Last week, my colleagues and I attended a series of high profile meetings in Seattle at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). The meeting was part of a key partner summit meeting that the Foundation organises each year. Seven of us from DSW went to the summit, each of us representing a key area of focus in DSW. My particular area is communications so I went with the intention of not only sharing plans for the future direction of comms at DSW, but more importantly, to learn from the Foundation and from other partners (and yes, maybe also a bit of ‘showing off’ regarding all the great work we are doing!). Before the event officially started on Tuesday, we had several informal side-meetings with BMGF staff on Monday.
A meeting I was particularly looking forward to was the comms meeting focused on the new Narrative Project, the goal of which is to radically transform the way we talk and communicate about development in today’s changing world. Spearheaded by the Foundation but driven by its key partners (such as ONE, Oxfam, and of course, DSW), the goal of the Project is to create an overarching framework for communications that will allow for a consistent approach to be used across the sector but be flexible enough to enable individual organisations to customize it to achieve their mission and build their brands. This is not an easy task to say the least and we have been working closely with BMGF and partners over the past year in trying to make this a reality. So far this has involved regular meetings, both in person and online, with support drawn in from communications strategists, linguists and the creative sector to build the narrative, in addition to quantitative and qualitative research to test it in its four main focus countries, US, UK, Germany, and France. The meeting in Seattle was an excellent opportunity to catch up with partners and to further assess the role that DSW can play in spreading awareness and knowledge of this important work in Germany, and possibly on a pan-European level.
DSW’s experience in East Africa
On Wednesday, I attended a meeting focused on monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of comms and advocacy. Here DSW gave a well received presentation on budget advocacy M&E in East Africa which was followed by partner presentations detailing their activities on evaluating the impact of their work. Unsurprisingly, this is a challenge for many organisations and not an easy one to resolve. Although somewhat a question of capacity and resources, in essence it is about finding the best fit for the type of work you are involved with and always keeping a lookout for new ways to measure results and assessing impact.
Although not part of the official meeting, Thursday was a very important day for us as we gave a five hour presentation to the Foundation on key aspects of our work, our results, and our vision/direction for the future. With global health a key priority for both DSW and BMGF, we discussed many aspects of our advocacy work in the EU, Germany, and in East Africa, including the upcoming GAVI Alliance replenishment conference and the G7/8 Summit which are both due to take place in Germany next year. I was also happy to talk about an upcoming global health research and development comms campaign that I am planning (stay tuned for more!).
Overall the meetings, although exhausting, were a huge success and I am thrilled to have had he opportunity to visit the BMGF headquarters, finally put names to faces of people I would otherwise never have had the chance to meet, and even get a chance to see Bill and Melinda too. I am looking forward to next year!