The five major stakeholders for my project are the women of Sierra Leone impacted by Urinary Tract Infections, community health workers, hospitals, and both the regulatory agencies of government in marketing and the economy. Arguably the most complex of these stakeholders is the very first one I mentioned: the women in need who would actually be using the Ukweli test strip that our team is devoted to designing and selling. It would be easy to say that their motivation is simply to prevent and detect disease to live a full life of meaning – and economically speaking, to continue to raise children and contribute to the family’s finances and quality of life. But this would be too simplistic. There are challenges to this stakeholder, who might be more motivated to think short term in helping out the family and selling goods at the market and prioritize these real challenges over long term health. Community health workers are the natural next stakeholder for my team’s project, who are the front lines for the fight against communicable and non-communicable diseases in Sierra Leone, waging a battle in each little village across the country to combat poor health. This stakeholder is likely driven by a motivation to improve the health of their community and country, and are doing so in the best way that they can given their limited educational and professional training capacities.
Hospitals are thus motivated in a similar realm as the community health workers, but it should be noted that hospitals – and consequently its workers – are far higher up the “chain” or “hierarchy” in Sierra Leone’s healthcare order. But the mentality of their basic motivation to help keep citizens healthy and disease-free will likely differ from that of the community health workers. Doctors in hospitals, which are located mostly in urban settings and are not easily accessible to rural communities, are instead the “last line of defense” in Sierra Leon’s healthcare system. So while community health workers do the best they can given their middle school education on average, and are tasked with screening and referring, the burden ultimately falls on the doctors – burdened and oversaturated with a horrible doctor to patient ratio – to cure. Thinking of Sierra Leon’s healthcare system as similar to the U.S. judicial system, hospitals represent the “Supreme Court” of medical care; what they say, goes.
Both the governmental agencies tasked with monitoring economic growth as well as marketing regulations will be key stakeholders to my team’s project as well. Obtaining a marketing license, which would permit our product to reach the people of Sierra Leone and be accessible in pharmacies and health offices, is now a significant priority of our project. Therefore, our project is reliant on economic and marketing agencies to approve our product and to allow its resale without restriction to keep costs low. Looking at these stakeholders with rose-colored glasses, one might think that these agencies have the people’s best interests in mind, and would gladly award a product that meets medical and manufacturing standards a marketing license for the good of those in need, who would stand to benefit from our test strip, as well as for the rightful creators of the product. But alternative motivations must be considered here. Could the government agencies attempt to deny a marketing license, in hopes of blocking money from leaving the country and going to a foreign entity? Does the government stand to profit off of women contracting urinary tract infections? This thinking may come off as cynical, but it should show my ability to question, think of all angles and understand the complexity of a single stakeholder.
Solidifying both my team’s credibility and my own personal credibility are two of the most important goals for this semester. It has certainly been a game of “catch up” for me so far, given that half of my team was on this project last year as well. Therefore, I feel a strong need to carve my own niche of expertise within the group. The first means to validating our project will be to offer a presentation to a team of referees and peers alike. Importantly, these referees will have no prior knowledge of our project, and will therefore adequately assess our ability to convey our message, our goals and our means of execution. These presentations will also require us to answer tough questions and consider possibilities that we may not have previously considered. Our project will also become validated based on the success or lack thereof with obtaining a marketing license. This will be an affirmative answer to whether our project is viable in Sierra Leone, or if changes or modifications need to be made to our project. And a third means of validation would simply be evaluating the progress we have made come May upon looking back at where the project was at in January. After all, it’s all about advancing the project and the mission forward.