In January, I traveled to Benin to meet with the Board Chairs of our affiliate organizations in West Africa. This was an occasion to hear local perspectives from Benin, Togo, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and the Central African Republic, and to knit together, at the board level, the global network that is PSI.
PSI and our affiliates see the value of this mutually beneficial relationship. Our affiliates benefit from the capacity-building support of the international network that would otherwise be inaccessible: knowledge exchange and support with business development; advocacy; external affairs; financial, business and technical services; and establishing local governance. In turn, having programs with deeper and deeper local roots – platforms, as we call them – allows us to better meet the needs of the people in each country where we work and to achieve lasting local health impact.
As we tried to articulate in "Global to Local,” the global health community, and everyone active in development issues overall, wrestle with this idea of sustainable development and how to coax development solutions from recipient countries themselves. We know a locally-led approach has a better chance of success over time.
Like many doing work on the ground, PSI feared that our bottom line health impact achievements would be undermined by opening ourselves and our platforms up to greater local governance.
However, the reality of our experience in many countries – gleaned through decades of work – has demonstrated to us that embracing more local governance can enhance, not undermine, health impact.
PSI now has a proactive institutional development vision that encompasses our approach to sustainability and what some call “localization” – a vision that takes into account our own history and experience in managing affiliates, the evolving views of donors and host governments, and the need to keep our work focused primarily on health impact.
Our vision is that 10 years from now PSI will be a network of strong, locally governed organizations that maximize health impact specifically because they maintain a close, organic and recognized association with PSI.
The timing and pace of implementing this vision must be locally driven. As you have read in “The Evolution of an Affiliate,” we followed PSI/Uganda as it transitioned into its local affiliate PACE in order to maximize bottom line health impact in Uganda. Not all will follow this path.
While some PSI affiliates are completely locally governed and locally managed, like PACE, the Society for Family Health in Nigeria, or Greenstar Social Marketing in Pakistan, others are far away from this status and may never reach it. In some countries, such as Southern Sudan, a fully locally operated organization might not be able to maximize health impact. Most fall in between these extremes along a spectrum. They are not yet fully locally governed and operated but are increasingly self-reliant and locally grounded, and draw strength from being part of a global network. PSI is not seeking to put itself out of business. Our clients and consumers will deserve and require our support for many years to come. What we do seek is to evolve, be dynamic, and find the sweet spot between “local” and “sustained health impact at scale.”