By Olajumoke Arinola & Nwanyibuife Obiako
In Part II of the lessons learned series, the AVADAR project team share additional lessons from project expansion in 2017. For the first three lessons mentioned, please refer to Part I.
Cross-country projects come with unique challenges, however, with proper planning, monitoring, and consideration of all project aspects, success is attainable. While there are many success ingredients for multi-country projects, high-quality planning, early consultation with local experts, community inclusion, and consideration of local socio-political contexts are most vital.
Below are three additional lessons learned from implementing the AVADAR project:
Integrate Project Processes within Applicable Local Context
Hiring local facilitators to support kick-off training for community informants was cost-effective and efficient, with the AVADAR project benefitting from their wealth of experience. Our training facilitators were locally recruited in every country the project was expanded to; this directly improved the engagement rates, understanding, and comfort level of participants in each location. For each country, the coordination team had to adapt to country-specific health administrative structures to customize the mobile application and also understand roles and responsibilities of key healthcare personnel on the project.
Acquire Business Management Knowledge per Country
When coordinating implementation of multi-country projects, adequate knowledge, and awareness of country-specific regulations and policies that may impact project implementation are critical to success. Knowledge of import/export policies for equipment procurement, local labor laws, and management of business relationships (internally and externally) should be researched and factored into the overall project process and strategy. One vital lesson we have learned as a team is the need to understand country-specific policies and regulations around the procurement of equipment, timely shipping and clearing of goods, staff recruitment, and local currency fund transfers.
Research on country-specific laws and current affairs, as well as consulting with local indigenes help to anticipate challenges and risks likely to occur that can negatively impact the project success. The political atmosphere, climate change, and high insecurity locations within a country (e.g. areas with frequent insurgent attacks) need to be closely monitored and project plans adjusted accordingly. Our team leverages on local hires and authorities, our security team, and project partners in-country to remain up-to-date on relevant activities that have an effect on project plans and ensure the safety of all field teams.
Implementing AVADAR has been a remarkable personal and professional growth experience for the team. As we look forward to the continuation and further expansion of the project into priority districts in 2018, we continue to draw from our experiences to improve the quality of our services. eHA is leveraging on lessons learned from projects like AVADAR to execute other multi-country efforts that support our mission to strengthen health systems through data-driven solutions and improve the quality of healthcare provided in underserved communities. Learn more about our programmatic expertise and scope of projects from eHA’s 2016 Impact Report!