I write this blog amidst a collaborative Ideate grant implementation that is happening in Uganda and South Africa with Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity in South Africa and for Equity in Brain Health, who I met during Creative Brain Week six months ago, in Dublin, Ireland.
For me, the process of collaboration normally starts off from realizing I cannot do it alone. I need other people with complementary skills to work with on an ideated project. I have been so fortunate to be invited to work on other grant applications with other Fellows. These Fellows I have collaborated with, I have met during online meetings, others through in-person Fellows’ gatherings and in one case, we met on LinkedIn.
After connecting, we usually set up a meeting online during which we talk about the issue we want to address and ideate on the “how.”
Once this is figured out, the grant application begins which usually takes 2-4 weeks. For most of the grants, we have had to work across 3 time zones which means it is either, for at least one of us, the wee small hours of the morning or late night or evening.
No matter the time zone, the Fellows I have collaborated with have endeavored to attend our scheduled meetings. Indeed, I have been so lucky to work with dedicated people who normally adjust very well to the transatlantic, regional or global collaboration and whatever time zone it involves.
To be honest, some collaborative experiences have been fun-filled, while others have been tense, as we navigated different cultural nuances and personalities. I have found that trying to ask about those nuances can sometimes be annoying to the other person, but it can also be helpful in creating much better understanding of the Fellow you are connecting with and sometimes results in forging bonds even greater than the equity work at hand.
I do not regret any of the collaborative experiences that I have been part of so far, which have enabled us to work on a range of issues. For example, empowering disenfranchised communities with storytelling skills for advocacy is a project I worked on with both Juanita Wheeler, an Atlantic Fellow for Social Equity in Australia and Elena Rivera, an Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity US + Global. This improved digital literacy among rural health workers in Hoima district, Western Uganda.
Another collaborative project I worked on which supported the mental health of rural health workers was with Mustafa Hasnain, an Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity US + Global, and Kirti Ranchod, Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health.
Overall, these collaborations have been amazing, impactful and would not have been possible if it was not for the support of the Atlantic institute and the staff at REMI (Resilient & Empowerment Mechanisms for the Impoverished in East Africa) who allow me to take some time from work to explore these collaborative journeys.