by Natalie Eggermont (ITM Young Voice), who wrote this blog from a personal perspective, so this is not the view of the full HSG Board

Last week the Board of the newborn society Health Systems Global met for two days at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The eleven elected board members were reinforced by Abdul Ghaffar and Kent Ranson from the Alliance, Jawara Lumumba from the USAID-funded Health Finance and Governance Project to facilitate the retreat and two invited ‘observers’, Martin McKee and Miguel Gonzalez-Block – the latter were invited to represent high income countries and Latin America respectively. Committed to building an energetic and sustainable society, we embarked on the ambitious agenda.

Our main goals for the two days were to agree on the Society’s mission and vision, to initiate the strategic planning process and to kickstart the organisation of the third symposium.

We’re almost there for the vision and mission, these documents will be finalized soon. It was challenging to find a balance between addressing all of the concerns that came from the members (through the online consultation and at the general assembly), incorporating our own ideas and still trying to avoid a WHO-style consensus outcome statement that would be too long for anyone to read aloud without getting lost. The vision will be short and ambitious; the mission will describe the core business of the Society.

On strategic planning, we only started the process. We did some preliminary brainstorming at the retreat that will continue through email exchange in the coming weeks. Then we will seek input from the members, so they can expect an online survey in their inbox soon! The big headings in the strategic goals were convening (through the symposium, online CoPs, regional hubs, newsletter, …), advancing the field (capacity-building, methodology development, young researchers mentorship, …) and mobilizing for health systems research. Encouragingly, there was a lot of enthusiasm for providing space and building the capacity of young health systems researchers. A new mix of emerging voices will certainly be present at the next symposium, but there will be many other interesting options for young researchers through the work of the Society. On the topic of mobilizing many questions were raised regarding the advocacy role of the Society. Do we want to advocate for health systems research in general or will we issue advocacy statements for specific policies? I think personally that, if we want to transform health systems to achieve something – health and equity for all? – we might consider the second option. The challenge is then to foster debate within the Society about our position and hopefully find some consensus on principles and values we want to promote.

The planning for the third symposium has been initiated. It will be held in Cape Town, 30 Sept – 3 Oct 2014 (585 days to go!!).  Because of the urgent work ahead we decided to postpone the nitty-gritty discussion on organisational structure and to convene an interim executive committee to get things going. The committee will include representatives from the board, the Alliance, the Cape Town consortium and possibly some sponsors. First of all we need to find a theme and some money – and we obviously need your help!

We already did some brainstorming on possible themes such as: people-centered health systems, democratizing health, social accountability, fragile states, sustainable health systems, health and economic growth, …. We agreed the theme should be attractive to diverse, multi-disciplinary audiences and relevant to local/regional contexts. Most importantly, we want to get input from the members. So let us know what you think on Facebook, Twitter or via email ( and spread the word!!

To conclude, a lot of good work was done and I hope we can continue in this spirit. I also hope we will succeed in involving our members in all our discussions, which means you need to raise your voice through all the online channels available to you!

However, we still have a large unfinished agenda, including a more in-depth look at our bylaws and board representation. We heard the comments received at the General Assembly and want the Society to be truly global, both in its membership and in members’ representation at the Board. Inviting observers is a good immediate step but I hope we can also think about how we can avoid a similar situation in the future.

Let us apply the values we stand for in our own lives, work and research. With courage and ambition I believe the Society can contribute to a better and more just world. I’m looking forward to the work ahead and eager to contribute.

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