To avoid duplication or gaps in any program, each implementing partner’s role must be clearly defined. This is especially important in service communication, because of the opportunities for overlap and confusion. While it is usually most effective to define partner roles at the beginning of a project, sometimes circumstances do not allow that. Reviewing and setting roles can be helpful at any stage of the collaboration. In fact, often roles need to be revisited as implementation moves forward. Partners working collaboratively under one project have a somewhat easier task. For projects where two or more partners collaborate through a looser structure, it is important to answer several key questions to determine partner roles:
What specific roles will partners and other stakeholders play in designing and reviewing the strategy and communication materials? Partners may include government partners, community-based organizations and other parastatals, depending on the size and scope of the project. Determine the role each partner can or must play during the intervention. Key questions to ask include:
- Which government ministry or office is responsible for health communication? Is it an overall health promotion and education office or are those responsibilities divided by health area (nutrition, malaria, HIV and AIDS)?
- Are there active technical working groups organized by either the government or donors that review and give input to materials?
- What role does any government office, technical working group, or other partner play in development and/or approval of materials and strategies? What is needed for each submission, and what are reasonable expectations for how quickly this process can be completed?
What is the extent of the SBCC partner’s role in service communication activities? It is important to clarify whether the SBCC partner will lead development, production and/or implementation of all communication activities. Will the SBCC partner develop clinical counseling materials and job aids in addition to the larger campaign? Who will train providers on the use of communication materials? Who will lead community outreach efforts?
Who is leading clinic-based demand creation? It is important for service communication to drive demand to facilities targeted by service delivery partners. These are often facilities where the service partners have built capacity (trained staff, secured appropriate supplies, supported infrastructure improvements) and are accessible to clients. The SBCC partner may not have sufficient resources, staff or time to create targeted demand for all designated clinics, so partners will need to determine how to address any gaps in coverage for demand creation and who will address those gaps – the SBCC team, service delivery partner or some other structure, such as community health workers or village health teams supported by the local government.
How are communication capacity building strategies integrated into service delivery? SBCC capacity gaps may be identified throughout implementation. Those that present additional barriers to client service uptake (provider stigma, poor counseling skills or lack of motivation) must be addressed. Determine which partner – SBCC or service delivery – will address them. In Kenya, the KURHI Tupange project identified that poor family planning counseling was a determinant of implant discontinuation. In response, the Tupange project conducted “whole site orientation” workshops that divided capacity building roles among the SBCC and service delivery partners. The training addressed specific performance gaps in provider clinical skills and communication. The SBCC partner implemented a two-tiered approach to address this capacity gap in service delivery: first, a workshop for health providers in designated clinics on improved client counseling skills; and second, training for district-based government health promotion officers on the principles of good interpersonal communication and client counseling.