Photo credit: Unsplash images
How time flies – soon a year had passed. In October 2021, I was selected to take part in the Corporate Evidence Leadership Mentorship Programme (CEP-MP) by PACKS Africa. I started the programme in November 2021, full of expectations for the year ahead, some of which experiences are detailed in this blog. What better time than the new year to reflect on my experiences from this programme.
Being a pioneer mentee for this programme has been an amazing and insightful experience, I have been able to not only participate in Kirchuffs’ (PACKS Africa’s founder and Executive Director) vision for the programme, but also feed into it.
As I mentioned in my earlier blog, having been exposed to some elements of Evidence Informed Decision Making (EIDM), I was looking forward to diving more into corporate elements of the field. I was given the opportunity to contribute to the documents and policies that are crucial to the foundation of an organization. Through this process, I learnt what elements go into making the vision and mission of an organization tangible and actionable.
On the technical side, I also got to learn from not only the Executive Director, but other members of the EIDM community in Africa, and had the opportunity to take part in capacity building activities beyond my immediate scope. Professionals like Carina van Rooyen and Precious Motha of the Africa Centre for Evidence (ACE) were quite generous with their time in helping to produce systematic mapping and communication products.
I was exposed to the work that PACKS Africa is currently doing in Ghana, and had the chance to conceptualise similar initiatives, learning how to contextualize them for other African country contexts, including my own country Malawi. A year is certainly not enough to complete this grand learning objectives, therefore further interactions with PACKS Africa will help improve upon these competencies, for which I’m very grateful.
The programme has been accommodating, responsive to feedback and receptive to suggestions. It took a semi-formal approach, giving room for me as mentee to drive the pace of my learning, despite established targets. I could call for meetings to be rescheduled when circumstances were not convenient. Probably, this was because I was the sole mentee hence a greater opportunity for flexibility.
When I look back, it is fascinating to see how much commitment and diligence Kirchuffs put into this programme, we were able to have a year full of rich experiences despite time differences, competing work commitments and erratic internet connections. Implementing such virtual learning sessions in African contexts are certainly not easy.
Overall, I have benefitted greatly from this programme and look forward to witnessing how it will progress into future cohorts. This year, the application process will see the net cast wider – five young leaders will be engaged, and I will be one of those to support them, probably in a different capacity. I am already excited about the calibre of evidence leaders it will produce and the impact they will make on the continent and beyond.
About the author: Talitha Mpando is a public health professional with experience working in a research consortium. She most recently worked with the Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (Malawi), specifically the Collaboration for Evidence Based Healthcare and Public Health Project (CEBHA+) Project. In her role as an Integrated Knowledge Translation Research Fellow, she worked for 3 years to bridge the gap between evidence and policy/practice with respect to Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). She was exposed to the different mechanisms used in the EIDM Ecosystem and developed professional relationships with a range of stakeholders. Her research includes global health, upstream determinants of health and EIDM in the Global South. Talitha was trained in civic Leadership at the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) Southern African Leadership Centre in Midrand, South Africa. She was also the sole mentee of PACKS Africa’s Corporate Evidence Leader Mentorship Programme (CEL-MP) in its first cohort. Talitha looks forward to using her experiences and skills from these capacity building activities to advocate for EIDM in Malawi and beyond. You can contact her on LinkedIn and/or on Twitter.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in published blog posts, as well as any errors or omissions, are the sole responsibility of the author/s and do not represent the views of the Africa Evidence Network, its secretariat, advisory or reference groups, or its funders; nor does it imply endorsement by the afore-mentioned parties.