Reinventing the path from knowledge to action in global health

Reda SadkiGlobal health, Learning strategy, The Geneva Learning Foundation

At the Geneva Learning Foundation (TGLF), we have just begun to share a publication like no other. It is titled Overcoming barriers to vaccine acceptance in the community: Key learning from the experiences of 734 frontline health workers.

You can access the full report here in French and in English. Short summaries are also available in three special issues of The Double Loop, the Foundation’s free Insights newsletter, now available in both English and French. The report, prefaced by Heidi Larson who leads the Vaccine Confidence Project, includes DOI to facilitate citation in academic research. (The Foundation uses a repository established and maintained by the Geneva-based CERN for this purpose.)

However, knowing that academic papers have (arguably) an average of three readers, we have a different aspiration for dissemination.

As a global community, we recognize the significance of local action to achieve the global goals.

The report documents vaccine confidence practices just weeks before the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines. It is grounded in the experience of 734 practitioners from local communities, districts, regions, and national teams, who developed case studies documenting a situation in which they were able to successfully lead individuals and groups toward better understanding and acceptance of the benefits of vaccines and vaccination.

Immunization staff from all levels of the health system became citizen scientists, active knowledge-makers drawing on their personal experience of a situation in which they successfully overcame the barriers to vaccine acceptance in the community.

Experiential learning offers a unique opportunity to discover unfiltered experiences and insights from thousands of people whose daily lives revolve around delivering immunization services. But what happens once experience has been shared? What is to be done with what we learn?

Sharing this report, we have found, has triggered remarkable dialogue and led to the co-creation of a steadily growing collection of new practices actually used to build vaccine confidence (as opposed to the many theoretical frameworks on the topic), submitted through our new Insights system. New stories and their analysis are being shared back with local practitioners and with TGLF’s Insights partners, fostering continuous learning that is an action imperative of a strong learning culture. (For Insights, we work with Bridges to Development, the Centre for Change and Complexity in Learning (C3L), and the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins.)

In the coming weeks, we will be inviting 10,000 leaders of the Movement for Immunization Agenda 2030 to share this report to their colleagues, teams, and organizations (in both ministries of health and civil society organizations). They will be sharing back their own insights on how the findings can be used to improve demand for vaccines – and colleagues who listen to their presentation of the report will also be able to share back what they learn, connecting with each other through our Insights system.

Then, the Foundation’s Impact Accelerator will track if and how insights from this report are linked to reported positive outcomes, and we should be able to document this, at least in some cases. This will not only foster double-loop learning but also explicitly link learning to implementation and results.

In this way, local practitioners will be putting to use global knowledge grounded in their local experiences, for their own needs. We believe that this provides a complementary, more organic mechanism than current top-down processes for developing normative guidance driven by global assumptions and priorities.

As Kate O’Brien, WHO’s Director of Immunization, said during a recent Insights Live session: “The global role on immunization is actually to bring together everything that is known by people at the grassroots level. That’s where the action is. Global guidance is basically one means to share knowledge and expertise that’s coming from the grassroots level around the world with others who may not have had that experience yet.”

What we are doing with this report is part of a larger initiative to build the IA2030 Movement Knowledge to Action Hub. New knowledge produced by local practitioners will be available as both static and living documents that local and global practitioners can add their inputs to, at any time. This Hub will be launched at Teach to Reach 7 on 14 October 2022, with over 13,000 local practitioners registered for this event.

Image: Many paths to moving mountains. The Geneva Learning Foundation Collection.