Turning the Tide: Increasing Access to HIV Prevention and Care for Men Who Have Sex with Men in Ghana
Kim Green, Deputy Country Director for Ghana, FHI 360
Kosovo teachers Shkëndije Nagavci and Laura Pruthi were among 24 educators recognized for their innovative use of education technology at this year’s Microsoft Partners in Learning (PiL) European Forum held March 19-22 in Lisbon, Portugal. The teachers joined more than 250 educators from 40 European countries to showcase their work and exchange ideas about the effective use of technology to enhance 21st century teaching and learning. With this honor, Nagavci and Pruthi have earned the opportunity to join colleagues from around the world in the Global PiL Forum to be held this November in Athens, Greece.
The pair qualified for the European Forum by placing first in a national competition organized by USAID’s Basic Education Program (BEP), a project managed by FHI 360, Microsoft Partners in Learning and Kosovo’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The competition is part of BEP’s efforts to encourage educators to integrate technology in to teaching and learning practices. According to Arsim Ilazi, BEP Education Technology Coordinator, a number of information sessions were held across Kosovo encouraging teachers to participate.
“One of BEP’s primary goals is to deliver quality professional development across a number of strategic content areas,” Ilazi said. “Effective use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for teaching and learning is embedded across each of our accredited professional development courses, even the English language course. Kosovo teachers were eager to participate in this competition and appreciated the opportunity presented by Microsoft to demonstrate their knowledge and ideas in a broader forum.”
Nagavci and Pruthi’s project, “Fractions Everywhere,” enlisted a range of engaging activities designed to provide a better understanding of a mathematical concept many students find challenging to master. Ilazi added that in developing their approach the teachers noticed measurable improvement in their students’ mathematical knowledge and skills. “Besides that, they also found that mathematics can be fun!”
“Dr. Keith Prenton, BEP Chief of Party added, “Developing teacher capacity in the effective use of technology is one of the key areas identified by USAID and the Government of Kosovo to strengthen education reform efforts in Kosovo. BEP’s Professional Development activities, together with its components focused on School Management and Assessment will provide Kosovo with many of the critical elements needed to build a 21st century education system.” Prenton is no stranger to modernizing education systems in the Balkan region. Prior to assuming the lead at BEP, he managed a similar large-scale transformation effort for FHI 360 in Macedonia, Kosovo’s southern neighbor. In fact, after a similar success at last year’s PiL European Forum, a team of Macedonian teachers qualified for the PiL Global Forum held in Washington, DC last November and placed second in the “Educator’s Choice” category. “We invited the Macedonian team to the national competition here in Kosovo this year. Their success on the European and global stage served as a great source of inspiration for the teachers here in Kosovo.”
Last year 2,614 people contacted FHI 360’s National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities with urgent questions. What’s an IEP? What does it mean when a teacher says my child has AD/HD? Where can I find other parents of deaf children?
And those were only the calls and emails. Thousands of others came to the center’s website and scoured its online database.
The center, which goes by the acronym NICHCY (pronounced NEE-chee), now has a new way to get information to parents, teachers, and others whose lives are touched by children with disabilities: a smartphone app. With the touch of a finger on an iPhone or a Droid, users can now literally tap into NICHCY’s extensive database of hundreds state organizations and local parent centers.
“Some of the information requests are our job to answer. But a lot are really for other organizations,” explains Elaine Mulligan, NICHCY’s project director. “We’re referring parents out to local centers all the time. DisAbility Connect means they can now refer themselves.”
Amar Trivedi developed DisAbility Connect. He says NICHCY’s database translates perfectly into a mobile app because users need site-specific information and can be immediately connected to the organization’s email address, phone number, and website. And the best part, Trivedi says, is that when NICHCY updates its information online, the app will also automatically update — meaning that no parent rushing to an IEP meeting will be left with too little information too late.
For more information about NICHCY, visit their website here.
Inexpensive video production has become a viable way for agricultural organizations to communicate with beneficiaries, donors, and the public. And it’s not just posting on YouTube. Devices such as handheld projectors and tablet computers have come down in price, enabling practitioners to disseminate to farmers in rural areas with minimal technology. Social networks – just a few years ago only the purview of wealthy countries – are now truly global. In regions with electricity, a well-executed video can now go viral – and become more impactful than the slickest behavior change campaigns of decades past.
It is exciting, but that doesn’t make it simple. Organizations continue to make low quality videos that fail to engage their audience or reflect the core objectives of their project.
To help users learn the ropes, the Fostering Agriculture Competitiveness Employing Information Communication Technologies (FACET) project has developed an online toolkit that can help one through every stage of planning, producing, and disseminating agricultural videos. It is called “Integrating Low-Cost Video into Agricultural Development Projects: A Toolkit for Practitioners,” and is available for free download.
The toolkit is also the basis for a series of four workshops offered this month to USAID implementing partners by toolkit author Josh Woodard and myself, in Kenya, Mozambique, and Ghana. The first of the trainings was completed last week in Nairobi.
The workshop focuses on implementing your low-cost video vision, which requires skills beyond playing Spielberg: strategically thinking about message, storyboarding narrative concepts, planning dissemination, troubleshooting inevitably buggy software, and personal perseverance, all play a role in a video’s success or failure.
One participant, Victor Nzai, program assistant for USAID-funded Agricultural Market Development Trust of Kenya (AGMARK) project focused on agro-pastoral development, felt the training would improve his project’s ability to encourage farmers to efficiently integrate grazing range land and food production in Kenya.
“We have been doing dissemination via field days quite successfully, but with video, we can reach many more farmers than before,” said Nzai. “We shall shoot the videos ourselves, and edit them into comprehensive tools that can be presented by a facilitator.”
Agricultural development practitioners are looking for new ways to leverage video to circulate information and engage local farmers. Video can help them do it – but it is the holistic consideration of concept, design, and execution that will maximize chances for success.
“Not everyone will adopt our ideas,” said Nzai. “But when we multiply the number of farmers we reach, we are able to tune our message with video to encourage farmers and pastoralists to consider better ways.”
While working on a U.S.-based project on obesity, I’d had a gratifying experience with concept testing. It confirmed what I’d thought for a long time – that concept testing, or trying a variety of concepts or message approaches with real audience members, can help you hone in on messages that really resonate.
I wanted to share my excitement and convince my international development colleagues that concept testing could work for them, too. So, I put together a PowerPoint for practitioners like myself, in the business of behavior change.
Despite a warm reception from my colleagues at a lunchtime presentation, a couple of eager 20-somethings were having trouble keeping their eyes open for the full 40 minutes. I tried again in one of our field offices overseas, but it didn’t really make sense to them because the whole project, focusing on obesity, was so very American. And even with a select, receptive audience (okay, I guess people closer to my demographic could sit through it…), my beautifully animated PowerPoint didn’t work without me there to deliver the story. I had a product, but I had to work pretty hard to sell it.
What I needed was a product that pretty much sells itself.
I needed a new case study on concept testing: one that featured an experience outside the U.S., and one that people could use and navigate on their own time and at their own pace. I turned to a younger colleague on our project, one who had been teaching herself the basics of video editing, is not intimidated by online mechanics, has a great sense of design, and “gets it” when it comes to behavior change.
Fortunately, our staff in Bangladesh liked the idea of concept testing, and with a little coaching by e-mail, had tried a version of it themselves. They were sold on concept testing as a way to focus their messaging before they dove into script writing for TV spots. Now we had a non-U.S.-based story to share.
My colleague and I shut the office door and surfed YouTube. We had a sweeping story that we wanted to tell succinctly. We typed in “movie trailers.” Voila: Gone with the Wind, the whole epic story summed up in 2½ minutes. We knocked ourselves out with a funny “how to” video on making a poster, and a complex lecture about the changing world of work, amusingly illustrated with text and cartoons, drawn as we watched.
Inspired, we started writing scripts for our own short “how to” videos and cobbled together some mock-ups, using the visuals and software we had at hand.
With no budget beyond our labor, we built a prototype web site with three short videos and took it out for a road test. We sat with a few colleagues and asked them to open the Beta version. One reviewer reminded us that a popular book on Web design is titled “Don’t make me think.” We reworked the page to make its purpose clear. We learned a lot about how to make our content shorter . We watched as people puzzled over what the site offered them – then taught ourselves to write explicit, brief text to tell them how they could put the tools to use. We learned that busy practitioners would delight in a sample script or research instrument. They told us they would download it and tuck it away for a training or technical assistance opportunity.
We launched in late March 2012. Already we’ve seen an uptick in visits to Alive & Thrive’s (A&T) Web site. During the three weeks after launch, the rate of people visiting the A&T site was almost double the rate of visitors in several recent months. We’ve gotten practitioners’ attention. One official cited the case study kit as the reason she thought to invite our Bangladesh country director to present at a regional conference.
Right now we’re deep into scripting our second kit: this one on engaging fathers in infant and young child feeding. And building on what we’ve learned, this time the videos will be two to three minutes, not four to five.
Technology makes glitz easy. But it takes more than glitz. Thinking like marketers has taken us a bit closer to building a product that “pretty much sells itself.”
Access full case study at www.aliveandthrive.org/research-to-action.
Yesterday morning the White House hosted an open forum on innovation in global development. The discussion panel included Raj Shah (Administrator of USAID), Gayle Smith (Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director of the National Security Council), and Tom Kalil (Deputy Director for Policy, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy & Senior Advisor for Science, Technology, and Innovation, National Economic Council). Questions were taken from the public via Twitter with the hashtag #WHChat and through Facebook.
FHI 360 submitted four questions through Twitter, and three of them were answered by the panel (though we were not directly mentioned):
The panel answered that innovation is urgently need in all sectors, but stressed food security, global health, and climate change as key focus areas.
The panel answered that it is important to engage college students in the US through university partnerships. They discussed USAID’s University Engagement program specifically, and talked about harnessing the power of the Internet to engage students in the developing world.
Similar to the above question, the panel talked about supporting students in developing countries and giving them platforms to voice their opinions. They also said that giving direct support to innovative projects and building networks of partnerships were important to foster home-grown innovation.
For more information about the White House’s innovation initiatives, check out their fact sheet, “Harnessing Innovation for Global Development.”
She stood there, in beautiful red robes, with a small, serene baby bound firmly to her back. “This document is our bible,” the woman said as she cradled the green volume, in a way that was both matter-of-fact and full of awe. The book she was referring to is the vastly popular collaboration between WHO, USAID, and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public of Health: Family Planning: a Global Handbook for Providers. “The Handbook,” as it is known around the world, was first published in 2007 and has been updated with new content this year. More than 500,000 paper copies have been distributed, with tens of thousands of electronic copies downloaded and distributed on CDs and flash drives. The Handbook has also been translated into nine languages.
Here in Dakar, at the 2011 International Conference on Family Planning, the Knowledge for Health (K4Health) Project, led by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Communication Programs (JHU•CCP), has distributed thousands of updated Handbooks in French and English, and taken orders for tens of thousands more. But this Conference has also provided us the opportunity to broaden the reach of this critical content, by launching a portfolio of technology-based versions of the manual.
During the Conference, the K4Health Project launched the English and French versions of the Handbook in EPUB and Kindle formats, allowing the handbook to be read on a variety of platforms including iPads, iPhones, Kindles, and other eReaders. Perhaps the most exciting product release was the first version of K4Health’s Android App for Contraceptive Eligibility (ACE), based on the Contraceptive Eligibility Criteria from the Handbook. ACE allows a healthcare provider to quickly and simply identify the most appropriate contraceptive methods depending on a woman’s health conditions. Alternately, it can also be used by a provider to learn more about any of the contraceptive methods in the manual, their effectiveness, and their side effects. “This is incredible,” said a young man from Ghana who supervises a cadre of community health workers. “This means that we can carry the handbook in our pockets, even when there is no Internet or mobile connection.”
At K4Health, we strive to combine appropriate information technology with knowledge management best practices to ensure that the right information is made available to the right people at the right time in the right format. We believe that by making this seminal text available through a variety of formats, we can contribute to expanding access for service providers and health workers at all levels of the health system. This will improve knowledge and best practices about Family Planning and Reproductive Health, thereby expanding awareness about choices that women have to make informed decisions about their lives, their families, and their futures.
The Knowledge for Health (K4Health) project is a leader in health information dissemination using traditional and new media mechanisms and in facilitating information use through dynamic learning and exchange programs. K4Health is implemented by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/Center for Communication Programs in partnership with FHI 360 and Management Sciences for Health. Find more information about K4Health here.