REACHOUT CONSORTIUM and international conferences: How our engagement has prompted positive change
Part of REACHOUT’s communication strategy was to attend and present at national, regional and international conferences – both to target other academic and research audiences to share learning on areas of mutual interest and also to network and engage with policy makers and practitioners. Over time our approach to conferences has adapted based on learning of what has the most impact and encourages engagement with stakeholders, evidence, and current debates. Our relationship with organisations like Health Systems Global (who organise the major two-yearly global conference) has deepened and we decided to invest time and resources in helping to found and organise their Thematic Working Group on Strengthening and Supporting the Role of Community Health Workers in Health Systems Development. In parallel, as a team, we have improved our skills in facilitation and presentation through capacity development training and experiential learning, or learning-by-doing, particularly among the more junior researchers in our consortium. This has included how to define key messages, the use of photographs, making the visual lay out of slides engaging, presentation skills, and participatory approaches for meetings. We have invested in advertising our conference attendance, reinforcing the REACHOUT branding, buddying each other to provide support and make sure that our presentations, panels, and posters are documented and shared on social media and blogs. This has meant that over time we have learned to work as a team to maximise the impact of our involvement in these meetings, culminating in the Symposium on Community Health Workers and their Contribution towards the Sustainable Development Goals which was held in February 2017 in Kampala.