I got an email this week from a colleague at PATH. She was writing to several organizations about a funding opportunity for a project in Kenya. Here’s what makes the note interesting: Her organization didn’t want to be the lead contractor; instead, she thought it made sense for them to partner with others to support whoever did take the lead. She was looking for collaborators at a time when she could have just as easily labeled other organizations as competitors.
My colleague knew who to reach out to because earlier this year WGHA convened a group of 24 leaders and stakeholders from a dozen organizations, at the initial request of Dr. Guy Palmer of Washington State University (WSU), to discuss how to pool knowledge, talent, and resources. My colleague’s email follows months of work on a statewide antimicrobial resistance (AMR) coalition, which I’ve written about before.
Within a couple of weeks, those working on the ground were sharing their experiences in Vietnam and Kenya, more than a dozen members of the group had signed letters of support for a government grant for one of the attendees, and a group led by WSU and WGHA was actively educating the state’s congressional delegation.
This kind of willingness to collaborate doesn’t just happen; the right conditions have to be created.
Approach to Collaboration
WGHA has nearly a decade of experience seeding hundreds of global health partnerships in Washington, and along the way we’ve seen collaborations flourish as well as fail. We’ve learned a lot from our experience and have created a condensed guide for global health organizations to use at the start of the collaborative process.
WGHA’s Approach to Collaboration is a resource meant to save time, build trust, limit redundancy, and ultimately increase the impact of global health organizations.
To create a foundation for interorganizational collaboration, WGHA adheres to four guiding principles: we cultivate champions, demonstrate value, serve as a neutral party, and build a network of diverse relationships.
A blueprint for regional global health alliances
Creating partnerships like the AMR coalition is absurdly complicated. Organizations are already in the position of having to compete for scarce funding, and funders are often more interested in supporting outcomes promised in a short time frame than in the longer-term work of creating partnerships, which can take years to come to fruition. There can be historical, organizational, and personal barriers, which require patience and time to overcome—two commodities in short supply for most of us.
However, as global health issues become increasingly complex and the resources to address them scarcer, the reality is we have to find ways to work more productively together.
This is tougher than you’d think; but Washington State is a trailblazer.
In 2007, WGHA formed with the leadership and support of global health organizations, the business community, civic institutions, and government agencies. WGHA has increased interconnectivity among global health entities as well as the broader community in Washington State. This has yielded stronger partnerships and higher impact by building awareness of the field, fostering a dynamic network of colleagues to solve problems no one entity can do alone, and maximizing program and scientific expertise.
Now in our ninth year, and with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we have documented our journey and key learnings in The Blueprint for Building a Regional Global Health Alliance: Lessons Learned from Washington State. This report also reflects the candid insights of global health leaders from across the country. In 2016, we invited leaders from California; Georgia; Massachusetts; Maryland; Washington, DC; New York; and the Research Triangle in North Carolina to explore the potential for regional global health alliances.
We hope that by sharing our experience, leaders from other regions will consider the benefits of establishing an alliance to strengthen their global health communities.
Please let us know which portions of these resources resonate with your community.