JLN Champion -Spotlighting Stefan Nachuck, Universal Health Coverage Champion

JLN Network Manager

Over the last twenty years, since I entered the public health space at the Rockefeller Foundation, the JLN has been a big part of my life. The first round of learning collaboratives, which stretched from 18 to 24 months, taught us a lot collectively about what worked, and what didn’t, and why. In the best cases it was “magic”, and you could feel the positive energy in the air and see the results in terms of quality collective technical outputs combined with application to national reform efforts. Some of our basic takeaways regarding “how to do this right” after the first round of learning collaboratives, included:

  1. Approaches can vary, but objectives matter. Everybody in the room needs to have a north star in terms of ultimate outputs and how these might be used.
  2. Community matters in the sense that the long-term payoff is in creating a lateral community of technocrats and academics who can and will continue to collaborate, formally or informally.
  3. Facilitators matter a lot. Good facilitation means being a good combination of Einstein (technically strong) and Mother Theresa (strong social and community-building skills). Some have it, and some don’t.
  4. Co-production matters. If facilitators do all the work, then there is no sweat equity and thus little real learning happening.
  5. Collaborative membership matters. This means that one needs consistent engagement from the same people over the life of a learning effort. If individual members are bouncing in and out of a collaborative, the value of the work declines precipitously.
  6. Donors matter, to the extent that many funding streams tend to focus on discrete project-focused efforts, and not on building robust, results-oriented south-south communities.

Since then, the JLN has grown massively, taking on many more members than the original six countries that participated in the very first collaboratives. And the range of topics and approaches undertaken to date is quite breathtaking. In retrospect, the smartest thing we probably did was simply to engage in active listening with country members who wanted something like this to exist. Instead of starting with “priors” in terms of “how development should work”—we asked people what would be most suitable for them, and then did our best to experiment and optimize around those basic demands. It’s been an honour to be associated with JLN all these years, and I look forward to an exciting future—this story is far from complete.

Stefan Nachuck now works with Morris Brothers LLC, USA. He was with Rockefeller Foundation in 2008/2009 when he spearheaded the launch of JLN along with R4D, the World Bank, GIZ, Access Health International and country representatives from Ghana, Thailand, Vietnam, and India.