In the first instalment of An ISG conversation with…we caught up with Dominique Zwinkels, Executive Manager, and Alexis Strader, Project Officer of People that Deliver to find out about their priorities, challenges and recent successes.
Why do you think donor collaboration is important?
Firstly, donor coordination improves the efficiency and effectiveness of development cooperation. It reduces the cost of programmes by avoiding duplication, it creates synergies, avoids approaches that have been unsuccessful in the past, facilitates co-funding and finds common programmes. People that Deliver (PtD) is keen to ensure a reduction in the duplication of efforts when it comes to investments in human resources for health supply chain management (HR4SCM).
All too often donors focus on the same needs in a country and duplicate one another’s efforts in the absence of coordination. One example of improved coordination is the Strategic Training Executive Programme, known as STEP 2.0, where three donor agencies – Gavi, the Global Fund and USAID – have established a new partnership to jointly offer STEP 2.0. By uniting with one voice, the donor agencies will increase supply chain efficiency and consequently improve health outcomes for many in lower- and middle-income countries struggling to access medicines or other health commodities.
PtD’s mandate is to advocate for a new paradigm for the supply chain workforce, one in which the workforce has an elevated status and more empowerment within the health system, and access to relevant incentives and resources. Only a sustained collaborative effort by donors, governments, and implementing partners to support the development of a virtuous cycle will bring about significant changes in perceptions, policies and practices regarding the supply chain workforce.
Can you describe one recent notable supply chain success your organisation has had?
The PtD Building Human Resources for Health Supply Chain Management Theory of Change (ToC) is PtD’s foundational concept. The ToC explains the relationship between various factors that affect health supply chain capacity development interventions. It enables SC practitioners to understand and articulate the pathway of change that connects interventions in HR to health SC performance improvements and, ultimately, to improve health outcomes. As such, it provides a structure that can be used to prioritise the workforce interventions required to make improvements or changes that are needed to strengthen health supply chains.
There are many examples of the ToC being put in to practice: in Ethiopia in 2019, the Ethiopian Pharmaceuticals Supply Agency (EPSA) adopted the ToC as the guiding document for their HR strategy and policy, and also developed a competency framework based on PtD’s recommended approach.
In Rwanda, the government used the ToC to prioritise investments in HR for supply chain management and have plans to institutionalise the PtD Supply Chain Management Professionalisation Framework in the near future (see more on this framework in the last section of this interview). They have also revised existing job descriptions for supply chain professionals to align with PtD’s competency framework.
Which new area of work do you think the ISG should focus on?
Donor coordination: there is great value in bringing together the entities that fund health supply chain work in low- and middle-income countries. Only a neutral entity such as the ISG can convene all these stakeholders. The ISG can help donors avoid duplication of efforts and promote targeted health supply chain investments. The ISG is making a concerted effort in this area, but more could be done. For example, when donor agencies are planning a new request for proposals (RFP) for health supply chain work, the ISG can play a role in helping to ensure that the approach, target geographies, objectives and KPIs of the RFP align with other investments and initiatives, particularly in capacity development. Focusing on sharing information before activities are underway could significantly improve efficiency, increase their reach and amplify the impact of work already being done.
We would also suggest building on the KPIs work, with the ISG gaining commitment from donors and stakeholders to measure and track the same indicators and share data with other ISG members. One of the major issues we face in health supply chains is the lack of data on the impact of investments. We need to better understand, in quantitative terms, what works and what doesn’t to better identify gaps.
How do you think the ISG can benefit your organisation?
The ISG is an important communication channel for PtD. Through the ISG, PtD has a direct line to key stakeholders and decision makers in the health supply chain space. Of course, part of our advocacy work involves promoting the professionalisation of the health supply chain workforce and the ISG can amplify our advocacy messages and share resources and tools with stakeholders who have significant influence in terms of investments in human resources for health supply chains. Many of the ISG members are also members of the PtD coalition, which helps to ensure that workforce development is on the ISG agenda and not overlooked.
What can you offer the ISG?
PtD is the technical leader in human resources for health supply chain management. We offer evidence-based approaches, tools, resources and guidance that are publicly available for use by any organisation, donor or government. In the same way that the ISG provides a communication channel for PtD, PtD’s network of member organisations provides a similar channel for the ISG. Furthermore, because the ISG and PtD Secretariat are both hosted by UNICEF Supply Division, this offers a unique opportunity for collaboration. Together, we can leverage the expertise and visibility offered by UNICEF, along with the collective knowledge of the members of both ISG and PtD.
What are your organisation’s supply chain priorities and challenges for 2021?
In 2021 we plan to engage with and focus support at the country-level, with a specific focus on advocacy and technical know-how, ensuring implementers have technical ability and work well together.
We will also enable and support technical leadership and expertise by developing and disseminating a wide range of technical materials and evidence-based approaches in HR for SCM. Last year, we developed guidance on human resources policies, performance management and professionalisation, among other topics. But, as we know, great tools are only useful if people know about them. Thus, our focus this year will be centred around communications campaigns to increase the uptake and use of our newest resources.
Finally, this year we are particularly focused on advocating for better policies, more resources and improved political will, including policy change and awareness raising.
Our main challenge meanwhile, will be to keep HR for SCM at the top of the agenda. The overwhelming focus on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has limited the availability of stakeholders to work on other topics. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, PtD has advocated that health supply chain workers are essential to the pandemic response. However, with much of people’s time and organisational resources devoted to COVID-19, the workforce development agenda has not been a priority. So, our challenge is to maintain the momentum as we advocate the importance of this topic within the COVID-19 context.
What events/activities do you have coming up?
This month (May), we will be launching our newest foundational resource, the Supply Chain Management Professionalisation Framework. The purpose of the framework is to help supply chain organisations and governments to build a professional cadre of health supply chain personnel.
In April 2021, PtD became the new coordinating hub of the jointly-coordinated STEP 2.0 programme, a capacity building tool specifically tailored to the needs of health supply chain leaders and managers. It builds on Gavi’s original model, developed in 2015, and blends elements of self-paced learning, facilitator-led training, on-the-job application of leadership skills and coaching support. PtD is planning a series of webinars to promote the programme to health supply chain professionals and supply chain organisations.
In September 2022 in Lusaka, Zambia we will be hosting the PtD Global Indaba: A forum on HR4SCM. The event, organised by PtD in partnership with IAPHL, IntraHealth International, Pharmaceutical Systems Africa and SAPICS will bring together health supply chain practitioners to share the experiences and knowledge in HR for SCM.
For more information on PtD contact Dominique or Alexis or visit www.peoplethatdeliver.org.
If you would like to take part in the series An ISG interview with, please contact Jonathan Moody at email@example.com.