Read about the IHR Project’s National Infection Service & Workforce Development teams collaborating on virtual working.

Between 2019-2020 our teams from the National Infection Service and Workforce Development facilitated peer to peer learning with senior laboratory staff from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Zambia, and Sierra Leone on laboratory leadership and management. These initial events were practical and delivered in person with great success. An intention was set to deploy a light-touch follow up to embed learning of the initial content.

The first wave of the COVID-19 in early 2020 interrupted planned delivery and demonstrated to the team the importance of having the capacity and skills to adapt to ways of working remotely. With this knowledge and confidence in using virtual technologies, the team considered it possible to remotely deliver additional Laboratory Leaders content. In November 2020, a series of 2.5 hour virtual seminars over 2-4-week intervals were developed.

The key reflections from this redesigned delivery has highlighted the importance of adapting to each country's needs. Working remotely has been a testament to the facilitators and delegates' ability to learn together in a new environment. On 'Delivering through others', one delegate said, "I'm glad to say that I am reminded to reflect and also focus on developing best relationships with colleagues because better relationships is the foundation to deliver through others".

What did we learn? 

Facilitators and delegates had varying levels of familiarisation and comfort with the virtual learning environment resulting in different levels of engagement; this was addressed by using group activity technologies such as Menti or chat function for those who were not confident to vocalise.

A significant learning point was how the activity brought out previously hidden skills of facilitators and delegates; some great communicators were identified - showing skills out of their technical areas. This included hosting sessions and eliciting conversations with delegates. Another critical point was the need for continued communication between sessions to ensure that delegates remained engaged with the activity.

Our next steps.... 

As of June 2021, two separate cohorts are engaging with virtual sessions. Current plans are to conclude the sessions by September 2021, the final event will focus on network creation, when delegates will have the option to create their own international network if they so choose. Following the concluding event, pre- and post-activity data will be reviewed, and evaluation undertaken. Lessons from this activity will be applied to future deliverables within new IHR Project countries and regions.