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Blog Post

The future of IDEAS in maternal and newborn health

by Rhys Williams

published 16 May 2016

Reflecting on our progress and what's ahead

“Exchanging views, inspiring minds” is the motto of Cumberland Lodge, the 17th-century Grade II listed country house in Windsor Great Park, where the IDEAS team recently convened for its annual retreat. The lodge is an educational charity and residential conference centre – and an inspiring venue for reflection, creative thinking and discussion.

It’s encouraging motto was appropriate as the IDEAS team met for a frank discussion on what has been learned through the project, and how this informs the team’s future plans for generating evidence to improve maternal and newborn health.

With staff working across six countries, the IDEAS annual retreat is a vital opportunity for colleagues to come together to track progress, develop future plans and bounce ideas off one another on how to do things differently and increase the impact of IDEAS’ work.

To begin with, Shirine Voller, IDEAS’ Project Manager, provided a summary of progress against key milestones of the IDEAS grant. In sum, a lot has happened and over the next few months there will be a major focus on the dissemination of results.

Then Deepthi Wickremasinghe, IDEAS’ Research Assistant & Information Manager, led a session to review the multitude of planned outputs across IDEAS’ four learning questions, as well as a number of cross cutting themes.

The team reflected on what has worked well in the project, and how things could be improved – both at a research level and programmatically in supporting grantees of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other maternal and newborn health stakeholders.

This ranged from the way we manage the relationships and partnerships in the three countries in which we work – Nigeria, Ethiopia and India – to the Technical Resource Centre and external communication.

Looking forward, five big themes have emerged, which frame the way IDEAS will work in the future:

  • Improving coverage measurement
  • Fostering innovation sustainability
  • Supporting local decision making
  • Tracking progress
  • Improving quality

On the second day of the retreat, the scope of the team’s discussions moved on to several new topics.

The first of these was Social Network Analysis (SNA), led by Kate Sabot. Kate’s SNA study explores informal networks, offering a means to map the hidden channels of communication, information, collaboration and disconnect between people. This work ultimately aims to inform the IDEAS method of measuring the scale-up of maternal and newborn health interventions in Ethiopia, northeast Nigeria and Uttar Pradesh in India.

I then presented an analysis of how the project had communicated and disseminated its research and findings over the last few years, how to carry on that success, and which potential tools, projects and innovations could be pursued in the future. As you may already know, we now have a new Facebook and LinkedIn page, both of which we update regularly with our latest news.

One new communications innovation is the ‘long form photographic storytelling’ approach that IDEAS recently submitted to the Fourth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research:

This session on communications was followed by an interactive session on cross-cutting outputs facilitated by Professor Kara Hanson, part of IDEAS’ Strategic Management Group and Head of the Department of Global Health and Development at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. The focus of the discussion was on the project’s many thematically cross-cutting outputs. We split into sub groups and each one focused on outputs across countries and learning questions.

Finally Keith Tomlin, who has overall data management responsibility for results generated by IDEAS’, discussed best practice in data management and archiving and what the team needs to do to get to a gold standard. Look out for a blog from Keith very soon on the lessons learned in collecting data from the field in Ethiopia.

To stay up to date with all that the IDEAS team is up to, follow us on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn and sign up to our regular newsletter.


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Rhys Williams

IDEAS Communications Officer 2016 - 2017

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