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New PATH tool enables accountability and intentional action for health equity

July 13, 2022 by Bindiya Gillenwater Patel and Levis Nderitu

As PATH tracks our journey toward new equity goals, we are committed to learning out loud, sharing successes—and failures—along the way.

Fadel Ba (left in white T-shirt, gray jeans) and a fellow malaria case investigator visit Kadidia Ndiaye's family at the rural homestead in Mbem Mbem, Senegal, to treat everyone in the family for malaria following Kadidia's recent bout with the disease.

Malaria case investigators, such as Fadel Ba, pictured here working on cases in Mbem Mbem, Senegal, follow up on every confirmed malaria case within 72 hours. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

In our 2025 strategy, PATH committed to prioritizing our local partners’ needs while responding to their resounding call for the continued transformation of the global public health sector. To do so, we identified four change strategies to guide us toward becoming a more equitable organization.

The change strategies—equity in health, community priorities, respectful partnerships, and inclusive innovation—represent our commitment to center equity in all of our work.

But these strategies require a proactive, intentional action plan to embed equity in all our projects to achieve the intended results. This is why we created the Equity in Programming Benchmarks, a set of standards for keeping our large, diverse organization accountable to these four change strategies.

Standards for accountability and action

The Equity in Programming Benchmarks are a tool that will enable PATH to track progress toward our equity goals. By self-assessing a proposal or project using the benchmarks, PATH teams first measure how each proposal or project performs against a set of indicators aligned with each change strategy. And then, most importantly, staff identify how and where to improve, allowing PATH to be deliberate and proactive about achieving equity commitments.

Developing the benchmarks and identifying the indicators was a massive undertaking. It involved extensive listening and iterating in partnership with hundreds of staff and partners. Together, we sought to design a practical, action-oriented process.

We knew it would be critical to recognize the limitations of the funding environment we operate in. For some projects, we can make changes within the existing scope. For others, we will need to collaborate with and influence donors and partners to spend extra time and resources on activities that will make the work more equitable.

For instance, PATH’s Fit for Future project in Vietnam recently conducted the self-assessment, which helped the team identify ways to strengthen the project’s commitment to the respectful partnerships change strategy. The team is now identifying ways to better involve their government partner in decision-making in project implementation and co-creating a transition strategy for when PATH’s involvement with the project ends.

Other project teams said the benchmarks are helping them make practical and feasible changes to their project design. Christelle Gogue, a Senior Evaluation Officer with PATH’s Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases team said the highlight of the process was the conversations that followed the assessment, which allowed them to consider their strengths, identify gaps, and brainstorm ways to improve.

“The benchmarks are not really additional work,” says Christelle, who is also an Equity Benchmarks coach. “They just enable better thinking.”

PATH is now requiring that all new projects undergo self-assessment using the benchmarks. Through this process, we are hopeful that PATH, along with our sector partners, can work together to become more equitable.

But we know it won’t be easy, it won’t be fast, and it will require humility along the way.

“The benchmarks are not really additional work. They just enable better thinking.”
— Christelle Gogue, Senior Evaluation Officer and Benchmarks Coach

Learning as we go

Central to this work is active and intentional learning and transparency. The goal is not to score the highest—the goal is to honestly self-assess, critically examine the results, and then take action to improve.

This will require asking possibly difficult or inconvenient questions: How can we better involve community members throughout the project? Can the data collection and analysis be more inclusive? How can we push the boundaries in shifting decision-making and funding to our local partners?

Along the way, we will continue soliciting feedback from our staff, and we will continue scanning the literature and incorporating new findings. And we invite you to get involved.

We are committed to learning from and sharing with others in the global health sector. With feedback and knowledge from our staff and partners like you, we will assess, iterate, and optimize as we go.

Learning and reflection are not an afterthought for this process—the learning agenda is central and built into the benchmarks. With a commitment to learn from and with our partners along the way​—learning out loud with humility—together, we can transform the sector for the better.

Please join us in our learning journey by:

  • Reading through the PATH Equity in Programming Benchmarks.
  • Sharing what you are doing to center equity in your work.
  • Emailing any resources and examples we should highlight in our next update of the PATH Equity Benchmarks to equity@path.org.