I was curious to know what Lakew and Professor Morankar found most exciting about our project. Working with a diverse range of stakeholders towards a common goal was most satisfying for Professor Morankar who has an unwavering commitment to help the community. He spoke with quiet pride about the visible improvements in policy and practice that he has been observing over time. Changes may be small but they are movements in the right direction – he was delighted to report more visits to health facilities by district officials as well as a significant increase in supervision of community-based health extension workers. Partnering with policymakers on our trial has revived their engagement with both health facility staff as well as community structures. It has provided them with the opportunity to see where programs are falling short and where implementation challenges exist. Being able to facilitate this “…..eye opening experience…” is an important contribution that the trial has made and he’s proud to be a part of it.
Lakew agreed with Professor Morankar and added that this trial has provided an excellent chance to collaborate with researchers from University of Ottawa. The trial has been a useful platform to learn from shared experiences and to be exposed to a wide range of skills within the team of about 15 individuals. He has a huge smile on his face as he reminds me that it’s a pleasure to work with his mentor who continually inspires him to achieve more. Lakew also points out that partnering with policy makers has dramatically changed their relationship with them – before working together on this project, his e-mails would go unanswered for weeks. Now, however, he gets a call or an e-mail within just hours highlighting how much the policy makers value the project.
I end my chat with a question to them both about what they hope this project will achieve as we head towards the end of it. Lakew feels that the trial has generated much more data than he anticipated and that he is determined to ensure that the team synthesizes evidence that will be used for decision-making in the country. He is also a huge fan of the design which he refers to as the “beautiful cup”. Throughout his briefing sessions with the research team and data collectors he’s reminded them of the importance of collecting good quality data by explaining that in this design we have a beautiful cup with which we can collect milk (good quality data) or poison (bad quality data) that will be fed to the community (evidence for policy formulation and program design). He emphasized that the power to destroy or build the community lay with the research team charged with the responsibility of collecting data. I’ve enjoyed hearing his little motivation speech to the team during both the baseline and endline survey training sessions.