We sang. We danced. We shared our experiences, and we learned from each other. Most importantly, we strategized as equals about how to promote the work of community engagement in clinical trials. And for the first time, engagement implementers from both TB and HIV research fields convened in one room, in one workshop, to address tactically the strengths and weaknesses of participatory practice.
The Combined Community Engagement Forum, the first forum of its kind, took place September 27-29 in Johannesburg as a joint effort between AVAC, IAVI and TB Alliance. This was not your average community engagers’ workshop. It was a venue to learn new tactics across fields, to openly voice challenges and for the group of over 80 to plan next steps for making engagement work more robust, including efforts like publication and monitoring and evaluation. Kagisho Baepanye of the Aurum Institute in South Africa said, “This year’s forum took stakeholder engagement to another level and pushed community educators to think deeper and step up to be counted.”
More and more, there is agreement that stakeholder engagement is critical to the clinical trials process. It doesn’t, however, get the recognition or support it needs, nor has it necessarily produced strong evidence of impact on research or communities. By collaborating across fields, across sites, across research networks and with advocacy organizations, the Combined Community Engagement Forum served as a step forward in building a stronger, more strategic and more clearly understood community of participatory and stakeholder engagement practice.
To learn more and to get linked into the virtual Stakeholder Engagement Community of Practice, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.