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Leadership learning for Malaria elimination: Does the Janitor hold the key?

Case, Peter; Hove, Macdonald; Gosling, Jonathan


Macdonald Hove

Jonathan Gosling


Every year some half a million people die from malaria, with the largest disease burden carried by sub-Saharan Africa. Focus for improved malaria healthcare performance is often placed on the technical challenges, while operational issues are neglected. Many National Malaria Control Programs and NGOs distribute insecticide treated mosquito nets, or supply anti-malaria tablets to meet targets set by funders. Huge investments are also made in medical research and the search for silver bullets, such as, vaccine development. However, human and organizational factors are often overlooked. Operational challenges that inhibit malaria program effectiveness can often be addressed by improving communication and coordination, clarifying accountability, maintaining motivation, providing adequate training and supervision, and removing bureaucratic silos.

For the past seven years, Bristol Leadership & Change Centre (BLCC) has been collaborating with the Malaria Elimination Initiative (a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded research centre) to improve the management and frontline leadership of malaria programs in Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Namibia. An integral part of this work has been training program staff (medics, environmental health officers, laboratory technicians and administrators) in the use of participatory action learning methods, with a focus on identifying and addressing operational challenges at a granular level. The training program, which typically sits alongside the practical change intervention work of project ‘Task Teams’, is accredited via a Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Practice in Change Leadership (PPCL) awarded by the University of the West of England. The first cohort of Zimbabwean students graduated in 2019 and graduates have applied the approach in other Zimbabwean provinces, districts and countries, leading to regional capacity building, skills development and the potential for sustainable impacts and up-scaling. Three graduates are also currently being employed by BLCC to facilitate workshops and assist with staff leadership development in Namibia. A fresh cohort of twelve Namibian health professionals are due to graduate from the program in 2020. This paper provides an overview of the experience of designing and running the program as well as sharing some stories about how healthcare professionals have employed their learning to bring about impactful outcomes. One such story provides to key to the somewhat cryptic subtitle.


Case, P., Hove, M., & Gosling, J. (2020, November). Leadership learning for Malaria elimination: Does the Janitor hold the key?. Presented at 22nd International Leadership Association Annual Global Conference, 'Leading at the Edge', Online virtual conference

Presentation Conference Type Other
Conference Name 22nd International Leadership Association Annual Global Conference, 'Leading at the Edge'
Conference Location Online virtual conference
Start Date Nov 5, 2020
End Date Aug 7, 2022
Deposit Date Aug 25, 2022
Keywords Leadership, leadership learning, leadership training, malaria, global healthcare, healthcare systems, Zimbabwe, Africa
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