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Wednesday 14 April 2010

Sharing ownership of the NZAF's progress

Posted in: HIV
By Jay Bennie - 31st January 2010

"The NZAF has a vision of a world without HIV and AIDS, and aims to achieve this through our mission of preventing the transmission of HIV and supporting people affected by HIV and AIDS to maximise their health and wellbeing."

Launched mid-December on the NZAF website with those noble words, one of the most significant pieces of forward planning in the history of the NZ AIDS Foundation gets its first public critique this Tuesday when members of the public have their say on the organisation's Strategic Plan Consultation Document.

The consultation comes at a time when the fight against HIV seems more difficult than ever. The number of new locally-transmitted HIV infections is at the highest annual level New Zealand has ever experienced, with the majority of those contracting HIV being gay men. This time last year the NZAF's chief executive called the New Zealand HIV infection rate a "blowout." Men with the virus are living healthier, longer lives so the pool of healthy and sexually active positive people is also at its highest level ever. The effects of the internet on social and sexual interactions have only belatedly become a significant focus of prevention work, and the true complexity of the interlinks and connectivity between individuals and groups of men who have sex with men have only in the past couple of years started to be understood.

The Foundation Trust Board began the process towards the Plan two and a half years ago, seeking to establish a set principles and objectives which will guide is day to day work to fight the spread of HIV and the support of those already living with the virus.

NZAF Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier
The NZAF has already spent over five years re-inventing its staffing, internal organisation and procedures to meet these new challenges so why have a strategic plan? It's a document that will "chart the direction of the organisation in broad terms," says the NZAF's Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier. "It builds on the previous Strategic Plans of NZAF, re-affirms a vision and mission for the NZAF, reflects the Trust Deed’s principles that guide all that the NZAF does, and articulates three key outcomes that the NZAF seeks to achieve."

A strategic plan, explains Le Mesurier, does not seek to define the day-to-day functions of the organisation. It does not define projects or describe resources. "Rather," she says, it is "a high level document that sets out what the organisation wants to achieve both long term - the vision - and in more specific time frames [specifically, 5 year outcomes] the principles it relies on to achieve those outcomes and sets it all within the legal framework of the Foundation's founding document."

Although the NZAF Trust Board began to consider adopting "an outcomes-based approach or framework" in mid-2007. The project as further honed at a Trust Board Retreat in 2009 and have been developed further "in discussions with the NZAF Directors in the months that followed."
The NZAF Strategic Plan Consultation Document identifies three long-term health outcomes for the work of the NZAF for 2010 – 2015. A 'health outcome' "indicates a change in the health status of an individual or population that is attributable to a planned programme or programmes, regardless of whether a specific individual programme was intended to change that particular health status," explains Le Mesurier.

"The increased use of health outcomes in public health planning reflects a growing understanding that organisational goals alone will not influence actions that will lead to the desired result," she says. "Activities that will result in a desirable health outcome for a population must be carried out by many people in a variety of organisations over a number of years." That goal of to linking in other organisation appears to already be under way with the recent re-positioning of job descriptions for several existing and new employees which stress"community engagement," "relationships," and similarly worded tasks.
Although the Strategic Plan sounds like, and indeed is, a lofty document, its effects on the disposition and day to day work of the Foundation's 44-odd full time equivalent staff will be real and direct. The 2010-2015 version leads "all of the activities of the NZAF right through to individual staff members’ work plans," says Le Mesurier.  "The NZAF then monitors these range of plans on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis."

To get broad input, feedback and advice the NZAF posted the draft Plan on its website on December 18 and invited all its "current members and supporters, donors, community members and stakeholders" to consultation meetings scheduled for Christchurch this Tuesday February 2nd,  Auckland on Friday February 12th and Wellington on Thursday 18th. A "specific Maori consultation" will also take place.

"The NZAF Regional Centres have invited volunteers, the NZAF Trustees have invited people in their networks, and invitation is also on the NZAF website," says Le Mesurier. In addition, "the NZAF welcomes non-members who attend the consultations or make a contribution" with specific invitations to be involved in setting the direction of the NZAF sent out "to those who support the NZAF in its mission through donations, both financial donations and donations of time and talent."

Thus the plan and its outcomes, good, bad or indifferent, are 'owned' "by those responsible for progress at all levels," says Le Mesurier.

Jay Bennie - 31st January 2010

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