The June FORCE community webinar summarized the essential technical and non-technical skills that Strategic Purchasing Africa Resource Centre (SPARC) coaches deployed during the country engagement process. SPARC coaches from country engagement in Rwanda, Kenya, and Nigeria discussed and provided real-life examples of the skills they utilized to ensure a successful country-led process as they supported the different countries with their Health Systems Strengthening challenges. Pascal Birindabagabo, Francis Ayomoh and Jacob Kazungu provided insight into the technical and non-technical skills deployed during SPARC country engagement in Rwanda, Nigeria, and Kenya, respectively.
The objectives of the session were:
- Highlighting the key technical and non-technical skills required by coaches implementing country engagement.
- Describing how specific skills can be deployed during country engagement using the coaching approach.
Summary of technical and non-technical skills for country engagements
Coaches conducting country engagement require several key technical and non-technical skills to ensure success in their objectives. Technical skills are the specialized knowledge and expertise required to complete the country engagement process. Technical skills required for country engagement can vary depending on the stage of the country engagement process. Non-technical skills (soft skills) are largely interpersonal skills that a coach deploys in-country engagements. These skills complement technical skills, making them more effective and efficient. Non-technical skills are the bedrock of the coaching approach and crucial for supporting and managing stakeholders as coaches work to resolve Health Systems Strengthening challenges. The coaches highlighted how they deployed both technical and non-technical skills in the country engagement processes outlined below.
The coach in Nigeria supported SPARC with country engagement at the sub-national level. He provided technical assistance for a scoping mission in Niger state to understand the level of strategic health purchasing implementation and the requirements to advance it in the state. The country engagement activities included document reviews, stakeholder mapping, engagement, and management.
Key technical and non-technical skills employed by the coach and country team included:
- Understanding the structure and context of the health system in Niger State before the commencement of country engagement. This allowed coaches to identify factors that could impact the outcome of the country engagement.
- Adaptability and flexibility were critical to achieving success. The country team had to adapt to rapidly changing schedules of key stakeholders to achieve success during the country engagement.
- Initially a stakeholder engagement workshop had been planned but this did not hold. The mission team pivoted and took advantage of a meeting where all stakeholders were in attendance to present the objectives of the country engagement and notify stakeholders of upcoming interviews. The team used this meeting to achieve the buy-in of stakeholders towards the scoping mission.
- The team held one on one interviews with key stakeholders and were able to leverage on the relationships of partners in the state to ensure these meetings held.
The coach in Rwanda supported the country partners to identify and understand critical SHP challenges and reforms they wanted to work on. SPARC organized a workshop for the Rwandan Ministry of Health, the University of Rwanda School of Public Health, and the Rwandan Social Security Board to align on the pathway to progress for strategic health purchasing in the country. The engagement presented a unique opportunity for all three SHP stakeholders to co-develop a theory of change and a Partnership Accountability Framework, which documented the pathway and activities necessary for the achievement of the country’s objectives.
Key technical and non-technical skills used by the coach during country engagement included:
- Leveraging existing relationships and knowledge of the health financing challenges from each stakeholder’s perspectives helped the coach to build trust in his capacity and the country engagement process.
- In-depth knowledge of the socio-political economy of the country by the coach helped build consensus among stakeholders.
- Excellent communication skills to present the challenges and their solutions in a way stakeholders understood and accepted.
SPARC, along with Kenya Healthcare Federation, World Health Organization and ThinkWell, spearheaded a Provider-Payer Engagement in Kenya aimed at improving communication between the providers and payers in the private and public health sectors. The coach in Kenya facilitated multiple listening sessions for different provider and purchaser stakeholder groups to better understand the challenges and support the process of designing actionable solutions.
Key skills used by the coach to achieve successful engagements with stakeholders include:
- Strong knowledge of the political landscape of Kenya and technical expertise in SHP.
- Facilitating excellent teamwork between country stakeholders and partners enabled a smooth stakeholder mapping process.
- Proper stakeholder mapping was a critical aspect of the success of country engagement in Kenya. The stakeholder mapping aided the team in identifying new stakeholders and facilitating efficient stakeholder engagements.
- Non-technical skills were also important to achieve success during the country engagement in Kenya. Skills such as good interpersonal communication, compassion, approachability, courtesy, and punctuality were useful during virtual engagements.
- Leveraging existing networks enabled the coach to improve stakeholder engagement, buy-in and management.
- People management skills were critical to facilitating discussions between stakeholders. In addition, ensuring that all stakeholders shared their thoughts and moderating divergent ideas helped build stakeholders’ trust in the country engagement process.
Advice from the coaches on implementing the coaching approach during country engagement.
- Prospective coaches should take the coaching and mentoring modules to provide a foundation for the skills coaches require to successfully support country engagements.
- The coach should understand the context, political economy and major factors that affect the health system in the country they support.
- The coach should understand the stakeholder mapping and engagement process.
- The coach should be polite, patient, and ensure stakeholders understand the type of support the coach is providing.
- A good coach is a good listener, observer and learner as seemingly minor details can affect the outcome of country engagement. The coach should ask others for assistance when necessary.
- The coach should be accessible and friendly when engaging stakeholders. This will help build the trust of the stakeholders in the coach and the country engagement process.
- The coach should be flexible in responding to changes in plans and schedules while ensuring the objectives of the country engagement is met.
- Coaches are facilitators/coordinators and should be aware that they do not have all the knowledge of the situation. Coaches should therefore open to learning from stakeholders.
- The coach should be able to multitask and must be aware of all potentially conflicting activities and stakeholders to manage them appropriately during country engagement.
To learn more about the skills requires for the Coaching Approach, please take the online module here. Join us for our next webinar in June as we discuss how the coaching approach was applied in Burkina Faso.