In addition to articulating the benefits and understanding the drawbacks of each potential partnership, it is also important to consider timing—when does it make sense for each partner to enter the process? Before approaching any potential partner, identify a clear entry point into the project for that partner.
For example, some experts caution against involving mobile network operators (MNOs) too early in the process and recommend trying to work with other NGOs and nonprofits to share the access points that mobile network operators offer, such as text message gateways and servers. There is a much greater likelihood of receiving a below-market rate—or securing any type of relationship, for that matter—if you negotiate with the telecommunications partner at the point of scale rather than at the pilot stage. As each telecom market is different, it is also possible that a relationship with an MNO is not necessary to launch an mHealth solution—explore gateway providers and aggregators in the country as well.
In contrast, a common pitfall of many mHealth programs is failure to involve the Ministry of Health (MOH) early enough the process. Partnering with the MOH from the initial planning phase can help you ensure the interoperability of your program with government systems and the alignment of your program with national health priorities. Garnering government buy-in at the national level from the beginning of the project can also help ensure a source of sustainable financing for scale-up and maintenance of the program.
- Are the right parties at the table? Is anyone missing?
- How will the partnership relationship change over time?
THE EXPERTS SAY...
“Having conversations with partners from the beginning of the concept phase helps them last. Take partners along through the whole process so they are on board and understand, and have sense of shared ownership.” - Bhupendra Sheoran, YTH (formerly ISIS), SexInfo and The Hookup, USA