On October 28, Knowledge SUCCESS and FP2030 hosted the second session in our final set of discussions in the Connecting Conversations series. In this session, speakers explored strengths, challenges, and lessons learned in implementing multi-sectoral programming in AYSRH and why multi-sectoral approaches are key to rethinking AYSRH service provision.
Speakers discussed the importance of using a holistic approach within multi-sectoral programming, sharing stories from within their respective sectors. Ayenekulu emphasized that effective multi-sectoral collaboration requires considering young people as actors and decision-makers, rather than simply treating them as users of a given program. She explained that young people and adolescents must be centered in the design process, as they are experts regarding the issues facing them. Padilla highlighted several necessities for effective collaboration: clearly identifying the issues that need to be addressed within the target population, understanding one’s own role in the system surrounding that issue, and discovering other strategic stakeholders in that system. She explained that multi-sectoral programming requires systems thinking, as programs must address the broader set of challenges and circumstances that undermine youth potential. Mshighati echoed the sentiments of the other speakers, commenting that through analysis of human and community needs, it is clear they are interconnected and must be addressed with this in mind.
“Multi-sectoral collaboration calls for considering [young people] as main actors, as decision-makers in their life, as experts of their own issues, rather than considering them as mere beneficiaries.”
Mshighati explained that engaging key beneficiaries is critical to implementing and enhancing multi-sectoral programming. He described how young people in the community are the ones who can explain the unique challenges they face, devise a solution, and outline their own capabilities and support needs. Mshighati went on to highlight the importance of governmental stakeholders, detailing the stages of how a program can be evaluated and supported at different governmental levels. He also mentioned the importance of engaging civil society organizations, as they can assist in key ways at various implementation levels. As an example, he described Pathfinder’s efforts to bridge the work of family planning initiatives and conservation programs in the East African region, underscoring the necessity of bringing these groups together to discuss potential solutions to their intersecting issues.
Ayenekulu discussed how multi-sectoral programming can address the needs of diverse populations of adolescents and young people; consequently, the types of sectors that should be included will differ based on these unique needs. She explained that the difference between the needs and priorities of youth populations, and the strategies that collaborating sectors must use to address these needs, highlights the necessity of centering young people in program design and implementation. Padilla discussed the importance of involving private-sector stakeholders, who have a vested interest in promoting AYSRH due to its positive impacts on the employability of young people. She shared a story of integrating AYSRH into a program that aimed to help young people find employment in Mexico, and how it was surprising yet understandable that industry employers were interested in supporting this initiative. Padilla explained that these sectors are motivated to promote the health and wellbeing of youth and adolescents, as addressing these larger systemic problems can also improve their employment rates.
Mshighati discussed how consistent and collaborative learning sessions can enhance the collective knowledge gained through multi-sectoral programming. In his experience, the learning process is informed by continuously monitoring the programming and evaluating its effectiveness; he described how evaluation mechanisms must be jointly developed during the design phase in order to benefit all stakeholders. Mshighati explained that, in these learning sessions, program leaders meet with community members, government officials, and civil society stakeholders to analyze knowledge gained, evaluate key outcomes, assess any emerging challenges, and devise ways to address them.
“Much of what is needed to achieve certain SRH outcomes, either in women or in youth and adolescents, had to do with behavior change through communication.”
Padilla spoke about the importance of understanding the greater context of issues facing youth and adolescents, explaining how program leaders can draw on stakeholders existing in that context in order to improve their program’s outcomes. She described the necessity of identifying key local stakeholders who may wish to be included in AYSRH programming and discovering their potential incentives to collaborate. Padilla went on to explain how, by creating a map of the resources and organizations that exist around the target population, program developers can engage with stakeholders outside of their sector and work together to combat larger systemic issues. She also mentioned the necessity of tailoring one’s language to their stakeholder audience, as communication is key to ensuring buy-in and enhancing collaboration.
“This approach has given us the opportunity to not only tackle a specific issue but also to look at different actors that are not in our own sector that might be super strategic to involve in our work; it can help us provide better outcomes and better services for our young people.”
Ayenekulu emphasized that strong coordination mechanisms are critical for efficient and effective multi-sectoral approaches. These mechanisms must include clearly outlined roles and responsibilities for each partner, and a strong accountability framework must also be built into the coordination mechanism. Ayenekulu explained that an accountability framework can exist in several forms, such as formal evaluations. She also highlighted the need for clear, tangible, and measurable goals and consistent data collection regarding whether or not goals were met.
“For a multi-sectoral approach to work, there must be a strong coordination mechanism, and it should be supported by clear lines of roles and responsibilities.”
Mshighati discussed the reasons why joint implementation has more benefits than simply joint planning or parallel implementation (where programs are simultaneously implemented but not integrated). He explained that the efficacy of joint implementation depends on the strength of the relationship between collaborating sectors; if the relationship isn’t sufficiently strong, each partner runs the risk of not adequately integrating the others’ work into their own. If this happens, two jointly designed programs may be implemented alongside each other without efficiently maximizing their potential for coordination. Mshighati suggested that joint implementation can facilitate a culture where everyone understands how their different forms of work intersect and complement each other, which can translate into improved program outcomes and better use of limited resources.
“In joint implementation, you build a culture of every person understanding the work of others.”
“Connecting Conversations” is a series tailored specifically for youth leaders and young people, hosted by FP2030 and Knowledge SUCCESS. Featuring five themes, with four to five conversations per module, this series presents a comprehensive look at Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health (AYRH) topics including Adolescent and Youth Development; Measurement and Evaluation of AYRH Programs; Meaningful Youth Engagement; Advancing Integrated Care for Youth; and the 4 P’s of influential players in AYRH. If you’ve attended any of the sessions, then you know these are not your typical webinars. These interactive conversations feature key speakers and encourage open dialogue. Participants are encouraged to submit questions before and during the conversations.
Our fifth and final series, “Emerging Trends and Transformational Approaches in AYSRH,” began on October 14, 2021, and wrapped up on November 18, 2021.
Our first series, which ran from July 2020 through September 2020, focused on a foundational understanding of adolescent development and health. Our second series, which ran from November 2020 through December 2020, focused on critical influencers to improve young people’s reproductive health. Our third series ran from March 2021 to April 2021 and focused on an adolescent-responsive approach to SRH services. Our fourth series began in June 2021 and concluded in August 2021 and focused on reaching key youth populations in AYSRH. You can watch recordings (available in English and French) and read conversation summaries to catch up.