Everyone at ICFP is in the Business of Leading Change

Kate Wilson

Technical Advisor

Joseph Dwyer and Kate WIlson speaking at ICFP 2013Guiding change is often referred to as the ultimate test of a leader. Through the Guide to Fostering Change to Scale Up Effective Health Services, LMG and its partners in the IBP Consortium are putting systematic approaches to effective change and scale up into the hands of FP/RH leaders, enabling leaders themselves to build a strong foundation for meeting the global demands for greater investment and better family planning and reproductive health outcomes for women, girls, and families.

Leaders at all levels are working to improve family planning and reproductive health, including donors, researchers, technical experts, service providers and advocates at the global, national, district, community and family level. All this is in the name of fostering, leading, or implementing change. Successful change is not an end in itself. Rather, it is a means of increasing individuals’ awareness of their Family Planning and Reproductive Health (FP/RH) rights, improving the availability and quality of services and expanding utilization. In the words of Melinda Gates, during her Wednesday plenary presentation here at ICFP, “giving women and girls hope, dignity, and the opportunity for a better future for themselves and their families”  is ultimately all our goal. However, leaders involved in this work often lack a systematic process to link their current situation with the scale they wish to achieve.

Whether you are the minister of health trying to expand effective pilot programs across the national health system; a student trying to improve access to youth-friendly family planning services; a leader of a disabled people’s organization trying to educate health providers about the reproductive health rights of women with disabilities; or a community health worker trying to increase access to new contraceptive methods in a rural village, you face common challenges in changing behaviors and changing systems.

Among others, such common challenges include:

  • Cultivating ownership among those who will have to change
  • Engaging stakeholders in thinking about scale up from the beginning
  • Securing necessary financial resources
  • Simplifying implementation packages to lend themselves to realistic expansion and sustainability
  • Maintaining commitment over time, despite drawbacks and frustrations
  • Measuring progress and results of change efforts and the scaling up process

The reality is that the majority of change initiatives fail. Decades of investment in FP/RH have left the field with a graveyard of pilot programs that have rarely been successfully brought to scale. Often, these change initiatives are not approached systematically, do not account for principles for effective change, do not plan for scale up, and are not well evaluated.

To meet these gaps between knowledge and practice, LMG and its partners in the IBP Fostering Change to Scale Up Task Team, have developed the IBP Guide to Fostering Change to Scale Up Effective Health Services. The guide brings together research, experience, and tools to outline a step by step pathway from identifying the need for change, to scale up and evaluation of evidence-based practices. This equips leaders and their teams with systematic methods, proven tools, and measurable indicators to follow through on their scale up efforts. It supports an environment that promotes change, cultivates ownership among stakeholders, and achieves desired FP/RH results with a documented process to be shared with others in the field. To use the guide first-hand, click here.

Table Fostering ChangeEffective change and scale up are not easy, but they are the need of the hour if we are going to achieve pressing global priorities, such as reaching MDG 5 in the 700 days remaining before the 2015 deadline and following through on the commitments of FP2020. There has been a call for continuous leadership throughout the ICFP sessions, and I would add continuous leadership of change that will be absolutely essential to meet our collective goal of ensuring women in developing countries have the same access to lifesaving contraceptives and services as those in the developed world.