On September 7th, the Strategic Leadership Group (SLG) of the FETP Enterprise convened its first in-person meeting during the TEPHINET Global Scientific Conference in Panama City, Panama. The meeting was presided over by the SLG’s two co-chairs–Dr. Kevin Cain of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu of the World Health Organization (WHO)–and was attended by 24 SLG and working group members representing more than eight countries.
Since its initial launch in April, 2021, the SLG has not yet met in person due to the coronavirus pandemic. TEPHINET’s Director of Strategic and Technical Initiatives, Dr. George Shakarishvilli, noted the importance of convening in-person to accomplish the work that was done at the meeting, stating, “While modern communication technologies provide ample opportunities for rapid virtual information exchange, they can never replace face-to-face communication, because decision-making, in addition to information and evidence, also requires a certain degree of social capital reflected in reciprocal trust among partners. This comes only with personal interactions.”
During the meeting, the group engaged in discussions covering five different focus areas: the next phase of FETP Enterprise development; working group coordination; resource needs for the activities of the FETP Enterprise; approaches to FETP evaluation; and the WHO Pandemic Hub and its FETP engagement. Deliverables were also identified for each key focus area, including a strategy outline to streamline the vision, mission, and objectives of the FETP Enterprise as a partnership entity, and a value proposition outlining resource needs for the FETP Enterprise and the global public goods that will be produced as a result.
The members also discussed approaches for improving collaboration between the SLG’s eight working groups and external partners. It was proposed that TEPHINET would create a group of several SLG members, with representatives from each of the eight working groups and regional FETP networks, to work on finalizing the FETP Enterprise’s theory of change. The theory of change breaks down the role of FETP in strengthening global health into actionable activities that correspond with the products of each respective SLG working group, with the ultimate goal of forming global health policy based on robust epidemiology. Continued refinement of the theory of change by the proposed group would ensure that each of the outputs from the eight working groups remain aligned with the evolving objectives of the FETP Enterprise. SLG leaders are currently working to review and finalize these proposed actions.
When asked about the impact of the meeting and the SLG’s work, Shakarishvili spoke to the importance of having a group like the SLG to convene key actors at the global, regional and country levels “Evidently, these particular areas of global health are rapidly becoming overcrowded, especially during the last 2-3 years. TEPHINET, and more broadly the FETP Enterprise, play a crucial coordinating role to ensure a structured, collaborative and effective approach to strengthening national capacity for pandemic preparedness and response," he said.
The next SLG meeting is scheduled for December 2022 and will take place virtually.
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