Everyone has gotten used to looking at the world from a particular perspective – from so-called developed and developing countries, from donor and recipient, from rich and poor , global North and South… By changing these angles A4H challenges us to critically appreciate and understand international collaboration and aid from the perspective of others as a powerful way to recognise and question our assumptions about the world – as a first step to rethink how we can improve it.
- What is Aid for Health?
A4H is a simulation and role play rather than a classroom exercise or a workshop: it’s a format for students from different backgrounds to critically experience the dynamics and politics of international aid negotiations in health and development at country level.The simulation is typically organised by and for student teams, advised by academic experts and practitioners, and with the support from the A4H global board of directors. Yes, it’s education – but it’s also great fun and a great way to meet like-minded students and other young professionals who not only want to launch their international development careers but genuinely change aid ‘as we know it’…A4H is NOT a course or seminar but can be integrated into one. Unlike Model UN it is not merely trying to imitate diplomatic protocol. While that can be fun too, A4H is more critically interested in the informal dynamics as they are playing out every day and everywhere in many if not most ‘aid dependent countries’: Who is involved in making aid-related decisions, what are their underlying interests, and how do global and local politics interact?
- Why A4H?
The politics involved in global and local aid and the interactions between national governments (large and small, corrupt and not) and their international donors, UN agencies and local NGOs (all well-meaning of course, but still following their own hidden agendas) are rarely subject of academic teaching and training.Nevertheless, once students graduate from their various public health and development programmes, they likely find themselves posted in country offices of UN agencies, NGOs or donor agencies (as well as, importantly, national ministries of health and finance!) where they sit in political meetings discussing aid packages, projects and ‘country ownership’.With A4H we mean to help prepare you as students and young professionals and thereby complement existing academic curricula. Ours is a dynamic format that involves and exposes students in a much more realistic and interactive way to these complex political and social processes, challenging them to also critically examine the role of external actors in development – and of themselves!
- Who is A4H and who is supporting us?
We are group of active development professionals of different backgrounds who found ourselves together as instructors and students at the Harvard School of Public Health, exploring how we can find ways to better and critically expose the political essence and nature of aid for health.Since the first pilot of the simulation in 2010, we received strong support from a range of very experienced and smart people across HSPH and Harvard University – including Julio Frenk, then Dean of HSPH, former Mexican Minister of Health and director at WHO, who knew all to well the practice and politics of aid. Since then A4H has received endorsements and support from a range of other leaders in global health as well as academic teaching.
Check out our constantly growing list here: Friends of A4H
- How A4H operates?
Above all, while aid for health is all about money and power – A4H as a simulation is entirely non-profit. All of the involved organizers and advisers are volunteering their time in the interest of supporting future generations of aid professionals to be better and more critically prepared for their important roles. Funding is only involved and managed locally in order to organize the coming together of simulations; local teams might decide on the need on involving sponsors and participant contributions.In 2013 we recognised the impossibility of supporting simulations across many time zones and sites while still being amateurs operating in an ad hoc fashion. Well, we are still amateurs but we created a global board to support the various local student teams in a more structured fashion.
The A4H Global Board of DirectorsAs Board members we are spread literally all over the world and across 15 time zones, and have our Board meetings online. Still today, however, A4H is a not a trademark or organisation as such, nor do we have a formal infrastructure (aside this website and various social media accounts). This ‘light footprint’ keeps us grounded, realistic and on our toes – but also means that the ones in charge of simulations are really the local teams!Yes, that’s right: another opportunity for aid lingo: “local ownership” – we actually practice it…