Keeping knowledge alive: Mapping Namibia’s HIV programme
How a simple knowledge tool brings stakeholders together to preserve six years of HIV prevention insight and success
As the joint German-Namibian HIV programme prepared to wind down, it was feared its accomplishments would be forgotten. A novel solution – an interactive knowledge map – was created to keep this knowledge alive, capture its results and present them in a way others could use and be inspired by them.
The problem has existed since the dawn of modern development assistance: How do you prevent benefits from dissipating once a programme ends? How do you ensure achievements are sustainable and life-saving work continues? That was the challenge faced by German development cooperation in Namibia when it began winding down the six-year HIV multisectoral programme it had managed jointly with the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
The programme had addressed pressing issues with great success in a country where 14% of the population is infected with HIV and 40% of new infections occur among young people. Capturing those successes and its lessons learned was essential, not only for the sake of continuity but also for future generations who might want to understand or even replicate the work.
To do this, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), set out to document the programme’s achievements in a way not attempted before by a GIZ health programme. After examining a number of models, GIZ settled on an innovative visual solution, a knowledge map. Known as the Knowledge Map of the Multisectoral HIV and AIDS Response Programme in Namibia, this simple document links directly to the most important resources related to the joint HIV response.
“In creating the knowledge map our goal was to consolidate all good results and to foster continuity,” said Dr Carmen Pérez Samaniego, the GIZ team leader for the HIV programme who guided the knowledge map. “We searched for a way to manage all this knowledge and this very concrete method seemed a good answer.”
The knowledge map at work
The knowledge map is a document in PDF format that links to a multitude of materials stored on other websites, providing quick access to a variety of information that addresses the specific needs of potential users and partners. The knowledge map carries its name appropriately: it is a map of the key knowledge accumulated during the joint HIV programme. Its beauty, however, lies in its simplicity. Efforts were made to keep it jargon-free and easy to use by anyone, specialist or layman, of English mother tongue or not.
The map’s five thematic modules – colour-coded for easy use – reflect Namibia’s multisectoral approach to HIV:
- strengthening the representation of people living with HIV
- creating an enabling environment for holistic youth health
- mobilizing the private sector
- the sector response in the agriculture and transport sectors
- HIV and gender mainstreaming.
Click on one of these five modules on the map and a fact sheet appears, providing a comprehensive overview that includes results and lessons learned, along with links to relevant materials and contact details for further information. In addition to the fact sheets, individual summaries provide background information on specific publications, toolkits, websites, films, interactive games or conference reports contained in the map. These summaries are clickable, also leading directly to the relevant materials.
Something for everyone
The map’s development mirrored the multisectoral nature of Namibia’s HIV programme and initial consultations involved all partners including government, NGOs, the labour and agriculture sectors and the private sector. Interested from the start, their curiosity was immediately converted into enthusiasm once the scope of the map was understood.
“We realized the best way to maintain a multisectoral response and its good practices was to have a proper record of them,” said Anne-Marie Nitschke, Director of the Directorate Special Programmes of the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS). “At first we thought this would involve traditional documentation – books or small reports, but this is far more exciting.”
With many Namibians still ignorant of their HIV status due to fear of discrimination or lack of money for transportation, ongoing prevention work would remain crucial. During its lifetime, the HIV programme had succeeded in supporting services that were actually used by the programme’s target groups – young men and women, employees and people living with HIV. The knowledge map, it was believed, would document how this was achieved, keeping much of the acquired knowledge alive and encouraging people to use it to further HIV prevention.
Keeping stories and knowledge alive for the next generation
Tonata, one of the HIV programme’s partners, is an umbrella support organisation of PLHIV in Namibia’s North Central regions. The organisation succeeded in positioning PLHIV at the heart of the HIV response, an outcome it had every intention of preserving with the help of the knowledge map.
“It is essential to document these stories so those who were not there can read about these efforts and understand,” said Silas Shoolongela, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for Tonata. “We were amazed and impressed by the knowledge map, a place where you can find all the information and which will be available to the next generation. This information guides us as beneficiaries and helps us see how we succeeded. It will help us grow and also market ourselves.”
The knowledge map is designed to provide information to any group working on HIV prevention with young people, people living with HIV, and public and private sector employees and entities. It is also a useful marketing tool for those involved in the programme when seeking funding to continue their activities.
Something we should do more often
The clarity of the knowledge map may overshadow the fact that GIZ began planning its exit strategy more than a year ahead of time, committing significant resources to the map’s development.
“This knowledge map will contribute significantly to sustainability if people use this knowledge. It’s available, people are aware, but now the challenge is to promote it even so people become familiar with it,” said Dr Pérez Samaniego of GIZ.
The involvement of all partners in the knowledge map’s creation gives them a stake in its success. All have committed to posting it on their websites and to sharing it widely.
“The tool is easy to use and so well done anyone can use it at any time. It covers all aspects of the response and all partners. It’s something we should do more often,” said Dr Nitschke of MoHSS.
Rising to the challenge
Despite the document’s undeniable appeal, its birth was not entirely stress-free. The information gathering process was colossal. It took far longer than expected and GIZ admits it could have started sooner. Despite their eventual support, people were often unfamiliar with this type of online tool and had to be convinced of its usefulness, especially at higher levels.
Communication was also a challenge. Staff turnover in Namibia is generally high and ensuring the right information was shared by the right people wasn’t always straightforward. In addition, the technical capacity to maintain websites and ensure the knowledge map’s accessibility may not always exist. In future, demonstrations and hands-on training will ensure those not familiar with this type of tool understand its use.
In the end, this enormous information-gathering exercise guarantees the work done in the response is kept visible and acts as a foundation, allowing parts of the joint HIV programme to survive well beyond its September 2016 closure date.
Leyla Alyanak, September 2016