Collaborative Learning and Stakeholder Engagement: K4Health’s experiences in Nigeria

K4Health Highlights

Lisa Mwaikambo

JHU∙CCP | eLearning Coordinator & KM Officer

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.

—Alvin Toffler

A laboratory technician uses a diagnostic machine at a laboratory in Abuja, Nigeria

A laboratory technician uses a diagnostic machine at a laboratory in Abuja, Nigeria.

© 2012 David Davies-Deis, Courtesy of Photoshare

This quote emphasizes the importance of continuous learning in an effort to improve one’s knowledge, update and sharpen old skills, and acquire new skills. This belief is at the heart of the K4Health/Nigeria Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Program and is especially relevant in the field of medical laboratory science, where advances in technology and science are constantly evolving and improving laboratory professionals’ ability to accurately diagnosis illnesses earlier than ever before.

In the first two years of the project, we have had many successes. We’ve:

  • Updated, launched, and implemented a CPD Policy, which has made earning CPD credits a requirement for re-licensing. ►As a result, more than 65 activities have been accredited for CPDs in a little over six months.
  • Developed, launched, and monitored 6 accredited eLearning courses authored and peer reviewed by Nigerian subject matter experts. ►As of January 13, 2014, more than 5,000 Nigerian Medical Laboratory Scientists (MLS) have registered with the eLearning courses, earning more than 7,400 successful course completions.

None of this would have been possible without establishing a strong partnership among the Knowledge for Health (K4Health) Project, the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria (MLSCN), the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN), and USAID/Nigeria based on mutual learning and respect. MLSCN and AMLSN acknowledged that the revision and launch of the new CPD Policy and the development and launch of the eLearning courses for CPD credit would not have been possible without the support and commitment of all partners:

  • Sharing responsibilities made the project easy to carry out.
  • Sharing responsibilities enhanced commitment.
  • The fact that both MLSCN and AMLSN were involved made acceptance [of the CPD Policy] easy and fast.
  • The sponsorship provided by USAID through JHU/K4Health as well as the technical assistance provided has been very helpful.
The K4Health/Nigeria CPD Project team, including representatives from K4Health, AMLSN, MLSCN, and PEPFAR Lab Technical Working Group

The K4Health/Nigeria CPD Project team, including representatives from K4Health, AMLSN, MLSCN, and PEPFAR Lab Technical Working Group.

From the onset of the project, all stakeholders recognized two critical success factors, namely equal partnership of the two local organizations in Nigeria and their sense of ownership. Both MLSCN and AMLSN serve as local knowledge brokers and provided their knowledge and know-how related to their expertise in the field of medical laboratory sciences, while K4Health supports them by providing its project management and monitoring and evaluation knowledge from its experiences implementing eLearning and continuing education initiatives.

I’m pleased to announce that our experience facilitating this multi-stakeholder partnership has recently been published in the Knowledge Management for Development Journal (KM4Dev Journal). The article is titled “Collaborative learning and stakeholder engagement: lessons and implications of the revitalization of the Continuing Professional Development policy for health workers in Nigeria.”

The fundamental rationale for engaging stakeholders is creating ownership or ‘buy-in’ to the process and thus to its outcomes. This is why stakeholder engagement has played such a critical role in the K4Health/Nigeria CPD project. All partners from the inception of the project acknowledged the unique knowledge that each possesses and came together around the project goal. As a result, this project is considered to be a Nigerian-owned and -led project; by AMLSN’s and MLSCN’s own design, it places a large amount of responsibility on them. The spirit of collaboration and responsibility among the partners has created a creative and productive space.

MLS learners of the eLearning courses feel this project has potential to transform the way in which professional organizations and fields of study can communicate, learn, and monitor their growth. Most importantly, the stakeholders involved realize that this is a chance to improve the practices for MLS in Nigeria—and around the world. In the words of Dr. Okara, AMLSN’s National President, it is an opportunity to “cultivate the habit of the pursuit of excellence in professional practice in the interest of the patient and the society.”

To find out more about the K4Health/Nigeria CPD Project, regularly check our webpage.