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Show your appreciation for Peer Learning!

In the last week of June I was invited to participate in a two day Peer Learning workshop by my colleague Patrick Kyalo, Human Resources Advisor in Christian Health Association of Kenya (CHAK) and member of the extended Capacity Kenya project team. The meeting was jointly hosted by the IntraHealth International and the CHAK Secretariat office in Nairobi. Conveniently, CHAK has a Guesthouse and Conference centre within the compound so it was a great way to get everyone together in one place without trying to negotiate Nairobi traffic. Believe me you don’t want to have the notorious ‘jam’ as a factor when scheduling meetings here!

As part of ongoing efforts towards systems strengthening to combat some of the many Human Resources for Health (HRH) challenges, CHAK has been working in successful collaboration with the Capacity Kenya project. One specific strategy used to counter HRH challenges was the creation of a generic Human Resource management policy guidelines document and dissemination among the CHAK member health units. These facilities in turn could use this as a starting point for addressing the thirteen policy areas covered by adapting it to the specific needs / nature of their facility. A salary survey was also conducted at that time to assess faith-based facility pay levels compared to other sectors. Advancing with such policies in turn helps improve work conditions and can ultimately be key factors to aid retention of staff. As is customary here in Kenya the workshop got underway with handshakes (of which there are many different ways), a prayer and then formal introductions among the group once officially underway. The workshop brought together human resources department representatives from CHAK health facilities across all of the provinces in Kenya. The mix was further enhanced by having a variety of levels of health facility, from larger hospitals to smaller health centers. A number of the health facilities present have been in existence since the early 1900’s so evidently doing some things right, but there is always room for improvement. The concept of Peer Learning involves having people interact with each other on experiences to help attain goals. The objective of the two days was to share experiences / challenges on both the HR policy implementation and salary survey. By the end of day two, facilities were tasked with identifying peer facilities they would partner with to ensure further progress could be outlined in a three month action plan per facility. Given the busy nature of facilities it can be difficult to put into practice. One participant from an urban slum area called Tumaini in Nairobi was limited in progressing due to higher priority issues such as day to day security. From conversations I had others also commented that it’s so easy feel like it is a very steep uphill battle when looking at the issues in isolation. Bringing the group together helps encourage people as they identify areas where they have been performing well and then conversely where they can learn from their peers. Identified areas of need also allow Capacity Kenya project channel targeted support to bring improvements about. One thing I have learned here is that people really do demonstrate lots of respect for people presenting. Similar to had shakes there are numerous ways to applaud or show your appreciation for presenters / facilitators. Throughout the workshop we all had to take turns in leading in applauding and thanking individuals. Not knowing the many Kenyan styles my colleagues were enthusiastically demonstrating I had to improvise when my turn came to lead. I think it went down well though! In summary, peer learning is just one other way to help bring about positive change. The group worked extremely well together highlighting the strong network that exists among CHAK facilities. Although my fellowship will be over before the next follow-up meeting on the actions plans in September, I will definitely be checking in with my colleagues here to see how it is progressing.

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