Is peer-to-peer learning today's best tool?

Peer-to-peer learning is gaining traction as a viable and effective method of knowledge transfer. At least that's what David Boud, Professor of Adult Education at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia seems to think. According to Boud, “Peer learning should be mutually beneficial and involve the sharing of knowledge, ideas and experience between the participants.”

It also seems like the participants of the Center for Health Market Innovation’s Learning Exchange, CHMI’s first peer-to-peer learning program launched in 2014, are fans of the peer-to-peer learning approach. In an exciting and open webinar discussion last week, programs from the LE shared their peer-to-peer learning experiences with their learning partners.

What is the Learning Exchange?

The Learning Exchange is an engagement between two or more organizations that decide to share knowledge around a particular need or business practice. Partners may be based in the same geography or in different countries. Because peer-to-peer exchanges are customized to address an organization’s particular and current need, they can be limited in scope to what is necessary to catalyze institutional change. 

In the learning exchange programs are paired with each other—which we call “partnerships.” Both partners discuss the scope of the learning agenda, the way in which learning will take place, and its intended impact.

From November 2014 to February 2015, partners in the Learning Exchange carried out a series of unique learning activities.

In the webinar last week, which marked the conclusion of the first round of the Learning Exchange, partners reflected on what worked and what did not work from their learning activities to the broader CHMI community. 

Who were the participants?

LifeNet and Health Builders

LifeNet International, a not-for-profit which uses a franchise model that includes nurse training, management training, growth financing, and pharmaceutical supply to improve the delivery of healthcare in Burundi and Uganda, was partnered with Health Builders, a Rwandan-based non-profit organization that uses systems-level interventions and infrastructure development to enable comprehensive primary health care for communities that need it.

LifeNet’s Burundi staff visited Health Builders in Rwanda, and members of Health Builder’s staff visited LifeNet in Burundi. They additionally visited Uganda as well. Both organizations conducted health evaluations in each of the three countries they visited.

Elin Henrysson, LifeNet’s Burundi Director, said the two organizations engaged in a very fruitful and robust exchange of knowledge and expertise.

Health Builders, for example, was able to observe LifeNet’s Quality Score Card (QSC) in action. LifeNet’s QSC is applied quarterly to measure partners’ performance across key areas, including pharmacy operations, management, and clinical practices. 

LifeNet, after observing Health Builder’s Management Training approach, which relies heavily in information technology systems, is now considering adding an IT component to their own management training strategy.

Of course, Henrysson alluded to several challenges faced by both organizations during the exchange. Although both LifeNet and Health Builders share similar missions, they also have striking differences, such as:

  • Context: Rwanda and Burundi though close geographically and culturally, very different levels of development and funding of health systems.
  • Partnerships: LifeNet’s partners are church-based or private health facilities, where Health Builder’s partners are district health facilities.

Burundi recently came out of a civil war, so the level of development in the country is far lower than Rwanda’s. As a result of this, it has been difficult for the organization to coordinate work effectively with the Ministry of Health. One of Health Builder’s successes, however, has been its ability to communicate and work hand-in-hand with Rwanda’s MoH.

According to Henrysson, the two organizations should continue to exchange expertise, but should shy away from implementing similar changes together because their approaches, though successful, are vastly different.

“It was better to continue the visits and learning rather than to do a co-partnership,” she said. 

Organic Health Response (OHR) & Kenya Community Media Network (KCOMNET)

Organic Health Response, a Kenya-based grassroots organization that seeks to strengthen the health, resilience, and local voice of the Mfangano Island communities of Kenya’s Lake Victoria partnered in 2013 with KCOMNET, a national network of individuals, media organizations and professionals, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that promotes community media and development communication in Kenya. OHR partnered with KCOMNET to provide capacity training for its own employees.

OHR successfully launched EK-FM, Africa’s first wind-powered, youth-run community radio station in December 2012. The station promotes HIV prevention, enacts emergency response programming, connects over 100 micro-clinic groups to each other, and plays a critical role in fostering crucial conversations about health. Today the station broadcasts 12 hours a day to around 200,000 listeners across the boundary waters of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania in Lake Victoria. 

According to OHR’s Project Coordinator, Robinson Okeyo, having an established partner like KCOMNET was OHR’s greatest benefit in the exchange.

“[The partnership] allowed our team to effectively and efficiently meet our learning objectives in a timely manner. The trust and communication was already present prior to beginning the exchange,” he said.

OHR staff members were also exposed to other types of special media platforms, networks, and partnerships across Kenya.

One challenge that OHR faced during the exchange was having to adhere to a rigid program completion timeline, which was made difficult by the various scheduling conflicts that occurred between both Learning partners.

But overall, OHR encourages more organizations to explore peer-to-peer learning, and the Learning Exchange.

“Through the learning exchange, [organizations] can come up with solutions to their problems,” said Okeyo.

SalaUno & Aravind

SalaUno offers affordable and high quality eye care services to low and middle income populations in Mexico. In the Learning Exchange, they partnered with Aravind Eyecare System, a network of hospitals in India, which is the largest provider of eye care in the world.

Through the exchange, SalaUno’s staff in the Retina Department visited Aravind in India, where they were able to observe Aravind’s operations. Specifically, they studied Aravind’s price transparency (patients’ ability to clearly understand prices for different health services), waiting times (how long patients had to wait before their appointments), clinical history (what types of questions doctors asked patients to understand their clinical history), and more.

Javier Okhuysen, Director General and Co-Founder of SalaUno, called the visit even more eventful and informative than he had anticipated. One thing Okhuysen learned is that Aravind runs a highly efficient training program for nurses—something that SalaUno could stand to improve on.

In the future, he hopes to make more visits to Aravind.