Global Health and Innovation Conference 2015 – Global Insight Recap

Sara Fischer

Innovation drives progress, and is the result of creativity, determination, and an unwavering belief in your mission. In my opinion, innovation is a cocktail of several things. Not only should it reflect a creative and forward-thinking mindset, but it also must stem from an almost obstinate resolve to improve processes, outcomes, and impact. Through this lens, agility becomes a necessary component of any program. When organizations, programs, and services are flexible to adapt based on proven successes or failures, they ultimately do better. Beneficiaries receive more positive results and failures cease to repeat themselves. Learning from our work should be integrated at every level of program management and implementation, and communication around our processes should be shared widely across the development community. I believe we need to take a lesson from Silicon Valley and share openly how and why our failures occurred. Success is simple to boast about, but failure should be an equally large part of the conversation. If we cannot learn lessons from past failures, how can we expect not to make the same mistakes again? From this perspective, I believe that innovation should be both creative and evidence-based. At Global Insight, we are constantly striving for innovation, ensuring that our work is mission-driven, data-based, and continually adapting to changing circumstances. We believe in learning from our partners, collaborators and beneficiaries, and enjoy the process of brainstorming possible innovations in evaluation, data analysis, and research.

As part of my quest for program learning, this past weekend I attended the 12th Annual Global Health and Innovation Conference (GHIC), hosted by Unite for Sight at the Schubert Theater and Yale University in New Haven, CT. It was a whirlwind two days of talks, pitches, posters, and networking. The Twittersphere exploded with the hashtag #GHIC, citing notable quotes, anecdotes, calls to action, and photos. This conference was truly a gathering of great minds, and everyone I met was there with the objective of finding ways to work together to improve health outcomes across the world. Among the notable talks was Keynote speaker Agnes Binagwaho, Minister of Health of Rwanda, who provided a powerful lesson on determination to forge ahead in spite of development challenges. Dr. Binagwaho’s vision of equity and access to healthcare, and her strength of conviction, make her a wonderful model for the kind of forward thinking we love here at Global Insight.

Another major theme at the conference this year was evaluation. The development community is increasingly realizing that in order to catalyze positive change in the lives of beneficiaries, decisions must be made based on hard evidence. The best way to garner evidence of this nature in development programs is through both process and impact evaluations. There was a lively discussion on the nature of evaluation: when they should be done (pre- or post-program?), who should be doing them (internal or external?), which methods to use (RCT? Case-control?), what kind of data do you collect (quantitative, qualitative, or both?) and for what purpose (to satisfy donors? improve program learning? because everyone says we should?). The debate on best practices in program evaluation is ongoing, but at Global Insight we believe that evaluation should be an integral part of any program from the very beginning. We believe that organizations should choose appropriate indicators for success before even planning possible interventions; data collection methods should be honed before any implementation is begun; and both internal and external evaluations have their place in program learning. In essence, evaluation is everything, and it was wonderful to see so many organizations understand the importance of evidence and data collection in their work.

I would like to end by calling on the rest of the development community to start conversations internally on how you can integrate data into your work, with the intent of improving programs and increasing positive impact on beneficiaries. If you are unsure where to begin, I urge you to give Global Insight a call. We’re here to help drive your mission forward through robust data collection, analysis, and evaluation. Let’s brainstorm innovative ways to make your program a success!