Health system learning sites: understanding health systems through research collaboration and engagement

November 2016
Lucy Gilson, Nonhlanhla Nxumalo, Sassy Molyneux

Health policy and systems research is centrally concerned with people, their relationships and the actions that they take towards strengthening health systems. To understand complex health systems, researchers must actively engage with system actors, ranging from health managers to service users, learning from their tacit knowledge and about their experience. 

In Kenya and South Africa, researchers have established learning sites specifically to support a wide range of research focused on health systems governance issues at the district level. Both countries have devolved government structures and county (Kenya) and provincial and district (South Africa) managers now play a pivotal role in the development, management and delivery of health services. Learning sites provide unusual opportunities to learn about the daily processes of decision-making that comprise health system governance, and to support managers in taking action to strengthen them. 

This brief covers:

  • What is a learning site?
  • How did learning sites emerge?
  • What happens in a learning site?
  • What is the value of learning sites for researchers and health managers?
  • What small-scale steps are being taken to strengthen the health system?
Governance Learning sites Kenya South Africa