Since February 2017, the JLN, in partnership with the USAID’s Health Finance and Governance Project (HFG), has been working with eight countries to share expertise and best practices for effective strategic communications and stakeholder engagement to support universal health coverage (UHC) policy reform efforts.
Countries participating in the Stakeholder Communications joint learning exchange aim to co-author a practical guide to strategic communications for UHC, while taking back the new knowledge to their countries to draft their own plans.
As part of the joint learning process, 25 country delegates came together for an in-person workshop on July 20-21, 2017, in Accra, Ghana. Policymakers, health reform implementers, and public affairs professionals joined the workshop from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ghana, Malaysia, Nigeria, Peru, Senegal and Sudan.
The event, sponsored by the HFG Project, was hosted by Ghana’s National Health Insurance Authority in partnership with the Ghana Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service, the Christian Health Association of Ghana, and the Society of Private Medical and Dental Practitioners.
The learning exchange was facilitated by technical experts, with valuable insights from Dr. Herbert Blankson, Dean of the Kojo Yankah School of Communication Studies at the African University College of Communications.
Building Blocks of Strategic Communications
Delegates started by jointly defining the principles of and a framework for strategic communications for UHC, providing the foundations for the practical guide. The discussions revolved around three phases of a framework for stakeholder communications: 1.) Analysis of UHC context and strategy; 2.) Building a communications action plan through stakeholder analysis, messaging and tactics; and 3.) Implementation and assessment.
Delegates reviewed, reframed and refined the principles and framework during small group breakout sessions – a critical step before developing communications plans to meet individual country needs.
Tools, Techniques and Lessons Learned
Over the course of two days, delegates engaged in facilitated joint learning, guided by framing presentations to inform small group discussions, in-depth work on specific cases, and reflections on lessons learned.
In response to country requests for global standards and tools to frame their strategic communications plans, the Smart Chart 3.0 was selected as one tool for application based on consultations with policy reform and communications experts. The Smart Chart 3.0, a publicly-available tool developed by a Washington, D.C.-based communications firm, Spitfire Strategies, is an interactive resource specifically developed to help nonprofit organizations make strategic decisions for communications planning.
In preparation for the workshop, delegates had laid the initial building blocks of their communications plans using the Smart Chart 3.0 tool. The outlines of these plans were then reviewed and discussed in breakout sessions. By the end of the workshop, participants began tailoring their communications plan outlines using the tool’s specific content areas, including audience readiness, messages and messengers, tactics, timelines and budget, and measurements of success.
Participating countries shared case studies of best practices, techniques, and lessons learned based on their own experiences, fostering a community of practice for strategic communications. Delegates discussed pertinent topics such as opposition messaging, use of social media, stakeholder analysis, political economy analysis, and measuring change to achieve communications objectives.
“Personally, I can say I immensely benefited from this workshop. It has been a great honor to know so many intelligent, distinguished professionals from all around the world. We hope that this learning can continue and that we will be able to contribute meaningfully to universal health coverage,” stated a delegate from Bangladesh at the close of the workshop.
Dr. Lydia Dsane-Selby, member of the JLN’s Steering Group and Deputy Chief Executive of Operations at Ghana’s National Health Insurance Agency, provided the closing remarks. Dr. Selby recognized the collaboration and joint learning enabled by the two-day event, the networks and community built, and the work ahead for countries.
As next steps following the workshop, country delegates will complete and then share individual communications plan outlines with the group for feedback over the next three months. Further, delegates will work together with the facilitation team to co-develop content for the global practical guide on strategic communications for UHC. The Stakeholder Communications joint learning exchange plans to produce a draft of the practical guide by October 2017.
Participation for the country delegations was made possible by USAID HFG (Bangladesh, Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal), the Joint Learning Fund (Peru and Sudan), WHO Country Office (Malaysia), and GIZ (Cambodia).