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To explore what works and what doesn’t work in family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) programs, the Knowledge SUCCESS project launched Learning Circles, an activity designed to meet the need for transparent dialogue and learning between diverse FP/RH professionals. Learning Circles is a set of informal group dialogues for building knowledge around common family planning and reproductive health implementation issues through the use of collaborative methods. This series offers an opportunity to explore and brainstorm solutions and to propose new ideas and tools for change.
In July-August 2023, in partnership with FP2030, Knowledge SUCCESS co-organized its third Learning Circles cohort for FP/RH professionals based in francophone Africa. Over the course of one month, on a weekly basis, 24 participants from 11 countries (Burkina Faso, Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Niger, Mali, Senegal and Togo) discussed the priority topic, “Domestic Resource Mobilization: Exploring advocacy strategies to increase funding for family planning at the national level.”
The cohort applied an advocacy-focused thematic framework to guide group discussions. This framework is adaptable to a variety of advocacy causes. Inspired by works published by the UNDP, such as the Resource Mobilization Strategy, and by Save the Children, the framework enables groups or organizations to maximize their impact and effectiveness in promoting their goals and values, in our case, the mobilization of national resources. The five stages of the framework, which are also found in the SMART Advocacy stages, ensure that all parties involved have common goals, understand each other’s expectations, know the different audiences, and will work together to tailor messages to specific audiences.
Participants used the knowledge management techniques “Appreciative Inquiry” and “1-4-All” to identify exceptional experiences in advocating for increased funding for family planning at the national level. Appreciative Inquiry helps us rephrase the question “What’s wrong?” to “What’s right?”—and then asks, “How can we amplify what’s working well?” Using 1-4-All, participants shared key success factors and the tools, resources, and processes that allowed them to achieve that success. The following are a few illustrative examples:
The third Learning Circles session is centered around a knowledge management technique called “Troika Consulting.” In small groups, participants take turns sharing a challenge they personally face in their advocacy work to increase funding for family planning at the national level, and seek advice from their fellow group members.
Below are examples of challenges identified by participants and proposed solutions:
In the fourth and final session, participants discussed how to apply lessons learned from the successful implementation of domestic resource mobilization initiatives to the challenges likely to be encountered in future situations. During the session, participants were asked to imagine the following scenario:
In 2026, 4 years from the deadline for achieving FP2030 commitments, government donations account for around 80% of total funding for family planning in francophone African countries. Each country has a budget line for family planning that is 100% consumed, covering the purchase of 100% of contraceptive needs and 90% of the cost of demand creation and service delivery campaigns.
In small groups, participants brainstormed around the factors that would have led to this explosive success, what people would have said, and who would have contributed. Each group then shared their ideas in plenary. A summary of the priority success factors based on the lessons learned that emerged from the groups is listed below:
To conclude the virtual series, all participants developed a commitment statement concerning a specific action they planned to take to help solve a specific problem they are facing, related to advocating for increased funding for family planning at the national level, or to scale up what is already working well. Below are examples of participants’ commitments:
Through Learning Circles, francophone African FP/RH staff were able to increase their knowledge and understanding of issues related to advocating for the mobilization of domestic resources for family planning, network and build relationships with colleagues facing similar challenges, and generate new ideas and practical solutions to improve the implementation of FP/RH programs. At the same time, they also learned new knowledge management tools and techniques that they can use in their organizations to facilitate creative ways of sharing knowledge and effective practices.
To find out more about Learning Circles and previous Learning Circles cohorts in French-speaking Africa, click here.
Would you like to host your own Learning Circles cohort to examine successes and challenges around a priority topic? Check out the Learning Circles module on the KM Training Package, which includes session templates, planning guides and other resources.