The Emerging Voices programme is an initiative of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, and it aims to empower health researchers from the Global South by providing intensive skills training at a global health conference. This year’s Emerging Voices in Global Health (EV4GH) programme was like no other. Every cohort is just as determined as its predecessor, and each programme is more innovative and bolder than the one before. For the first time ever, the EV4GH Face-to-Face training programme of select early career Health Policy and Systems Research researchers and policymakers incorporated the contributions of six of the ten Health Systems Global (HSG) Thematic working groups (TWGs).
The Evidence to Action (E2A) TWG spearheaded the knowledge translation (KT) capacity-strengthening element of the Face-to-Face programme. Nasreen Jessani (E2A TWG co-Vice Chair and EV2014) and Felipe Sere (EV2016) designed an integrated and deliberate approach that was woven into the week-long programme with the following objectives:
- Encourage EVs to foster trusting relationships between researchers and research users, as well as create or capitalize on opportunities for engagement.
- Enhance the knowledge and capacities of EVs to better understand the policy, practice, public and media arena.
- Enhance the capacity of EVs to package their research in a way that is accessible to various research users.
- Support EVs to put into practice a number of immediately useful skills for each of these audiences that may be relevant to their own contexts.
To achieve these objectives, sessions were designed and delivered using an active learning approach incorporating elements of adult pedagogy. The sessions were also designed to respond to the theme of the day – whether it be Universal Health Coverage or Health Equity.
After introducing key principles of KT and the importance of a stakeholder analysis leading to an engagement strategy, participants put theory quickly into action. Rock and Role was the first simulation on how to engage with the community. Hot Off the Press! provided participants with opportunities to conduct mock interviews with journalists. Other sessions included elevator pitches, motivational interviews, as well as poster and presentation rehearsals. Naturally, the newly acquired know-how cut across several target audiences.
Here, we share reflections on this E2A/EV4GH collaboration from the perspectives of participants (EVs) new to KT (Shweta Singh, EV2018) and familiar with KT (Ahmad Firas Khalid and Olivia Biermann, both EV2018), a representative of the HSG communications team (Vivienne Benson) and the TWG leads (Nasreen Jessani and Dorcus Kiwanuka Henriksson, Chair of EV4GH).
- Learning first lessons in KT
For EVs new to the world of KT, this was a unique opportunity to learn hands-on skills in ‘bridging gaps’ between research and policy/practice in various contexts. The eager sharing of real-life KT experiences and lessons was inspiring for those just diving into this complex field. Shweta Singh plans to leverage her new skills to prepare evidence briefs that summarise her research effectively for local policymakers.
- Finding (new) windows of opportunity for KT
For EVs already working in KT, the collaboration accelerated the learning. Olivia Biermann co-facilitated an interactive session about community dialogues, building on her previous work with WHO’s Evidence-informed Policy Network (EVIPNet) Europe. Ahmad Firas Khalid sparked many thoughtful discussions while sharing insights from his PhD work linked to KT in humanitarian settings. Participants were inspired to be brave in the quest for new windows of opportunity for research to influence change – at the level of the individual, the community and beyond – and to be bold in using them.
- Framing research for appropriate audiences
A session on media was led by Vivienne Benson, Sophie Marsden (HSG) and Kevin Gopal (Big Issue North). Easy? Actually easier than expected! Two EVs (Sameh Al-Awlaqi and Shehnaz Munshi) were mock-interviewed after preparing some clear messages for the ‘media’. They were both brilliant, taking on the points about preparation and understanding the wider context. Putting theory into practice, they subsequently conducted Facebook live interviews during the symposium on connected communities and fighting inequality. EVs are at the forefront of change and answering/asking important and curious questions – hence the important relationship between E2A and the EVs.
- Empowering action in KT
As health policy and systems researchers and decision-makers, EVs have ideas about different types of evidence that inform decision-making and the importance of the evidence being relevant, clear, and timely. This year’s collaboration with the E2A TWG gave the group determination and confidence to engage and communicate with various audiences. One could not have asked for more as an outcome from this collaboration, which seemed so natural to EV4GH. The enthusiastic participation and appreciation from EVs (that for the first time included early career decision-makers) showed that this valuable partnership is worth continuing with.
The E2A TWG was thrilled to have the opportunity for in-depth engagement with this cohort of EVs! Building awareness and capacity for KT in our future health policy and systems leaders early improves our chances of getting better evidence uptake in policies and programs going forward. Daniela Rodriguez (Chair, E2A TWG)
The KT seeds fell on fertile ground during this year’s programme. The group absorbed the new knowledge and immediately applied the first lessons. We strongly support the continuation of the E2A/EV4GH collaboration – not only during the EV Face-to-Face ventures but through regular exchange and joint projects (like this blog). KT takes time to plant, grow, bear fruit and spread. But it will be fun – and worth it!