Review criteria 4: Stakeholders and partnerships
The UHWB programme has cultivated and engaged with a large network of stakeholders and partners – through the various events, workshops, and conferences undertaken or attended. However, strategic long-term partnerships have yet to be formalized.
The programme has begun to develop working relationships with a variety of other ICSU programmes and bodies. For example, the Executive Director plays a role in three of Future Earth’s Knowledge Action Networks (Health, Urban, and Risk). All Future Earth Knowledge Action Networks are in various stages of development, which the programme has been able to influence. The programme has also recently started to engage and work with ICSU’s regional offices, developing plans for different regional perspectives on an urban health model that will be policy-facing. Again, there is a lack of formal partnership in the way the programme operates, meaning that concrete outputs and activities have yet to materialize.
The programme’s current sponsors (UNU-IIGH, ICSU, and IAP) all engage well with the programme, and provide much intellectual support. ICSU works to place the programme in high-level United Nations policy spheres (such as the Habitat III conference in Quito), and UNU-IIGH at the World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur. However, support from co-sponsors is not prevalent at senior levels of the organization, and it is hard to get a sense of the strategic importance of the programme for the sponsoring organizations.
Recently though, IAP has started to use the programme as a way to show its membership (which is mainly medical/science based) of the far-reaching importance of the link between health and the urban environment. As a result, the IPO Executive Director has been invited to present the programme at the IAP General Assembly. This has led to IAP placing more importance and emphasis on its other activities that link health to sustainable development (such as its One Health activities).
The UNU-IIGH has recently undergone a strategic review; therefore, how the programme aligns with UNU-IIGH’s new strategic direction is yet to be seen. The programme is in close contact with the new leadership at the time of writing.
Also at the time of writing, ICSU is undergoing a merger with the International Social Science Council (ISSC), and the future of its scientific activities is yet to be defined. However, bringing in the ISSC and having social science on board fits well with the objectives of the UHWB programme, so it is likely the merger will strengthen its scientific foundation. The programme has yet to define working relationships with the key international organizations in this space – such as the World Health Organization and the Wellcome Trust – but future strategic discussions will focus more on how these big players are operating.
As part of the strategic planning exercise that defines the mission and vision of the programme and what could be achieved within existing resources, efforts should be made to identify strategic partners with whom the programme should work. This should include clear objectives relating to desirable outcomes sought from the partnership. Such objectives would assist in prioritizing efforts and provide a filter through which to review upcoming opportunities. Potential partners could include those in the policy (international and domestic in China) as well as academic spheres. It is critical that partnerships include those regional offices of ICSU which have urban health as a priority. This would enable the programme to work in priority global regions, providing synergies and amplification of the programme’s impact. A starting point will be working with those regional offices located in rapidly growing regions as noted above.