Newsroom & Blog

Jun 16, 2023   |   Blog Post

Building a Platform for African Health Care Collaboration and Innovation

By Bvudzai Magadzire

Senior Technical Advisor, Research & Advocacy, VillageReach

By Tendai Gotora

Director of Programs, Spark Health Africa

Four years ago, VillageReach posed a question: how can we scale innovative health care solutions to meet widespread needs and fill service delivery gaps across Africa?

Fortunately, we were not alone in seeking an answer to this question. The Skoll Foundation provided grant funding for us to pursue this learning agenda, and we have worked with key partners Spring Impact and Spark Health Africa to bring it to life.

One way we have done so, because learning is iterative and we expand our knowledge by acting, was by forming the Learning Network on Scaling Innovations in the Public Sector Across Sub-Saharan Africa. The Learning Network brought together governments, funders, and implementing partners to share experiences, learn from each other, and develop strategies for scaling up successful interventions.

Based on the principle of collective impact, recognizing that no single organization can solve complex problems like health inequity on its own, we pooled resources, expertise, and experience to create a more powerful force for change.

From Talk to Action

In four years, the network brought together over 400 stakeholders from 47 countries, building networks of trust and a firm foundation for further collaboration in the future.

Over this time, we have hosted lively and important discussions, and developed evidence-based tools with broad public health applicability, including the Journey to Scale with Government Tool and the Stakeholder Alignment Workshop Guide, helping stakeholders navigate from idea inception to building scale via a government-owned solution.

Over the past two years, Spark Health Africa has led the Learning Network, building a radically collaborative stakeholder ecosystem underpinned by a clearly articulated, government-led, mutually beneficial agenda.

A “Spark” of Inspiration

Spark Health Africa held a series of webinars to drive this agenda. The first event, “Re-engage with the Learning Network: Creating a Platform for Collective Impact” sought to connect new and existing members with a renewed vision of the Learning Network to generate excitement (through participation).

The second event, “Looking Beyond COVID-19: Turning Emergency Response into Sustainable Impact” was hosted by the Skoll World Forum, where a panel from the governments of Uganda and Cote d’Ivoire shared case studies of how these governments, with support from implementing partners, implemented emergency COVID-19 programs with a sustainability lens to support long-term health system priorities.

The third event, “Transformative Leadership for Public Sector Scaling on Innovations” brought together experts from governments, funders, and implementing partners to share their insights on readiness to scale, and how they organize themselves to scale. This conversation contributed to the creation of a Co-Innovation framework that shows how a shift in thinking, methods and execution supports scaling of public sector solutions.

The fourth event, “Key Learnings from Public Sector Scaling of Innovations in East Africa” brought together a panel of experts representing governments and implementing partners from East Africa to share their observations on the mindset required to apply scaling frameworks and tools in the context of East Africa settings.

Our final event was a bridge from the Learning Network to the future, moving us from talk to action, along with a panel of governments, funders, implementing partners and over 50 guests in attendance. Speakers raised important issues around initiating Co-Innovation Platforms, their capacity-building potential, impact, and sustainability. It was a wonderful, inspiring send-off – a rocket launch rather than a closed door.

What’s Next?

So what is next for our learning agenda?

Spark Health Africa has integrated the Learning Network into their internally developed innovative capacity-building e-Campus, based on the foundational relational principles of Transformative Leadership and Mindset Shift. The Learning Network Co-Innovation Platform (as it will become known, henceforth) will promote a deliberate engagement process of African governments, civil society, communities, development agencies, funders, researchers and universities to create a collective experience that spurs the co-creation of impactful public health solutions that are difficult to achieve while working independently.

VillageReach will also continue our work to implement innovative health solutions across Africa and to promote sustainable impact at scale through coalitions. Radical collaboration is a core organizational principle, and we are pleased to have joined some truly exciting partnerships, including as a member of the SDG3 Sustainability Technical Working Group, the WHO Global Call to Action for Advancing Public Sector Scaling of Health Innovation, the Intergovernmental Technical Work Group, and the “Fast-tracking HealthTech Innovations to Improve Public Health in Africa” project funded by the Novartis Foundation and other partners through Bridge for Billions to solve priority population health problems across Africa through the validation, acceleration and scale-up of local HealthTech innovations.


By working with partners like the Skoll Foundation, Spring Impact, and Spark Health Africa, VillageReach created a space where governments, funders, and implementing partners came together to share experiences, learn from each other, and develop strategies for scaling up successful interventions. We can’t wait to see where Spark Health Africa continues to take this agenda!

The Learning Network has been a valuable resource for many stakeholders, and it has helped to build a strong foundation for further collaboration in the future. Ultimately, our work is building a healthier and more sustainable Africa.

As the saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” By working together, we can continue to achieve great things.

To be part of the next phase of this exciting journey, sign up for the Learning Network Co-Innovation Platform by emailing tendai@sparkhealthafrica.co.za and follow along at www.VillageReach.org.

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