This past January, I traveled to Nigeria to support the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative for States (PMI-S) Project led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH). Every morning as I sipped coffee and prepared for the day with the news in the background, I noticed that something was happening with a new virus followed by images from a marketplace. By the time I returned to the U.S., I noticed the thermal-imaging cameras at the airport in Abuja. A few weeks later, news about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was being reported from all major news outlets.
The global attention was followed by emails and discussion threads close to home. Then suddenly, everything changed.
In a short period of time, the ways that we worked changed dramatically. Like for many others, my days and weeks began to blur together, my days were fixed on computer screens, TV screens, and devices during the day followed by timid interactions with others on the street and in stores preparing for an unknown period of time.
The need to collaborate, coordinate, learn, and share effectively moved into online spaces. We joined our country-based colleagues and remote teleworkers during working hours. Our personal matters also moved online: family and friend lunches, birthday parties, exercise routines, and therapy.
Amidst all of these changes, LeaderNet, an online learning and sharing platform supported by MSH, was primed to serve a new need. Our relationships, resources, processes and templates, and technology features, could be adapted to contribute to the new needs of the global health community.
The strategy to become a global public good started several years ago. After the close of the USAID-funded Leadership, Management, and Governance project, we expanded the range of technical topics on LeaderNet to reflect the multidisciplinary nature of global health. We simplified the information architecture and expanded content types to include podcasts and technical webinars. We revamped the blog page and began outreach efforts to expand blog contributors, develop new blogs, and repost popular blogs to expand their reach. We also began developing cross-agency resource packages on topics such as reproductive health, adolescent health, tuberculosis, and gender. Contributions skyrocketed to over 40 new individual or agency contributors. Recently, LeaderNet, HIFA, and USAID’s Health Research Program joined forces to maintain and expand a resource page of communities of practice in global health.
One of the most important guiding principles was to consider the needs and patterns of use of our online community first. What we wanted to share came second. We embedded this thinking into our decision-making processes – from content selection, placement on LeaderNet, inclusion in the monthly newsletter, associated visuals, as well as metadata for improved searching and performance.
Those who have worked with me know that analysis of web analytics drives decision-making – what to do, why do it now, and how to do it. It was common for us to pause and reflect on a good idea and how it could meet a real need or gap based on our website and newsletter analytics and community feedback.
Working with the LeaderNet team and our collaborators inside and outside of MSH was one of the most rewarding experiences in my career in knowledge management. I am excited for the future of LeaderNet. It has the content development, design tools, and performance monitoring processes to adapt to new ways of working, learning, and sharing. I am confident that LeaderNet has valuable lessons to share amidst the changes we are all experiencing during and after COVID-19.
Thank you to the LeaderNet team and MSH! I am looking forward to being on the other side as a member among members to learn, share, and collaborate with others.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Luis Ortiz Echevarría has more than 15 years of experience in global public health and knowledge management (KM). He has provided technical and programmatic assistance to global health programs and initiatives at CARE, International Medical Corps, Management Sciences for Health, and currently with Jhpiego where he serves as the Sr. Knowledge Management Advisor. He brings experience in the design and implementation of KM strategies; program learning and adaptation; and sexual and reproductive health, adolescent health, and gender. Luis has a Master of Arts in Anthropology from Georgia State University and a Master of Public Health from The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with a focus on population, family, and reproductive health.