Why It Matters
As many hospitals in Africa increase their support for quality improvement, staff can build skills and find community in IHI’s new learning cohort.
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Introducing the Ubuntu Learning Community

By Susannah Berlowe Binder | Wednesday, May 1, 2019


A presenter speaks at the first IHI Africa Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare in Durban, South Africa.

IHI’s Joe Mando, Director of Africa Operations, and Michaiah Parker, Africa Region Project Assistant, share a conversation about getting started in quality improvement and invite participants in the first cohort of Ubuntu Learning Community.

Joe Mando: Last year, in between sessions at the first IHI Africa Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare, I conducted an informal inquiry into participants’ motivations for attending the Forum. The story of one nurse seemed to sum up the responses I received.

The nurse had just been appointed as the QI manager at her hospital even though she did not have prior exposure to QI. She decided to immerse herself in the study of the subject using online material. The good news was there were a lot of resources on the internet. The bad news was the plethora of information left her overwhelmed and paralyzed, not knowing where to start or which source to trust. She came to the Forum seeking help.

We continue to hear similar stories from the QI community in Africa. Although these accounts may vary, they remain the same at their core. Hospitals are increasingly demonstrating a commitment to quality by appointing designated QI leads. Unfortunately, staff taking on QI lead roles lack related competencies, and they need guidance to know where to begin.

While thinking about how we can support staff in these situations, I had a conversation with my colleague, Michaiah. She is new to QI and, like these staff, would like to complete the online Basic Certificate in Quality & Safety offered by IHI’s Open School.

Michaiah Parker: As a college student majoring in health science, I am always excited about opportunities to translate scientific and systematic findings to applicable projects to improve health. After having the chance to join some colleagues in a workshop to build essential quality improvement skills, I realized the level of impact QI can have in addressing health issues. We learned foundational skills and terminology that left me wanting to investigate further how to continue building QI skills.

While in the workshop, we played games that connected the basic terminology of QI to a wide scope of topics, such as leadership management, and used a variety of approaches, including a word association game. These different activities made me realize how QI can be applied in everyday life to problem-solve and address different needs. I felt a new sense of empowerment to shift my learning of QI into my own hands. Completing the Basic Certificate seemed like the perfect next step to expand on the knowledge I gained from the workshop.


Join us in Johannesburg, South Africa
4–6 May 2020


Joe Mando: After bouncing ideas off one another, we settled on a plan to create a learning community – a cohort of individuals taking two to four 1-hour online QI courses with us every month, for 6 months, in pursuit of the Basic Certificate. IHI’s newsletter for the Africa quality and safety community, Ubuntu, will offer examples of real-world applications of the tools we learn in the courses each month. We will also hold monthly calls to share ideas and learn from each other.

Michaiah Parker: By joining this community, I am excited to expand my interest in QI while being supported and guided by like-minded individuals passionate about leading improvement. We will have time dedicated to connecting with one another for discussions and questions about applying improvement to our daily work. Hearing the personal stories, challenges, and passions of others is a valuable opportunity to gain key lessons from one another’s experiences. Connecting with others interested in QI will also motivate me to continue with the structured schedule. While online courses can sometimes feel overwhelming if you don’t set timelines and goals to finish, this opportunity offers the chance to share a common finish line: the goal of certification. After each month’s courses, I know I’ll have a group of individuals who are also excited to debrief the new topics we’ve learned.

Joe Mando: To support a community of learning among Ubuntu readers, we will provide a six-month schedule for completing the courses (see below). On the last Tuesday of each month at 1:00 PM GMT, we will hold a call that begins with a case study that complements the content, followed by time for discussions and questions.

If you are interested in joining our learning community, please sign-up for the first course – QI 101: Introduction to Health Care Improvement – and send us an email to let us know you have registered. Note that IHI provides free registration for members of the Least Developed Countries as defined by the United Nations, as well as students, residents, and professors. Please let us know if cost is a barrier; we aim to include anyone from the Africa quality and safety community interested in participating.

Our first call, which you can register for here, will be held on June 25 at 1:00 PM GMT. If you have questions, please contact our team at Ubuntu@ihi.org. Look for future call information in the Ubuntu newsletter. We look forward to walking alongside all of you as we embark on this journey together.

Ubuntu Learning Community Schedule:

June

  • Improvement Capability 101 course (1 hour, 15 minutes) introducing health care improvement.
  • Improvement Capability 102 course (1 hour, 30 minutes) focused on how to improve with the model for improvement.

July

  • Improvement Capability 103 course (1 hour, 15 minutes) on testing and measuring changes with PDSA cycles
  • Improvement Capability 104 course (1 hour, 30 minutes) on interpreting data with run charts, control charts, and other measurement tools.

August

  • Improvement Capability 105 course (1 hour, 15 minutes) highlighting how to lead quality improvement.
  • Patient Safety 101 course (1 hour, 30 minutes) introducing patient safety.

September

  • Patient Safety 102 course (1 hour) on shifting the focus from error to harm through the fundamentals of patient safety.
  • Patient Safety 103 course (1 hour) explaining the human factors behind a system of safety.
  • Patient Safety 104 course (1 hour, 15 minutes) focused on the role of teamwork and communication in a culture of safety.

October

  • Patient Safety 105 course (1 hour, 45 minutes) on how to respond to adverse events.
  • Triple Aim for Population 101 course (1 hour, 15 minutes) introducing the Triple Aim for populations.

November

  • Person- and Family-Centered Care 101 course (1 hour, 30 minutes) introducing patient-centered care.
  • Leadership 101 course (2 hours) introducing health care leadership.

Learn more about the IHI Africa Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare and reserve your spot now for the 2020 conference.

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