10 ideas about systems strengthening from Creative’s leaders in Africa and the Middle East
By Ashley Williams
Leaders from Creative’s projects in Africa and the Middle East came together for a summit at Creative’s headquarters to discuss systems strengthening in education. Four Chiefs of Party and one technical expert shared their experiences about how projects in Ethiopia, Jordan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen are working locally to build up the systems that support education.
All five of the project leaders are from Africa, and three are Chiefs of Party in their home countries, making their insights particularly interesting.
These 10 quotes from the summit explore what systems strengthening entails and how it can succeed.
What does systems strengthening mean to you?
- “To me a system is different interconnected parts that come together to work together as a whole.” –Faiza Hasan, Chief of Party for Bar ama Baro in Somalia
- “Education systems are what turn policies and strategies into actions.” –Mamdouh Fadil, Chief of Party for Jordan Technical Assistance Program
- “When I think about systems strengthening, what comes to mind is holistic thinking and seeing how individual parts of the system align and work together to become effective.” –Tassew Zewdie, Chief of Party for READ II
- “Systems all have a life of their own. Systems all have their own culture, and understanding the norms is very important to being able to operate within the system.” –Nurudeen Lawal, Chief of Party for LEARN to Read in Nigeria
- “Systems strengthening requires a practical approach where you put a plan in place. That way you can be sure you are leaving behind a system that is implementable.” –Ayo Oladini, Senior Technical Advisor for Gateway to Education in Yemen
What are the ingredients for successful systems strengthening?
- “Systems strengthening implies change, and change is scary for people. The most important thing is to engage stakeholders from the beginning so they buy in to the expected transformation. We have to think holistically but also consider each of the individual parts of the system, like the structure or hierarchical model, policies, human resources and information flow. These different parts need to be aligned so they can work together smoothly towards the expected result.” –Tassew Zewdie, Chief of Party for READ II
- “Systems strengthening has to be realistic and there should be local leaders. It is also important to incentivize good performance and make it public. I see creating standards and benchmarks as crucial.” –Mamdouh Fadil, Chief of Party for Jordan Technical Assistance Program
What stands in the way of successful systems strengthening?
- “Silos are a major problem I’ve seen standing in the way of systems strengthening. Everyone can do their own thing instead of working together, and we don’t see results.” –Ayo Oladini, Senior Technical Advisor for Gateway to Education in Yemen
- “You need to understand the system inside and out. You need to understand stakeholder power dynamics in the system. You can’t start if you don’t get those two right.” –Nurudeen Lawal, Chief of Party for LEARN to Read in Nigeria
- “If something is already working well, there is no reason to throw something new in there. It is important to understand what is already working in the system and improve on that.” –Faiza Hasan, Chief of Party for Bar ama Baro in Somalia