This blog was originally posted on the IDS website. FHS was a co- organiser of the “Unpicking Power and Politics for Transformative Change: Towards Accountability for Health Equity” workshop held at IDS from 19 – 21 July 2017. The workshop had substantial contributions from FHS, including team members from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Uganda, the UK, and the US.
You can also read FHS researcher Ligia Paina's reflections from the workshop in her blog post Onions, elephants and lenses: reflections on the accountability for health equity workshop.
By Erica Nelson
We had three days. That was it. We had three days: to gather, to share ideas and experiences, to make new connections, to strengthen existing ones, and to wrestle with the conceptual beast that is “accountability.” The aim? To bring sharp minds, creative problem-solvers and pragmatic innovators together under one roof so that we might get a few steps closer to our common goal of greater health equity. Did it work? Yes. With caveats. You can be the judge. Today, we share a record of this event.
There is a political reason for sharing a “record” rather than a neat synthesis of the event.
We would argue that there is all too often a lack of historical perspective and institutional memory in contemporary debates on health systems strengthening , or in the planning of interventions designed to improve accountability mechanisms at local, national or global level.
Part of what can get lost (one might argue, on purpose) is the messiness and complexity of innovation and change.
At the workshop, Jonathan Fox asked us to recall a moment in the 1970s and 80s when civil society activists in Latin America practised something called analísis de coyuntura, which roughly translates as “the naming of the political moment, of the conjuncture.”
This is what the workshop achieved. We named the moment.
We brought together people working on running Community Scorecard interventions in maternal health clinics, people working on digital accountability innovations, people with decades of experience running South-South health and development collaborations, people working at the knife’s edge of anti-corruption activism and clinical malpractice, and together we named the moment we are all living.
The ground is shifting under our feet.
We look around and find that health actors are stuck thinking in terms of political and practical solutions that are now decades out of date. There are new technologies, new global actors, new arrangements of private and public cooperation, new market influences, new drugs and diseases.
Are we ready to tackle the challenges of this changed health landscape?
What is accountability, after all, if not an opportunity to look inequity right in the eye?
In three days, we didn’t solve the problems that have vexed global health for decades, but we laid our shared challenges out on the table and acknowledged the need for mutual learning and collaborative efforts to tackle them.
This in itself is a kind of success, and this is how we mean to proceed. Call it “catalytic convening,” call it “engaged excellence,” or call it intellectual and pragmatic matchmaking: this is one of the great strengths of IDS.
Three days isn’t much, but it is a start. We will take what came out of this workshop – the ideas, the political will, the renewed relationships and the activist energy – and we will build on it together with our partners.
Download our record of the Accountability for Health Equity workshop
Take a minute to read this document. Read the bits that strike you as most interesting. See if it resonates with your own experience and knowledge, and if it does, get in touch. There is more to come from the Accountability for Health Equity team at IDS and you are welcome to be a part of it.
This event was hosted by IDS in collaboration with Unequal Voices, Future Health Systems, the Open Society Foundations, the Impact Initiative, and Health Systems Global. It is part of IDS’ Accountability for Health Equity Programme of work.