Collective Intelligence Cambridge Digital Education Futures Initiative

The COVID-19 Peer Hub as an example of Collective Intelligence (CI) in practice

Reda Sadki Global health, The Geneva Learning Foundation

A new article by colleagues at the Cambridge Digital Education Futures Initiative (DEFI) illustrates academic understanding of Collective Intelligence (CI) through the COVID-19 Peer Hub, a peer learning initiative organized by over 6,000 frontline health workers in Africa with support from The Geneva Learning Foundation (TGLF), Asia, and Latin America in response to the initial shock of the pandemic on immunization services that placed 80 million children at risk of missing lifesaving vaccines. Learn more about the COVID-19 Peer Hub

From the abstract:

Collective Intelligence (CI) is important for groups that seek to address shared problems.

CI in human groups can be mediated by educational technologies.

The current paper presents a framework to support design thinking in relation to CI educational technologies.

Our framework is grounded in an organismiccontextualist developmental perspective that orients enquiry to the design of increasingly complex and integrated CI systems that support coordinated group problem solving behaviour.

We focus on pedagogies and infrastructure and we argue that project-based learning provides a sound basis for CI education, allowing for different forms of CI behaviour to be integrated, including swarm behaviour, stigmergy, and collaborative behaviour.

We highlight CI technologies already being used in educational environments while also pointing to opportunities and needs for further creative designs to support the development of CI capabilities across the lifespan.

We argue that CI education grounded in dialogue and the application of CI methods across a range of project-based learning challenges can provide a common bridge for diverse transitions into public and private sector jobs and a shared learning experience that supports cooperative public-private partnerships, which can further reinforce advanced human capabilities in system design.

Article excerpt:

As an example of CI in practice, in 2020–2021, more than 6000 health workers joined The Geneva Learning Foundation (TGLF) COVID-19 Peer Hub.

Participants shared more than 1200 ideas or practices for managing the pandemic in their contexts within 10 days. Relevant peer ideas and practices were then referenced as participants produced individual, context-specific action plans that were then reviewed by peers before finalisation and implementation.

Mapping of action plan citations (C3L 2022) demonstrate patterns of peer learning, between countries, organisations and system levels.

In parallel, TGLF synthesises data generated by peer learners in formats legitimised by the global health knowledge system (e.g. Moore et al. 2022).

The biggest challenge to CI in this context remains one of legitimacy: how can collective intelligence compete with the perceived gold standard of academic publication within this expert-led culture?

We argue that as CI education is further developed and extends across the lifespan from school learning environment to work and organisational environments, CI technologies and practices will be further developed, evaluated, and refined and will gain legitimacy as part of broader societal capabilities in CI that are cultivated and reinforced on an ongoing basis.

References cited in this excerpt:

C3L. 2022. The Power of Learning Networks for Global Health. The Geneva Learning Foundation COVID-19 Peer Hub Project Report.

Moore, Katie, Barbara Muzzulini, Tamara Roldán, Juliet Bedford, and Heidi Larson. 2022. Overcoming barriers to vaccine acceptance in the community: Key learning from the experiences of 734 frontline health workers (1.0). The Geneva Learning Foundation.

Full article: Hogan, M.J., Barton, A., Twiner, A., James, C., Ahmed, F., Casebourne, I., Steed, I., Hamilton, P., Shi, S., Zhao, Y., Harney, O.M., Wegerif, R., 2023. Education for collective intelligence. Irish Educational Studies 1–30.

Teach to Reach

Teach to Reach: peer learning at scale

Reda Sadki The Geneva Learning Foundation

Teach to Reach are fast-paced, dynamic digital events connecting local and global practitioners to each other in a new, potentially transformative shared dialogue. 

Teach to Reach and other TGLF special events rally thousands, serving as powerful moments of inspiration, providing the amazing sensation of being connected with thousands of fellow, like-minded people and the impetus to transform this feeling into shared purpose and action. 

Meet, network, and learn with colleagues from all over the world 

Successive editions of TGLF’s flagship event series, “Teach to Reach: Connect”, enabled a cumulative total of 27,000 health professionals to share experiences, test approaches, and identify solutions with international experts listening and learning with them. 

To learn more about the Geneva Learning Foundation (TGLF), download our brochure, listen to our podcast, view our latest livestreams, subscribe to our insights, and follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Or introduce yourself to our Partnerships team.

Honoring health professionals as leaders of change

Honoring health professionals as leaders of change

Reda Sadki Global health

We honor everyone who is joining the Special Event “From community to planet: Health professionals on the frontlines of climate change”: health staff from immunization and other areas of health – environmental health and One Health, but also those who fight neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), HIV, and other ailments. We also honor allies, including human rights advocates, those working to decolonize global health, fighting for gender and racial equity as well as economic justice.

Since 2016, the Geneva Learning Foundation (TGLF) has supported a global peer learning network and platform, built by and for immunization staff from all over the world. This is because we believe that practitioner-led peer education is a powerful philosophy for change in the Digital Age. 

In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 80 million children under one were placed at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases such as diphtheria, measles and polio as COVID-19 disrupted immunization service as worldwide. Over 6,000 immunization staff om TGLF’s immunization network worked together to build the COVID-19 Peer Hub, collaborating on early-learning recovery plans and then preparing strategies to engage communities ahead of the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccines.

In March 2022, this network and platform helped launch the Movement for Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030), transforming the world’s strategy into local action. IA2030 Movement Leaders are accelerating progress by learning from each other, sharing successes, lessons learned, and challenges, forging together new ways of thinking, learning, and doing to meet the complex challenges ahead. Learn more about the Movement

We honor these IA2030 Leaders, primarily government workers from districts and facilities, who were the first to respond to the Call to Action of the Special Event “From community to planet: Health professionals on the frontlines of climate change”.

What does immunization have to do with climate change? Read this blog post.

Learning from Front-line Health Workers in the Climate Change Era

Learning from Frontline Health Workers in the Climate Change Era

Reda Sadki Global health, Writing

By Julie Jacobson, Alan Brooks, Charlotte Mbuh, and Reda Sadki

The escalating threats of climate change cast long shadows over global health, including increases in disease epidemics, profound impacts on mental health, disruptions to health infrastructure, and alterations in the severity and geographical distribution of diseases.

Mitigating the impact of such shadows on communities will test the resilience of health infrastructure in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and especially challenge frontline health workers. The need for effective and cost-efficient public health interventions, such as immunization, will evolve and grow.

Health workers, approximately 70% of which are women, that provide immunization and other health services will be trusted local resources to the communities they serve, further amplifying their centrality in resilient health systems.

Listening to and building upon the experiences and insights of frontline health workers as they live with and increasingly work to address the manifestations of climate change on health is pivotal to the collective, global response today and in the years to come.

We imagine a future of health workers connected to each other, learning directly from the successes and challenges of others by choosing to engage in digital, peer-supported, peer-learning networks regardless of the remoteness or location of their communities. Success will lie in a nimbleness and ability to quickly see new emerging patterns and respond to evolving needs of individuals and communities.

Such a future shines a light on the importance of new ways of thinking about global health, leadership, who should have a “voice”, starting from a position of equity not hierarchy, and the value that peers ascribe to each other. The hyperlocal impact of climate change on health cannot be mitigated only through global pronouncements and national policies. It requires local knowledge and understanding.

Recognizing this unique position of health workers, Bridges to Development and The Geneva Learning Foundation, two Swiss non-profits, are supporting this first-ever, large peer-learning event for frontline health workers to share their experiences and insights on climate change and health.

More than 1,100 health workers have already shared their observations of changes in climate and health affecting the communities they serve in over 60 countries. They will be sharing their stories and insights at the Special Event: From community to planet: Health professionals on the frontlines of climate change, but you can already read short summaries from Guatemala; India and Mongolia; Bénin, Gambia, and Kenya.

Starting from a Call to Action shared through the Movement for Immunization Agenda (IA2030), the call has “gone viral” through local communities and districts: over 4,500 people – most of them government workers involved in primary health care services in LMICs – registered to participate and contribute.

Almost every health worker responding says that they are very worried about climate change, and that, for them, it is already a grave threat to the health of the communities they serve.

Taken together, their observations, while imperfect, paint a daunting picture. This picture, consistent with global statistics and other data, helps to bring to life global pronouncements of the dire implications of climate change for health in LMICs.

Amid this immense and dire challenge lies an opportunity to shift from a rigid, academically-dominated approach to a decentralized, democratized recognition and learning about the health impacts of climate change. This shift underscores the importance of amplifying insights from those who are bearing the brunt of the consequences of climate change, and recognizing the special role of health service workers as bridges between their communities and those working elsewhere to address similar challenges.

This perspective requires those of us working at the global level to critically evaluate and challenge our biases and assumptions. The notion that only climate or health specialists can offer meaningful insights or credible solutions should be questioned. The understanding of climate change’s impact on epidemiology of disease, mental health and other manifestations – and the strategies employed to mitigate them – can be substantially enriched and sharpened by welcoming the voices of those on the frontlines. By doing so, we can foster a more comprehensive, inclusive, equitable and effective response to the challenges posed by climate change.

The thousands of members of the Movement for the Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030) and others who have initiated this global dialogue around climate and health may be forging a new path, showing the feasibility and value of the global health community listening to and supporting the potential of frontline health workers to shine the brightest of lights into the shadow cast worldwide by climate change.

This editorial is a contribution to the Special Event: From community to planet: Health professionals on the frontlines of climate change.

About the authors

Julie Jacobson and Alan Brooks are co-founders and managing partners of Bridges to Development. Jacobson was the president of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) in 2020-2021. Bridges to Development, a nonprofit founded in 2018 based in Europe and the US, strives to build on the world’s significant progress to date towards a stronger and more resilient future.

Reda Sadki and Charlotte Mbuh lead the Geneva Learning Foundation (TGLF). The Geneva Learning Foundation (TGLF) is a non-profit implementing its vision to catalyze transformation through large scale peer and mentoring networks led by frontline actors facing critical threats to our societies. Learn more:

Illustration: The Geneva Learning Foundation Collection © 2023. All rights reserved.

Interplay between climate and health

What does immunization have to do with climate change?

Reda Sadki Global health, Thinking aloud

With climate-driven shifts in disease patterns and emerging health threats, the need for a robust immunization infrastructure is more obvious than ever. As the demand for both existing and novel vaccines rises in response to an expanding disease burden and new health threats, immunization staff will inevitably play a key role.

Immunization staff, trusted health advisors to communities, already stand as sometimes-overburdened but always critical actors in resilient health systems.

These professionals, entrusted with administering vaccines, contribute to preventing disease outbreaks and maintaining population health. Furthermore, their direct engagement with local communities, their intimate understanding of community health concerns, and their role as trusted advisors position them to recognize and respond to emerging health needs.

The role of immunization and other primary health care (PHC) staff as health educators becomes increasingly pertinent in a changing climate. By leveraging their experience in working with communities to understand and accept health interventions, immunization staff can help those they serve to make sense of the complex relationships between climate and health – and develop appropriate responses.

Through digital networks, we see health professionals connected to each other, learning from each other’s successes, lessons learned, and challenges. We imagine that these networks, if properly nurtured and sustained, will become increasingly important as health workers face the interconnected consequences of climate change on health within the local communities where they work for health. This also require new ways of thinking and new leadership, in addition to a new kind of digital health infrastructure to support turning learning into action.

As we step into a world facing escalating health threats from a changing climate, the crucial role of immunization staff in protecting communities will become more pronounced.

Existing approaches – even the ones that so impressively moved the needle of vaccination coverage and health in the past – may now need to be reconsidered and adapted to face new challenges and new threats that we know are coming.

By supporting the will and commitment of immunization staff who are concerned about the consequences of climate on health, and then expanding to include other health professionals, we may find that immunization can serve as a pathfinder to strengthen health systems and promote health equity. We may even find practical, meaningful ways for frontline health professionals and communities to forge together a new leadership for global health.

Learn more about the Geneva Learning Foundation’s special event: From community to planet: Health professionals on the frontlines of climate change.

Analog gates or digital bridges.png

Digital bridges cannot cross analog gates

Reda Sadki Global health, Thinking aloud

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about an interesting question, as I’ve observed myself and colleagues starting to travel again: “Why are we again funding high-cost, low-volume face-to-face conferences that yield, at best, uncertain outcomes?”

I am surprised to have to ask this question. I was hoping for a different outcome, in which the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a lasting change in how we bridge physical and digital spaces for a better future. We were brutally forced to work differently due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s restrictions on freedom of movement. Nevertheless, we discovered that it is possible to connect, meet, collaborate, and learn without sinking budgets into air travel and accommodation. At least some of work-related travel was due to habit and convention, not necessity. Yes, there were limitations, especially due to the emergency nature of the pivot to online. But the debate is open whether the limitations we experienced being forced to work online are more or less severe than those of the offline medium.

In global health, traditional face-to-face meetings, workshops, and conferences have been part and parcel of professional life for decades. They served their intended purpose, helping staff connect formally and informally, providing the connective tissue to learn, share, and coordinate. They have been – and remain – deeply ingrained in the culture of global health. Why should this modus operandi be reconsidered?

As someone who is often required to attend face-to-face conferences, despite being a vocal advocate for more efficient, inclusive models, here is how I understand both sides of the dichotomy that this scenario presents.

Traditional face-to-face meetings, workshops, and conferences offer a unique charm. They allow the select few to reconnect with colleagues, stay updated on institutional developments, and keep fingers on the pulse of the latest changes in our fields. Information can be shared informally, which is far more difficult to do online. (This is not inherent to the online medium, but due to the technologies we have developed that assume, support, and structure formal communication.) If you were invited or selected to be at the meeting, that indicates to those in the room that you are a valid stakeholder.

There is a considerable downside. These events are exclusionary by definition. Not everyone’s costs can be covered. Selection is often based on hierarchy. Often, only the most senior get to go. When less senior practitioners are included, tokenism is difficult to avoid. Then, there is the high cost. It is primarily expenditure on travel and hotels, not event quality. There is also the cost to the environment. Think of the carbon footprint. They are disruptive to everyday work, as attendance requires absence. Strangely, their impact is seldom measured, evaluated, or questioned.

The same donor who will unquestionably plunk down $150,000 for the plane tickets and hotels rooms of 100 people might require the evidence of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) before investing in a new digital learning approach that might include 1,000 or 10,000 people for the same cost and produce far more significant outcomes than a meeting report.

So why are face-to-face events still being funded, at high cost and questionable return, when global health is supposed to be evidence-based and focused on impact?

Ironically, as Girija Sankar made the case recently in The Lancet, the very conferences designed to push the boundaries of research and collaboration in global health often act as “gates,” creating a divide between insiders and those on the outside. These gatherings are often arranged by the gatekeepers of global health, the credentialed leaders who control funding and policy. Their decisions shape the future of health at a global level, conferring agency upon a select few while inadvertently excluding many others.

It is undeniably satisfying – and deeply so – to connect with colleagues over the course of several days, sharing conversation, meals, coffees. It is not only about listening and learning. It is about being human together, despite the constraints and urgencies of the work. So, if you are in a position to fund such an event for yourself or for your colleagues, why would you say no, given the obvious benefits and zero incentive to deny your colleagues what they are used to getting?

The value of such events is in part premised on their exclusivity. Letting everyone in could dilute their value. Furthermore, digital experience remains awful: a Zoom call is undeniably inferior to the experiential richness and pleasure of a meeting in a shared physical space.

Unfortunately, as long as such wonderful moments are reserved for the few – due to the nature of the medium, despite the best intents –, such communion stops at the conference walls – and excludes everyone outside them.

The Geneva Learning Foundation’s Teach to Reach program presents a stark contrast to this traditional model. Our online, digital, and networked peer learning events are dynamic, inclusive, connecting local practitioners from everywhere. With no upper limit on participants, these digital events rally thousands from all corners of the globe, providing an unparalleled platform for shared learning and action.

The upcoming Teach to Reach 8 event on 16 June 2023 is a testament to this, with over 16,000 anglophones and francophones already registered to join. Most notably, the majority of participants are government health workers working on the frontlines in Africa and Asia. Teach to Reach is led by an “organizing committee” composed of 282 Teach to Reach Alumni from 35 countries who are founding Members of the Global Council of Learning Leaders for Immunization in November 2020.

Some global-level colleagues who have rejoined the mission travel, conference, and workshop circuit share that they struggle to understand Teach to Reach. It is just too different from what they are used to. They have to painstakingly listen to staff with lousy connectivity who share local experiences, problems, and challenges that seem quaint, compared to the abstract global-level strategies they usually engage peers who are almost exactly like themselves. Such sameness is reassuring. Comparatively, Teach to Reach is too chaotic and noisy. So many voices, speaking from so many different pespectives. Too time-consuming. Too confusing. Too different from what “we” are used to. Too messy. 

Yet, the real world is messy. We know that the probability of finding a solution locally increases with the number and diversity of inputs available. At Teach to Reach, thousands share their experience, using a robust, proven peer learning model. The global experts who do attend do so as “guides on the side” rather than “sages on the stage”.

The unstated, underlying assumption of many so-called capacity-building initiatives is that the locals do not know. Therefore, “we” must teach them. There is no way to call this anything other than a colonial assumption. Recognizing the value and significance of local expertise and experience may have been less important in the past, when countries successfully carried out effective top-down strategies that moved the needle of vaccination coverage across the world. Today’s more complex immunization challenges require problem-solving approaches that recognize that context is central. What you know, because you are there every day, side-by-side with families and communities that you serve, turns out to be more important than generalities.

For example, the Foundation’s research has shown that reaching zero-dose or underimmunized children calls for local creativity to tailor and adapt strategies, rather than apply a cookie-cutter guideline. Should we be searching for generalizations that can be turned into norms and standards, when every zero-dose context is different? What if the opportunity were to hone in on the ‘how’ of local action, to better understand what makes the difference at the last mile of service delivery?

Should we assume that it is local staff who need to develop their capacity and change, when behavior change is probably necessary for everyone, at all levels?

Change is hard, but it is definitely happening. The last two editions of Teach to Reach have been in partnership with UNICEF and since 2022 with support from Wellcome. Ephrem T. Lemango and Kate O’Brien, who lead immunization at UNICEF and WHO respectively, prefaced the latest Teach to Reach report, writing: “Uniquely, the Geneva Learning Foundation’s platform and its Teach to Reach events provide a way to link such people together, so that they can share experiences about what works and equally important, what doesn’t work, while learning from each other. Learning happens best when people seek answers to their specific daily challenges. Teach to Reach is proof that immunization professionals are hungry to learn, and hungry to share.”

Furthermore, they note that “it is humbling to hear how committed people are to sharing experiences in the hope that they will benefit someone else, how the inadequacies of internet connections fail to deter people participating, and how so many are using precious digital data to take part. The digital space allows everyone to participate, irrespective of national boundaries or positions in an immunization hierarchy.”

Girija Sankar also reminds us that gatekeeping is not only for the leaders. It is also an opportunity for each of us to consider our roles and responsibilities. When deciding on invites, we should ask ourselves, “Is the limitation due to budget constraints or based on our perception of who has the most valuable input or the most funding to contribute?” It is also a call to action for those of us who have access to closed-door meetings or sit on advisory boards. We must pause and reflect on our roles and use our authority to pave the way for those who might not traditionally have a voice in these important discussions.

So, while I, and many others, have to travel to face-to-face conferences to stay “in the loop”, it is essential to recognize the limitations of these gatherings and work towards more inclusive and efficient models. The need to shift our mindset is more pressing than ever in the field of global health. In our quest for a healthier world, let’s ensure that the gates of knowledge and decision-making are open to all. Let’s embrace models like Teach to Reach, breaking down barriers and creating an inclusive platform for dialogue, learning, and action.

Imagine if the World Health Organization’s unspent mission travel budget in 2020 – around $400 million – had been invested in digital infrastructure to support continuous learning to explore and support new kinds of collaboration between different levels of the health system.

Le Lac Tchad

Why an open-source manifesto for global health?

Reda Sadki Global health, Global health, The Geneva Learning Foundation

Lire la version française: Pourquoi un manifeste open-source pour la santé globale?

The global immunization community is now focused on “the big catch-up”, dealing with recovery of immunization services from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, as countries – and immunization staff on the frontlines – work toward the goals of Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030).

At the Seventy-Fourth World Health Assembly, the Director General of the World Health Organization had called for “a broad social movement for immunization that will ensure that immunization remains high on global and regional health agendas and help to generate a groundswell of support or social movement for immunization”.

A Movement is larger than any one individual or organization. The Geneva Learning Foundation is one of many working to support this Movement. In March 2022, we launched a call for immunization staff at all levels of the health system to connect across boundaries of geography and hierarchy – to commit to working together to achieve the goals of Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030).

In 2022, over 10,000 health professionals, primarily government workers from districts and facilities, joined this movement and shared ideas and practices, analyzed root causes of their local immunization challenges, and developed and implemented corrective actions to tackle them, together. Learn more

Today, we share an open-source Manifesto for how health services could develop in ways that we think would make them more effective, recognizing health workers and communities – and the expertise and experience they hold because they are “there every day” – at the centre of public health systems.

No vision or strategy can or should be developed as a pronouncement by a single organization of how things should be.

  • This Manifesto is an open-source draft because, in today’s complex world, we tackle challenges that no one country or organization can possibly overcome alone.
  • For such a manifesto to be meaningful requires the participation, and contribution of those on the frontlines of global health, in dialogue with global, regional, and country leaders.

This is why we are inviting you – along with more than 10,000 members of the Movement for Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030 – to bring to life and shape this Manifesto.

Version 1.0 of the manifesto was first shared in a special issue of The Double Loop, the Geneva Learning Foundation’s insights newsletter. Learn more

Le Lac Tchad

Pourquoi un manifeste open-source pour la santé globale?

Reda Sadki Global health, The Geneva Learning Foundation

Read this in English: Why an open-source manifesto for global health?

La communauté mondiale de la vaccination se concentre désormais sur le « grand rattrapage », en priorisant le rétablissement des services de vaccination suite aux conséquences de la pandémie de COVID-19, alors que les pays—et le personnel de la vaccination en première ligne—s’efforcent d’atteindre les objectifs du Programme pour la vaccination à l’horizon 2030 (IA2030).

Lors de la soixante-quatorzième Assemblée mondiale de la santé, le directeur général de l’Organisation mondiale de la santé avait lancé un appel en faveur d’un « vaste mouvement social pour la vaccination qui veillera à ce que la vaccination reste une priorité dans les programmes de santé internationaux et régionaux et contribuera à susciter une vague de soutien ou un mouvement social en faveur de la vaccination ».

Un mouvement est plus grand qu’un seul pays ou une seule organisation. La Fondation Apprendre Genève est l’une des nombreuses organisations à œuvrer pour insuffler ce Mouvement. En mars 2022, nous avons lancé un appel au personnel chargé de la vaccination à tous les niveaux du système de santé pour tisser des liens par-delà des frontières géographiques et s’engager à travailler ensemble pour atteindre les objectifs de «IA2030». En 2022, plus de 10 000 professionnels de la santé, principalement des fonctionnaires et des acteurs de la société civile issus des districts et des établissements de santé, ont rejoint ce mouvement. Ensemble, ils ont partagé des idées et des pratiques, analysé les causes profondes de leurs difficultés locales en matière de vaccination, et élaboré et mis en œuvre des mesures correctives pour surmonter leurs défis.

Aujourd’hui, nous partageons ce manifeste «open source» sur la façon dont les services de santé pourraient se développer de manière à les rendre plus efficaces, nous reconnaissons les professionnels de la santé et les communautés—ainsi que l’expertise et l’expérience qu’ils détiennent parce qu’ils sont « là tous les jours »—au centre des systèmes de santé publique.

Ce Manifeste est un projet «open source» car, dans le monde complexe d’aujourd’hui, nous sommes confrontés à des défis qu’aucun pays ou organisation ne peut relever seul.

  • Aucune vision ou stratégie ne saurait être élaborée en tant que déclaration d’une seule organisation sur la façon dont les choses devraient être.
  • Pour qu’un tel manifeste ait un sens, il faut la participation et la contribution de ceux qui sont en première ligne de la santé mondiale, dans le cadre d’un dialogue avec les dirigeants internationaux, régionaux et nationaux.

C’est pourquoi nous vous invitons à donner vie et forme à ce Manifeste, et à rejoindre les plus de 10,000 membres du Mouvement pour la vaccination à l’horizon 2030 dont l’action et la réflexion ont été sources d’inspiration du Manifeste.

Le manifeste a d’abord été diffusé sous la forme d’un numéro spécial de The Double Loop (La Double Boucle), le bulletin de l’Unité de recherche de la Fondation. Pour en savoir plus

Jazz ensemble or classical orchestra

Metaphors of global health: jazz improvisation ensemble or classical orchestra?

Reda Sadki Culture, Global health, Thinking aloud

In the realm of classical music, the orchestra stands as a formidable emblem of aesthetic grandeur and refinement. However, beneath the veneer of sophistication lies a deeply entrenched system that stymies the potential for creative exploration and spontaneity. As in a straitjacket, the rigidity of this system threatens to reduce the rich tapestry of human experience into a sterile hierarchy, devoid of the serendipity that breathes life into artistic expression.

The classical orchestra is governed by a hierarchy that places the conductor at the apex, wielding an almost tyrannical authority over the musicians. It is a system that perpetuates a culture of conformity, where musicians are coerced into subsuming their individuality in the service of an imposed order. This stifling environment leaves little room for the musicians to contribute their own interpretations or creative impulses, and instead demands that they adhere strictly to the conductor’s vision, which is often based on a prescriptive reading of the composer’s intent.

The result is a musical experience that is reductive in nature, an experience that is stripped of the chaos and unpredictability that are essential to the vitality of artistic expression. In its quest for order, the classical orchestra neglects the potential for serendipity, which can arise from the unscripted interplay of individual talents and the embrace of the unexpected. By eschewing the possibility of chance encounters and emergent beauty, the orchestra constricts the wellspring of creative potential, relegating the musicians to mere cogs in a mechanistic apparatus.

Furthermore, the insistence on a strict adherence to the conductor’s interpretation perpetuates an illusion of coherence and stability that belies the complexities of the human experience. The orchestral structure does not allow for the acknowledgement of discord and dissonance that are inherent in life. Rather, it seeks to impose a singular vision of order, relegating the multitudes of voices and perspectives to the margins of the performance.

In the end, the classical orchestra emerges as an antiquated institution that, in its blind pursuit of order, risks smothering the creative spirit that animates the very essence of artistic expression. It is a system that demands submission and conformity at the expense of individuality and exploration. By refusing to acknowledge the serendipity and complexity that lie at the heart of human experience, the classical orchestra risks becoming a hollow shell, a lifeless relic of a bygone era that has yet to fully grasp the true potential of the human spirit.

Is global health more like a classical orchestra or jazz improvisation?

In a dimly lit club, a hazy smoke fills the air, while the soft murmur of conversation weaves its way through the room. Then, the jazz ensemble erupts in a mesmerizing explosion of sound – an intoxicating mix of chaos and order, each musician adding their own unique twist to the shared melody. As their improvisation unfolds, the music becomes a living, breathing entity, transcending the boundaries of the individual instruments.

This vibrant expression of creativity and spontaneity form the improvisational spirit. Could embracing the fluidity and adaptability inherent in jazz as a metaphor help us rise to meet the myriad challenges that crop up in our quest to improve the health of people across the globe?

The notion of orchestrating global health initiatives like a classical ensemble, with a conductor dictating every note and movement, might be appealing at first glance. But the diverse and interdependent nature of global health demands that we adopt a more inclusive approach that values flexibility, adaptability, and collaboration. Just as a jazz ensemble thrives on its ability to respond to the unexpected, global health initiatives must be nimble enough to adjust to the constantly shifting realities on the ground.

It’s a world where the unexpected reigns supreme, where musicians effortlessly dance between moments of chaos and harmony. In this realm of improvisation, there’s a certain magic that takes hold – a power that transcends the limits of scripted notes and carefully crafted melodies.

The power of improvisation lies in its ability to tap into the uncharted territories of human creativity. It’s a process that relies on a deep sense of trust and vulnerability between the musicians, who must be willing to venture into the unknown, guided by nothing more than their intuition and their shared connection to the music. As they navigate this uncertain terrain, the musicians become explorers of a musical landscape that is constantly shifting and evolving, and in doing so, they discover new possibilities and pathways that would have otherwise remained hidden.

Improvisation also fosters a unique form of communication, one that transcends the boundaries of language and culture. In the midst of a jazz jam session, the musicians engage in a conversation that is at once wordless and profound, speaking to one another through the language of their instruments. As each musician adds their own voice to the collective melody, they create a tapestry of sound that tells a story – a story that is rich in emotion and nuance, and that speaks to the universal human experience.

Moreover, improvisation has the power to challenge and transform our understanding of what is possible. By breaking free from the constraints of traditional structures and forms, improvisation invites us to question the status quo and to reimagine the world in new and exciting ways. It teaches us to embrace uncertainty and change, and to see the beauty in the unexpected. In this sense, improvisation serves as a potent reminder of the boundless potential that lies within each of us, waiting to be unleashed.

As the haunting strains of a saxophone solo rise and fall, and the pulse of the bass line echoes through the dimly lit club, the power of improvisation is laid bare for all to see. It’s a force that defies categorization, and yet it holds within it the capacity to move and inspire, to challenge and transform. In the ever-changing world of jazz, the power of improvisation is the lifeblood that courses through the music, and it’s a force that, if harnessed, can open up new worlds of possibility and wonder.

In this context, the jazz ensemble emerges as the more fitting metaphor. By incorporating the principles of complexity and change found within the jazz improvisation, we can more effectively navigate the challenges that come with addressing global health issues. It is through this adaptable and collaborative approach that we can truly accelerate progress and create lasting, meaningful change.

So, as the last notes of the saxophone linger in the air and the final beats of the drums echo through the club, we’re reminded of the power and potential of improvisation. It’s a lesson that, if taken to heart, might help transform our efforts to improve global health and the lives of those we seek to help.

Is global health more like a classical orchestra or a jazz improvisation ensemble? Which should it be in the future?

A bunch of hot air

Rising together: promoting inclusivity and collaboration in global health 

Reda Sadki Global health

The ways of knowing of health professionals who work on the front lines are distinct because no one else is there every day. Yet they are typically absent from the global table, even though the significance of local knowledge and action is increasingly recognized. In the quest to achieve global health goals, what value should professionals within global health agencies ascribe to local experience? How do we cultivate a more inclusive and collaborative environment? And why should we bother?

A recent roundtable discussion, attended by technical officers and senior leaders, provided an occasion to present and explain how the Geneva Learning Foundation’s Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030) platform and network could be used to support “consultative engagement” between global and local leaders. This platform and network is reaching over 50,000 health professionals, helping them build connections with each other – defying boundaries of geography and health system levels – to transform learning into action. 

One global observer expressed concern that all this learning, sharing, and action might be “a bunch of hot air”. This can, at best, be interpreted as doubt towards the value of lived experience, and, at worst, as a brutal dismissal of the will and commitment expressed by thousands of health professionals working, more often than not, in difficult circumstances.

How should we understand and respond to such skepticism?

Between March and September 2022, 10,000 health professionals working on the frontlines of immunization made a personal, moral commitment to making a difference in their communities, above and beyond their professional roles. Together, they decided to make their country’s commitment to IA2030 a personal and professional commitment – because they wanted to. This cannot be insignificant.

In the first year of our IA2030 programme, we observed remarkable gains from such peer learning in the confidence and self-esteem of participants. It has already led to a year of intense sharing of experience, leading to over one thousand health professions taking corrective actions to tackle the root causes of their local challenges, using their own local resources and capacities, and sharing challenges, successes, and lessons learned. Such higher-order learning in the affective domain has already been shown to support deepening competencies needed to tackle complex problems.

To overcome current immunization challenges, it may be useful to first recognize the value of diverse perspectives, acknowledging that each individual’s lived experience can provide unique insights and knowledge. Building meaningful, respectful connections to those on the frontlines creates new possibilities for how this can be combined with the world’s collective knowledge: the norms, standards, and other guidelines that global agencies produce. By doing so, we can create a more inclusive culture, ensuring not only that every voice is heard and valued, but that these voices combine to figure out the “how” of solving global health challenges that play out at the local level.

Moreover, we must avoid perpetuating self-fulfilling prophecies that could undermine the motivation and participation. Heat generated by the voices and collective commitment of thousands of local health workers mobilizing and learning together to take action will evaporate into thin air if the global community fails to listen, respond and support them. A less cynical, more inclusive approach might help us raise the upswell of support in favor of immunization. It is essential that we encourage active involvement and recognize the dedication of those who strive to make a difference in the communities they serve. By fostering a supportive environment when we sit at a global roundtable, we can help dispel skepticism and promote the engagement of health professionals at all levels.

Lastly, it is important to challenge any biases or preconceived notions that may hinder our ability to appreciate the knowledge held by others. As we continue to advocate for local action and recognize the significance of local actors, we must be mindful of potential biases that could inadvertently devalue the contributions of those we seek to support. By being aware of these biases, we can work towards a more equitable global health community where everyone’s knowledge and experience are valued.

Promoting inclusivity and collaboration in global health agencies is critical to achieving our shared objectives. By recognizing the value of local perspectives, challenging biases, and promoting active engagement, we can create a more supportive environment for health professionals around the world and ensure that their collective efforts are recognized and supported.

It is important to consider such rejection in the context of the growing emphasis on local action and the recognition of local actors within the global community. As we work towards a more inclusive and collaborative environment, we must ensure that we genuinely appreciate and support local efforts.