A360’s 5 Takeaways from ICFP

By: Amy Uccello, Sr. AYSRH Technical Advisor, PSI

This International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP), Adolescents 360 (A360) sparked a drumbeat.

With 20+ A360-focused posters, panels, events and dance parties, plus the highest showing of all of PSI’s ICFP youth presentations, A360 shined the spotlight on the innovation fueling our work, and the breakthroughs we continue to drive—both for our project and for PSI’s organizational youth approach.

Among our highlights:

We elevated the A360 Blueprint for Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health (AYSRH) Change on places like PSI’s booth (bottom image) and on napkins (top image) distributed during our #InMySquad ICFP side-event to demonstrate how we’re changing the conversation around contraception

We released our first-ever technical publication detailing findings and learnings from our A360 Tanzania programming.

Among the key highlights:

  • Adaptive implementation is a natural partner to Human-Centered Design
  • In scale-up, mixed methods monitoring is key to an adaptive footing and risk mitigation
  • Combining public and private sector engagement is important for youth-friendly service delivery 
  • More? Click here.

We joined partners, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and IDEO.org, plus other leading players, including FP2020 and the Hewlett Foundation, for the launch of the Commitment to Ethics in Youth-Powered Program Design.

A360ers partook in the press conference roundtable, led a Facebook Live stream (that garnered 703 views!) and landed a callout in Devex’s exclusive coverage on the Commitment.

We supported PSI’s release of Impact that saw 10 youth editors—including two A360 young designers—reimagine the magazine’s youth-powered ICFP edition.

… and we embraced ICFP’s collective brainpower to keep digging into the burning questions that we continue to strive to solve. ICFP didn’t deliver all the answers, but it did churn our wheels as we keep driving toward cracking the code for AYSRH breakthrough.

Here’s where we landed at ICFP, and how we’re taking those learnings to think forward into A360’s third year.

1. Addressing the missing links.

Engaging adolescent boys and young men as contraceptive users, partners and advocates is a critical, albeit minimally resourced component in how we approach Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health (AYSRH) impact. We often approach boys and young men merely in their role as part of the girls’ journey, or as barriers to girls’ reproductive autonomy, rather than as individuals with their own reproductive health needs and experiences that also require attention and support.

At ICFP, we dug deeper into where we might try to fill these gaps, gleaning insights from best practice resources such as the Institute for Reproductive Health’s (IRH) male engagement brief, USAID’s Engaging Men and Boys in Family Planning High Impact Practices findings, and Promundo’s Getting to Equal document.

We explored the potential to adapt other program learnings and tools including IRH’s GREAT Project, Rutgers’ in- and out-of-school gender-neutral curriculum “The World Starts With Me” and the International Planned Parenthood Federation’s Global Sexual RH Package for Men and Adolescent Boys.

We’ve reinforced our commitment to learn from these experiences and think through ways that we can bolster our engagement with boys and young men in A360, with a keen eye to our work with husbands in Ethiopia and Northern Nigeria.

2. Solving for continuation.

The evidence suggests that private conversations with youth-friendly providers during and following service provision cultivates comfort among adolescents, informing their decision to take up and continue a contraceptive method. Touchpoints after that initial session provide girls a space to raise concerns, like side effects – an important part of how we support contraceptive continuation. But how those follow-ups transpire should be set by girls’ defined terms and should not be assumed if we are to ensure a safe space.

This point was reinforced during an ICFP panel on DMPA-SC self-injection where researchers learned through a user-centered design process that girls did not desire provider follow-up calls. As a result, the team set up a hotline, allowing girls to call in on their own for advice. At every turn of A360’s gears, we’ve listened to girls to deliver on what they tell us they want and need. Within that vein, how we conduct follow-ups, and how we support continuation, should be informed by both the local context and through conversations with and consent from girls themselves.

“My key learning at ICFP is the power of team work and of thinking out of the box,” – Patience Anto, Young Designer, SFH/Nigeria

3. Meaningfully engaging youth.

Seeing the power of youth involvement in program design was my biggest takeaway from ICFP. It’s important that we keep involving and respecting youth as partners as we continue to design with them to reshape youth-powered healthcare,” – Arnold Kabahaula, Youth Innovation Officer and Learning Lead, PSI/Tanzania

It’s our mantra: nothing for young people without young people. And that we saw throughout ICFP.

From the Youth Ambassadors who hosted a #NoPanels session that followed a Vagina Monologues-style approach to our own A360 young designers who led us in launching the Commitment to Ethics in Youth-Powered Program Design, we watched as young people moved from decoration and tokenism to meaningful roles and responsibilities. Young people consistently demonstrate their value in spurring new agendas, honing their skills from activism to advocacy and leading us in reimagining the future of youth-powered healthcare.

As reflected in the FP2020 Global Consensus Statement on Meaningful Youth Engagement, which PSI signed, we commit to continue evolving our thinking on how we engage young people, to think beyond youth-engagement in program design and delivery, and to explore new opportunities where young people can breathe fresh perspective into our work.

4. Tackling provider bias.

There are long-standing social and cultural beliefs that a three-day provider training will not eliminate. How can we best think through supportive supervision? And how can we do so in public and private spaces? We have more to learn, and are excited to connect with colleagues like BREAKTHROUGH Action and Research as we lean in to dig deeper.

5. Driving toward health system ownership. 

Transition to government ownership can often mean shaving down programming to the most cost-effective offering. In doing so, we risk losing integrated social behavior change (SBC) and/or gender approaches that promote reproductive autonomy among girls.

At ICFP, we explored research from Ghana illustrating the direct link between reproductive autonomy and increased contraceptive uptake, a tie that yielded greater impact than sole focus on demand generation communications. These findings stirred our thinking about ways to maintain the SBC and gender connection while also remaining cost effective in our aim for scale and sustainability through health system ownership.

As always, we thank you for your partnership as we work together, tinkering with new ways of transforming the future of youth-powered healthcare.

Forward, we go.