Discover how Reos Partners supported the Atlantic Institute in responding to the challenges associated with vaccine equity through the development of a Rapid Action Lab that enabled a systemic approach to vaccine availability and community building.
Responding to a pandemic requires urgent, immediate, and responsive action. In 2021, the World Health Organization estimated that while 1 in 4 people were vaccinated in high-income countries, only 1 in 500 were vaccinated in low-income states during the same period. Wealthier countries had stockpiled vaccines — millions of which were yet unused — the virus continued to ravage low-income countries, with new waves, cases, and deaths consistently on the rise.
Alongside funding and accessibility issues, scepticism and a lack of trust in governments also suppressed vaccination rates. With these issues in mind, the Atlantic Institute (AI) formed a high-impact affinity group on vaccine equity to respond to these challenges. The group was constituted of senior fellows pulling together to develop a set of initiatives that could advance vaccine equity in different parts of the world.
Reos Partners supported this effort by supporting Senior Fellows in a tailor-made Rapid Action Lab.
Covid-19 exposed global health inequalities and exacerbated existing socioeconomic disparities. These inequalities were particularly evident in the distribution and access to Covid-19 vaccines. Wealthier countries had greater access to vaccines while low-income countries had limited and restricted access to life-saving vaccines.
Responding to this challenge required an urgent yet learning orientation to tackle both structural drivers of these inequalities while addressing their deadly manifestations at the same time. There were no ready-made solutions to these challenges, hence addressing these challenges required creative and innovative approaches.
Reos facilitated a Rapid Action Lab, a process that evolved from the social labs approach, which aims to help people from all walks of life prototype and come to innovative action on a challenging problem. This approach was able to support a response in the midst of the pandemic. The aim was to guide and support AI Fellows to come together and go from identifying the problem to collectively ideating solutions and then taking those solutions to action.
“A richness comes from gathering groups of people who see issues differently and come from different backgrounds, but it takes expert facilitation to be able to have that conversation in a way that is generative and productive and allows people to feel safe enough that they are open to learning and connection.
Reos facilitated with such care, thoughtfulness, and intentionality around enabling transdisciplinary conversation about important issues — which have a lot of controversy — in such a way that we all came out with a greater understanding. Atlantic Fellows is a broad network; Reos connected us to each other as change agents.”
Dr Cyan Brown, Senior Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity in South Africa, medical doctor in Johannesburg, and Lab participant
This process ran from March 2020 to May 2021. Reos designed asynchronous work for Fellows, facilitated 3 workshops and provided coaching to the various idea groups.
Workshop 1 focused on understanding the system and the challenges to vaccine equity
Workshop 2 built on the work done in the first workshop and identified initiatives to be tested at various scales. These practical initiatives were prioritised, evaluated against the evidence and adapted for prototyping.
Workshop 3 focused on translating the viable initiatives from the second workshop into experimental actions. Here, Fellows explored how to enable more just and accessible vaccine programs into action.
The process birthed a number of initiatives in various parts of the world. Some of these initiatives included efforts to:
Build trust in the vaccine and encourage higher vaccination rates
Ease the burden for the elderly to get vaccinated with as little discomfort as possible
Support people to grieve or die with dignity
Create spaces for local communities to address their wicked problems
Beyond these targeted initiatives, participants expressed that the Lab offered the opportunity to go from a more localised knowledge experience to envisioning solutions that can potentially have ripple effects on a bigger community. Participants adopted the systemic orientation of the Lab that helped them to think of and tackle the root causes of social change. Furthermore, the Lab offered a space of solidarity and created a community of change agents.