Health Systems Global Board Officers recently held a mini-retreat in Istanbul on June 23-24, 2015 with the new HSG Secretariat. The purpose was to evaluate the current functioning of the organization, craft a clear road map for 2015–16 and start the process of revisiting the long-term strategy for the organization.
Overall, we concurred that HSG is currently well positioned – as an organization and as a community – to grow and amplify its impact. Discussions were clear that “growth” for HSG will mean a few different things, including not only increasing the HSG membership, but also increasing reach by attracting members from under-represented regions such as the Middle East, Latin America, Francophone Africa and Eastern Europe. Deepening HSG’s engagement with policy-makers and practitioners were also identified as strategic priorities.
Growth also entails scaling up the level and quality of engagement among HSG members and with the broader health systems community. A significant portion of the Istanbul discussions focused on how we can strengthen the HSG community and create mechanisms that will enable members to engage more regularly and meaningfully with the thematic working groups (TWGs), and with each other.
Over the past four months, the HSG Secretariat has been involved in taking stock of the needs of TWGs through consultations with active members, interviews of group leaders and an online survey. The findings of these stock-taking exercises, (that will be shared with TWGs over coming weeks) informed our discussions on how the Secretariat and the HSG Board can best support TWGs. The next phase of engagement will involve working with TWG leads to implement planned activities and energize wider participation of group members.
A substantial amount of communication efforts from the HSG Secretariat will be focused on helping to raise the profile of TWGs in the health systems community and ensuring that the knowledge and insights produced by TWGs are channeled to program implementers and policy makers. It was decided that a range of actions need to be taken to bolster the online presence of TWGs. These include: redesigned TWG pages on the new HSG website; extensive support to convene online gatherings such as webinars and twitter chats; and targeted, strategic social media outreach for important TWG outputs and community engagements. Preliminary discussions have also begun on a key correspondents program for outreach to under-represented regions.
We are working on an online knowledge exchange platform that will be integrated into the HSG website later this year. This will allow members to engage real-time in online discussions on topics of shared interest, share materials and resources, and get to know each other better.
Financial sustainability of TWGs was also identified as a key area and the HSG Secretariat has been tasked with developing guidance documents and standard operating procedures for TWGs, which will be discussed during the November 2015 Board retreat.
The Board Officers pointed out that HSG needs to do more in the area of capacity development for health systems research. An incremental approach in this area that starts with mobilizing expertise within the HSG community to organize capacity building webinars, and hosting materials relevant to capacity building on our website was suggested.
Last but not least, we agreed that the growth and sustainability of HSG depends on further professionalizing the organization by developing strong governance and accountability mechanisms. These include robust financial accountability, regular reporting by the Secretariat, TWGs and the Board, and better communication and engagement with the membership. We hope that these steps will encourage members to feel greater ownership of HSG and ensure engagement by a broader base of members.
Do the priorities we discussed during the Istanbul meeting align with your perspective of what HSG needs to do, moving forward? What would you add, emphasize or leave out? Please let us know. We look forward to hearing from you!