HRH Virtual Leadership Development Program (VLDP) Graduates First Class


We recently spoke with Tom Milroy, the Senior Training and Learning Systems Advisor at IntraHealth International, Inc., and one of the HRH VLDP facilitators. The first graduating class of the program participated in an online celebration of their completion of the 13-week course on July 21. The online program focuses on developing leadership skills and competencies such as how to identify leadership challenges, communication skills and managing the process for change in the context of HRH challenges. The program requires each team to develop an HRH Action Plan. There were more than 60 participants on ten teams from Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Lesotho, Namibia, Nigeria and Uganda. All of the team members work in the area of human resources for health in a diverse range of settings, including: the Institute of Public Health of Makerere University in Uganda; the Uganda Catholic and Protestant Medical Bureaus; a Kenyan hospital; and an affiliate of I Choose Life, an organization for young people who have committed themselves to fighting HIV.

The HRH VLDP is a collaborative effort between the Capacity Project and Management Sciences for Health’s (MSH) Leadership, Management and Sustainability (LMS) program. Developed by MSH, with funding from USAID, the VLDP has strengthened the skills of more than 1,100 leaders from teams in more than 30 countries around the world. The VLDP HRH was adapted from the original program to address leadership as it is applied to HRH issues. Strong leaders are needed to address a wide range of HRH challenges that have arisen in relation to the planning, development and support of health workers. In addition to growth in health problems in many countries, particularly in Africa, there are challenges such as the migration of health workers, difficulties in retaining health workers and the consequent inability to fully staff service delivery sites.

The participants demonstrated enormous commitment to the program. One person in Uganda lived 200 miles away from the other team members but was able to participate virtually. When technical issues arose that interrupted internet connections, teams completed assignments in a workbook so that they could continue despite the internet barriers.

Tom also discussed several challenges for the participants and the facilitators. In some instances, the teams on the HRH VLDP had never worked together, so they needed more time to gel as team. There were also technology problems. It required a great deal of effort for some of the teams to get access to the internet, and the connections were sometimes very slow. Technical obstacles led to the withdrawal of a few teams from the course. The participants also had to sustain their level of commitment throughout the course in the face of difficult travel schedules and conflicting demands. Despite these issues, Tom stated:

I was amazed by the feeling of connection that we facilitators have had with the participants, and that the participants have with each other, simply by using electronic means. Some of the issues, discussions and challenges were extremely moving. You can really connect by virtual means and see the exchange of ideas and feelings among the participants. You could witness the HRH community growing.

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