The emergence of the Coronavirus pandemic gave credence to the statement that it takes a village to raise a child. Early on in the pandemic in East Africa, the Amref-NBCC coalition became our village. Pulling together diverse stakeholders bringing different strengths, knowhow and experiences, this multi-stakeholder coalition delivered much needed assistance to the most vulnerable, helping to protect lives and livelihoods from Coronavirus.
To make it work, the coalition members had to rapidly create synergies to ensure a unified purpose and efficiency in raising and utilising resources. For most of the partners, this involved a journey of discovery: both in how to engage with such a diverse range of partners not typically brought together, and how to navigate the uncertainty of the ever-evolving pandemic.
Amidst the complex, rapid onset emergency and systemic shock of the pandemic, the NBCC Secretariat became the glue that held the coalition together. NBCC coordinated partner efforts to avoid duplication and ensure the best use of shared resources in responding to the pandemic in Kenya, and later Uganda and Tanzania. Between 2020-2021, Amref- NBCC achieved the following:
While we achieved a huge amount during HBCC 1, we also faced a number of challenges along the way. From both the successes and the challenges, we learned a huge amount. In this second phase, Amref-NBCC intends to take forward all learnings from HBCC 1 as key principles, yet the approach will be altered to account for the new Coronavirus context.
The NBCC mobilised something new, novel, and due to the lack of a formal entity, everyone felt ownership and part of its success. Instead of talking about what its members were doing individually, the NBCC mobilised collective on-the-ground action (Dr. Jane Nelson, Director of the Corporate Responsibility Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School)
As was the case during HBCC 1, critical to our success in this phase is clear alignment with the target communities. Our engagements will be designed for, and at times co-created with, these communities. Given the current behavioural and pandemic fatigue, hesitancy and other concerns, building solutions within these communities and letting them own the process is critical to our success and sustainable impact. By working closely with the target communities, we look forward to gaining local insights and knowledge that will help us ensure our solutions are truly tailored towards and account for local nuances. We also are excited to work closely with the youth as we know that it is the only way we will drive far-reaching, sustained impact in this and future public health crises.
Success in this phase will also be anchored in the efficiency of our organisation’s structure. We learned that a fluid structure and lean governance model with little bureaucracy facilitates agility and capacity to respond to evolving needs. However, this fluid structure must be coordinated by strong leadership that works closely with the government to ensure efforts are aligned. While speed and agility are key, this must be combined with accountability to ensure each partner delivers on what it committed to, with each bringing something different to the table. We are excited to have a more formalised NBCC Secretariat this time around to ensure smoother coordination of partners efforts, and accountability of all involved.
Finally, our ability to communicate cannot be overstated. It is only with strong communication that we can effectively relay key hygiene messaging, build trust with our communities and governments and counter damaging misinformation. We are particularly focused on leveraging digital communication channels to allow us to reach the masses with innovative and inspiring messages. This also enables us to create stronger connections with the youth whose buy-in, participation and endorsement of the HBCC 2 mission is essential, as noted previously.
While the path ahead is not entirely clear, we feel confident in our approach and in our ability to quickly alter this as necessary. We know that with the help of our diverse partners, we can continue to drive positive, inclusive impact in our communities.
Onward to the challenge ahead.