FIP 95: The ingredients of an effective government partnership with Ruth Ngechu of Living Goods

This interview will help you put yourself into the shoes of government so you can work with them effectively. Ruth Ngechu is the Deputy Country Director in charge of partnership with Living Goods in Kenya. Ruth shares her strategies and tactics she’s developed over the course of her 17+ year career working in Public Health, which includes some time within the Ministry of Health

On this episode, you’ll learn:

  • A different engagement strategy is needed in every county or district you work in, because each one has their own policies and priorities. They’re like separate governments. Ruth’s role is to understand policy frameworks to make sure Living Goods approach is aligned in each county.
  • When Ruth was in government, and NGOs would make requests for collaboration, Ruth would look for support to help them execute some of the initiatives they had going on, since government budgets were quite thin.
  • Governments have their own priorities and agendas. When you approach government you have to align your approach with them. So first thing to do is to find out their needs and priorities. Because government only supports the things that they think are contributing to their priorities.
  • A bad example of an organisation approaching government is when they come with a ready made plan that does not align with the needs of the government.
  • Living Goods’ model has evolved. A key reason for this is the changing priorities and capacity of government.
  • Living Goods’ tailor their program to the needs of the government. For example, in one county, the government is paying a good stipend to their community health workers, so Living Goods provides other support.
  • Champions are needed to support an effective partnership with government. Ruth stresses the need for champions within technical departments but also from elected leaders. If you don’t build several good relationships, your programme could be seen as a political initiative and your support stops when the elected leadership changes.
  • Investing in time is also important. You can’t try to go faster than government – this is a recipe for disaster. So invest time into building the relationship.
  • Also take stock of the government level of preparedness (i.e. their capacity or level of skills and experience) to ensure it is adequate to engage. So this needs to be understood: what their priorities are, what infrastructure is in place, and the capacity of the infrastructure (like HR support).
  • Ruth recommends we need to listen more and let government move at their pace. Invest time in co-creating projects that address the needs of government.
  • NGOs and social enterprises sometimes see each other as competitors, competing for the same resources and attention of government. They need to speak and work out ways of collaborating, to support government in the best possible way, by leveraging each others strengths, and work together.
  • Ruth urges all NGOs and social enterprises to support systems strengthening, so for example, helping government to establish policy frameworks. This is essential for sustainability as well, since without these strong systems in place, the work of the NGO or social enterprise can easily be undone when leaders change.

Links to resources

Connect with Ruth

FIP 001: Motivating Community Health Workers with Liz Jarman

In this episode, we talk to Liz Jarman about how to motivate a network of community health workers whilst ensuring real-time performance management through their health mobile phone app.

Specifically, on this episode you’ll learn:
  • About the decision to carry out a randomized controlled trial and how it didn’t stop them continually iterating the model.
  • How extremely positive results of a large randomized controlled trial caused them to pivot from seeking 100% cost recovery to “a low cost way to save lives”.
  • How going digital has enabled real-time reporting of key performance indicators whilst giving government officials accurate data on what community health workers are actually doing.
  • How their ‘Fast Start Program’ has become key to getting new community health workers excited and motivated to achieve their Impact KPIs (key performance indicators). Peer-to-peer coaching has had more impactful results.
  • Kenya was just selling the high-impact products to get to breakeven. RCT results and develolution was just starting to establish (health devolved to counties but no one meant what that would mean). Tried community health model, pushing on an open door.
  • “Motivating community health workers is recognition, status, being part of a larger family.”
  • Living Goods’ government engagement strategy, and how it differed from Uganda to Kenya, and some specific tactics  used to cement a mutually beneficial partnership.
Useful links from this episode:
– Interview on YouTube (TBC)
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