Navigating the Path to Impact: My Summer as a Research Lead for Qualitative Analysis with FHI 360’s TQLA Team

Embarking on a journey as a research fellow with FHI 360’s Total Quality Leadership and Accountability (TQLA) team has been full of learning. As the research lead for the qualitative analysis of TQLA’s impact over the years, I have uncovered not only the transformative power of their work but also the wide array of skills I continue to gather for my future endeavors.

Before delving into the invaluable skills I have gained, let me provide some context. FHI 360’s TQLA framework is a transformative and innovative managerial strategy in global health, championing quality improvement and accountability in HIV programs in several countries globally. My task over the year is to supplement TQLA’s quantitative evaluation by assessing the qualitative impact of TQLA’s work, a responsibility that comes with great anticipation and many opportunities to learn as an early career professional in global public health work.

First, I have had the opportunity to sharpen my data analysis skills. This includes developing a comprehensive interview guide for staff at all levels of the TQLA team. This process involved several iterations and that for me foreshadowed the needed patience in developing valuable and sustainable tools for assessing public health impact. Additionally, I quickly learned the importance of effective communication. I needed to collaborate with colleagues in Nigeria to ensure the analysis aligned with TQLA’s goals. The ability to convey the goals and objectives of our mixed-methods approach in a clear and concise manner is a skill that will undoubtedly serve me well in future projects. Being a point person for such a substantial project continues to teach me the art and science of project management. I continue to hone my ability to organize and execute projects efficiently.

FHI 360 prioritizes the professional growth and development of its employees. Through training programs, mentorship opportunities, and access to a wealth of resources, I have been able to further enhance my skills and knowledge, which will undoubtedly benefit my future career in public health. This summer, I had the opportunity to chat with FHI’s Chief Operating Officer, who shared career insights and encouraged me to build relationships over the year. Additionally, FHI organized a workshop for all interns and fellows that discussed what development work looks like and the skills in high demand. To put this into practice while I am on the team and to leverage my skills for my project, I am currently enrolled in a Project Management course sponsored by FHI.

My practicum was just the beginning of what I believe will be a year full of worthwhile challenges as I continue to build relevant skills. Onwards and Upwards!

Acknowledgements: Thank you to my team in Nigeria, especially Dr. Charles Odima for your support on this project.

-Sena Kpodzro

Let’s Start Now: Social Innovation as a Slow, Deliberate Process

About two weeks into my fellowship at FHI 360, I had the opportunity to participate in an event series on innovation from FHI’s Strategy and Innovation Office. The series was designed to engage external innovation practitioners to inspire discussion about innovation culture as FHI sets out to develop an innovation strategy. Kippy Joseph, Senior Advisor to the Global Innovation Fund, spoke extensively about managing innovation for development impact. As a global public health student pursuing the Certificate in Innovation for Public Good (CIPG) at UNC, I often ask myself how social innovation in global development is held accountable. While drug trials adhere to rigorous standards, social innovation for impact often relies on guesswork, hindering progress in advancing the public good. It is imperative that managing innovation for development impact becomes a constant pursuit of excellence in designing impactful systems worldwide, even if the process may be slow or deliberate. The cost of getting it wrong is simply too high.

Sometimes, the field of global health fails to redesign systems solely because one solution has worked temporarily (often for at least 30 years), even when it does not achieve maximum impact. The innovation space for certain diseases is limited or not challenged enough.

As an FHI 360-UNC Global Health Research Fellow this year, I have the privilege of supporting the Total Quality Leadership and Accountability (TQLA) team within the West Africa and Middle East Regional Office (WAMERO). TQLA, FHI’s innovative and adaptive management approach, has demonstrated its ability to drive performance, enhance implementers’ accountability at all levels, strategically prioritize local solutions using data, and ultimately address development challenges to improve outcomes. As a research fellow, I will be responsible for documenting TQLA’s impact over the years, starting with the evidence generated from its application to the Global Fund’s National Aligned HIV/AIDS Initiative (NAHI) in 13 states in Nigeria. The evidence we gather will be instrumental in developing technical guidance for strengthening local organizations’ capacity. It will be widely disseminated to catalyze policy dialogues centered around strengthening the leadership and capacity of individuals in Nigeria and other regions. Additionally, this evidence will contribute to creating technical tools to promote social innovation and learning, transparency, and accountability, and foster local leadership and ownership in health development assistance.

As an innovation strategy, TQLA is spearheading greater accountability within social innovation to reduce guesswork in our approach to global development challenges, including global health threats like HIV/AIDS. I would like to thank my preceptor, Dr. Robert Chiegil, for the opportunity to be part of this team and to experience the importance of accountability in social innovation and policy.

-Sena Kpodzro