy – perhaps what we can offer them is useful information such as providing access to relevant papers and debates from Cape Town. Furthermore, we were challenged to link with and include the Emerging Voices from the conference. It was also felt that we need to bring other non-health researchers into this process to ensure a multidisciplinary approach (for example people from the political sciences, conflict sensitivity, anthropology, and governance).
Whilst we are all LinkedIn fans it was felt that it might be an idea to follow the lead of other Thematic Working Groups who have set up a Google Group to keep in touch with each other.