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Adapting to meet the moment

Meg Battle 15 December 2021

Photo: Barangay health worker (BHW) checking for messages and inquiries from the community on her mobile phone in Padre Garcia, Batangas, Philippines. Credit: Kim Vidal, IDinsight

Dear Friends,

This year, COVID-19 had a dramatic effect on people’s lives and livelihoods in Southeast Asia. Surges and new variants led to strict, prolonged lockdowns that disrupted the fabric of our communities. This includes not just the lives of our team at IDinsight, but those of all our partners and the people they serve.

Together, we worked tirelessly to adapt. Keeping pace with the ever-shifting decision-making needs of government, NGO, and international agency leaders has been our biggest challenge. Our partners’ evidence needs frequently, and urgently, shifted – whether their work was directly addressing the pandemic or deeply affected by it. This also offered our greatest opportunity for impact: to tangibly improve people’s wellbeing – or to stabilize things– amidst this rapidly-changing landscape.

IDinsight’s flexible approach to evidence-generation has met the moment.

One example is our work to support vaccine uptake nationwide through our learning partnership with the Philippines Department of Health’s Health Promotion Bureau (DOH-HPB). By engaging DOH-HPB in an open-ended partnership, we have been able to focus all efforts on our shared goal of improving vaccine rates. Without the flexibility of this learning partnership, we would have quickly become irrelevant due to the changing realities of the pandemic. As a result, our qualitative and observational research on the key barriers to vaccination helped us identify the most influential sources of vaccine information in areas with low vaccination rates: community health workers. This insight – captured by quick and rigorous evidence generation – contributed to the DOH-HPB’s strategy to improve the reliability of community health workers and accuracy of their recommendations. 

Our work has extended beyond the health sector, for example into education, where we saw fast and rigorous evidence play a role in educators’ remote education programs. We have been privileged to support the Philippines Department of Education, Teach for the Philippines and YouthWorks in their efforts to adapt education to pandemic realities and prepare for school re-opening. 

We also were grateful to see and contribute to the Philippine government’s continued commitment to institutionalizing monitoring and evaluation, in spite of the competing priorities of the pandemic response.

This year also saw the significant growth of our IDinsight team, which expanded by more than two times in 2021.

This growth is expected to continue in 2022, including expansion in Indonesia and a new presence in Vietnam. 

On a personal note, it has been a profound pleasure to lead this team since late 2019. Early next year, I will transition to a new global role with IDinsight and we have activated our search for our next Southeast Asia Regional Director. We are looking forward to welcoming someone who brings a fresh perspective to our work with insights that will support our regional expansion.

As we look to the new year, we are grateful to our incredible partners, advisors and colleagues that have supported IDinsight Southeast Asia in its growth during this difficult year. We thank you all for your support in this journey, and look forward to continuing to work together to maximize impact in the social sector in this region!