The Bangladesh Knowledge Management Initiative (BKMI), HC3’s field support project in Bangladesh, wraps up after three years on October 31. Since 2013, BKMI has been strengthening the capacity of the Government of Bangladesh (GoB), USAID implementing partners, and other stakeholders to develop strong, consistent and effective social and behavior change communication (SBCC) campaigns and interventions to improve the health and well-being of the people of Bangladesh.
Three key approaches contributed to BKMI’s success.
First, it designed a comprehensive approach to capacity strengthening at three levels:
- Improving the knowledge and skills of individuals who work in the three SBCC units of the Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW)
- Developing tools and establishing processes within those units to strengthen organizational capacity
- Working to optimize coordination of SBCC activities and integration of health, nutrition and family planning topics at the system level
Due to frequent turnover within the MoHFW, we realized early on that if we wanted to produce sustainable results, we needed to spend most of our energy at the organizational and system levels. We placed Senior Communication Specialists within the three MoHFW units responsible for SBCC. This provided hands-on support and mentoring to the units, helped to strengthen relationships between the project and the units, and facilitated capacity strengthening at all levels.
The second approach was to develop digital solutions for SBCC capacity strengthening. Examples include digital archives for the three MoHFW SBCC units (BHE, IEM, IPHN) of their print and audiovisual SBCC materials; an eToolkit and eLearning for SBCC Program Managers; and an eToolkit and eLearning for Field Workers.
All of these are available online and free of charge. Some are available in different formats to make them as easy as possible to access. The eToolkit for Field Workers, for example, is available online, offline and as a mobile app. During the project, we also distributed the files for the eToolkit app on SD cards. eLearning for Program Managers is available in both Bangla and English, and the eToolkit and eLearning for Field Workers are completely in Bangla.
Our third key approach was to support and develop the BCC Working Group, a Community of Practice for SBCC professionals in Bangladesh working in the health, population and nutrition sector. The BCC Working Group was formed in 2011 by Phase 1 of BKMI as a forum for coordination, networking and learning. Members include representatives from government, non-government, private sector, media and academic organizations. The BCC Working Group meets every two to three months, and several sub-groups are active at any given time. Currently, sub-groups are responsible for updating the two eToolkits annually and for identifying best practices for SBCC in Bangladesh.
Since 2015, the BCC Working Group has hosted a Share Fair, known as Safollo Gatha (“Success Stories” in Bangla), each year that presents best practices for SBCC in a festive and entertaining format. Best practices featured during the event are selected based on their innovation, adaptability, potential for scale-up and effectiveness.
Based on our experience during the last three years, we’ve identified some important tips for capacity strengthening for SBCC.
- Coordination and knowledge management (KM) are essential for strengthening SBCC at the organizational and system levels. Without coordination and KM, capacity strengthening happens mainly at the individual level, which we found did not lead to sustainable results. Using KM, we created tools and resources to help SBCC professionals and field workers to do their jobs better, such as eLearning courses, monitoring tools and AV Van guidelines. We also created tools and opportunities to coordinate around SBCC – both within MoHFW and between MoHFW and others. Examples include the BCC Working Group, a Framework for Effective HPN SBCC, and digital archives by the three MoHFW Units responsible for SBCC.
- Given the many demands on the health sector in Bangladesh, capacity strengthening for SBCC was not always a top priority. However, when we presented it as part of Health Systems Strengthening, or as Quality Improvement (which is a key component of Universal Health Coverage), we were able to gain more traction with decision-makers.
- Another opportunity to elevate the value of SBCC is to link it with efforts in Bangladesh to improve household-level data collection. Field workers’ registers are being digitized, and MoHFW is beginning to invest in mobile technology for field workers, so that data are available for planning and for measuring progress toward Sustainable Development Goals. At the same time, BKMI already created an eToolkit for field workers filled with digitized print and audio-visual counseling materials. Linking the digital registers and the eToolkt is a natural fit, as they are both for the same audience: field workers who interact with community members.
- Finally, if your goal is to achieve sustainable results by the end of the project, you have to begin with a sustainability mindset on Day 1. Often, this means that things will move more slowly. Working hand-in-hand with government colleagues takes more time, but will ultimately result in ownership, investment and meaningful participation in strengthening SBCC, particularly at the organizational and system level. Capacity strengthening is never finished. Once SBCC capacity is strengthened, the bar of quality is raised, and capacity must be strengthened again. Continued advocacy and ongoing support are needed to truly institutionalize changes and ensure the sustainability of your results.
BKMI is a three-year USAID-funded project through HC3, jointly implemented by Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs (CCP) and Bangladesh Center for Communication Programs (BCCP).