Retirement is exhausting but exhilarating! I was proud to have been associated with the first Surgical NGO Forum hosted at the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA) at their annual conference in Mombasa, Kenya in collaboration with the G4 Alliance, ASAP and the Surgical Society of Kenya. Too much time reflecting on my twitter feeds make me think that COSECSA needed to make new friends and NGO’s delivering surgical care were a perfect fit. Despite thinking that NGO’s were notoriously bad at collaborating I pressed on with my research and became more convinced it was the right thing to do.
A paper by Dr Josh Ng-Kamstra et al confirmed that it was necessary to take into account the considerable amount of surgery performed by the NGO sector in countries where there was a growing unmet need. His findings painted a landscape of surgical activity where more than 400 charitable organisations were delivering care in LMIC’s contributing largely to surgical volume and workforce development. In Kenya, a country with significant surgical access issues, this represents an important contribution as 60 organisations were identified as NGO surgical providers.
Other important inputs into the decision making process was:
1. The Lancet Commission Report on Global Surgery called upon policy makers, implementers, and funders to include surgical care as a part of the national health and development strategies. For change to be successful it must be driven by local leaders and supported by global partners in order to achieve health, welfare, and economic development for all.
2. The adopted World Health Assembly resolution 68/15 introduced a potentially transformative opportunity to increase attention and resources towards surgical and anaesthetic care.
3. SDG 17 stated that a successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector, and civil society.
4. Increased recognition by the global surgery community - including the G4 Alliance - that cross-sector collaboration represents an essential strategy to breakout down silos and encourage collaboration of civil society, private sectors and government partners.
Collectively they were a call to action - game changers!
My experience of NGO’s led me to believe these milestones presented an opportunity to create a trusted space for collaboration to maximize impact and coordination across the organizations delivering surgical care.
With limited resources at my disposal who would help co-create this Forum to enable collaboration to happen? COSECSA were members of the The G4 Alliance who represented a coalition of member organizations intent on developing strategic partnerships to improve access to surgery. They responded positively to the idea and were joined by ASAP. A dream team.
The event now termed the s-NGO Forum was organized at the COSECSA Mombasa conference and attended by 44 local, regional, and international representatives. Participating organizations included 10 local NGO’s, 9 professional societies and federations as well as mentors and observers from 16 international organizations. The programme included a series of introductory exercises, NGO presentations, interactive and co-creation sessions, expert speakers and group discussions.
Expert speakers presented on a range of topics relevant to the discussion groups:
· Promoting Excellence in Surgical Care –Rosemary Mugwe (CEO, COSECSA)
· Strategic Leadership – Ian Walker (Corporate Citizenship Director, Johnson & Johnson)
· The Power of Networks – Brendan Allen (Executive Director, G4 Alliance)
· Monitoring and Evaluation – Ewen Harrison (University of Edinburgh)
· Nairobi Surgical Skills Centre: Training Resource – Peter Gaturu (Philips)
· SS2020 Initiative: Partnerships for Safe Surgery – Abraham Mengistu (Jhpiego)
Co-creation breakout sessions represented an essential component of the s-NGO forum, providing an opportunity for partners to come together to discuss common challenges, identify opportunities for collaboration, and discuss innovative solutions to strengthen safe surgical care delivery.
The exercises and co-creation sessions were broken down into four components:
1. Assessing Surgical NGO Needs, Challenges and Opportunities
2. Alignment of Interests and Identifying Areas for Collaboration
3. Defining Specific Objectives and Activities for Fundable Projects
4. Proposal Creation
Key recommendations that emerged from the group discussions focused on four key themes:
1) Leadership training with emphasis on advocacy training
2) Establishing a Kenyan s-NGO network
3) Information technology infrastructure and tools to support an s-NGO community/network
4) Audits of facility for safe surgical anaesthesia care at level 4 facilities
In wrapping up the s-NGO forum, participants were keen to activate a network in Kenya and invite other organisations that were “missing”. Follow up webinars will be arranged and a face-to-face meeting in March of 2017.
The desire to create a forum with action-orientated outcomes was achieved and the momentum is building for a sustainable community of NGO surgical providers in Kenya.