#StrongerTogether Conference: Power of networks for social good

The #COVIDActionCollab congregated online for its first ever partner’s conference, on  #StrongerTogether,  to celebrate power of networks and collaborations for social good, centered around collaborative actions around the COVID-19 response. The virtual conference was attended by over 210 participants, including stakeholders from the government, private sector, civil society and multilateral organizations. Sign language interpreters from one of our partners, SignAble Communications, interpreted the entire program in Indian sign language, ensuring that the event was accessible to all. Two CAC volunteers also made live transcripts available during the event to ensure accessibility and inclusion.

The #StrongerTogether conference also set the stage for the formal announcement of USAID’s partnership with Catalyst Management Services, Arvind Kumar, Senior Advisor, Strategic Partnerships at USAID, announced a support of USD 3 million with an overall goal to address the needs of the most vulnerable populations and strengthening local systems. The dynamic two-year long partnership is aligned with USAID’s core principles of inclusion and reaching out to the most vulnerable, as was highlighted by one of the keynote speakers at the event Sangita Patel, Director, Health Office at USAID. This unique partnership aims to provide strategic expertise, build tools and resources, and facilitate linkages for organizations, creating direct impact for communities we work with.

Communities are the core of the what we do and to contextualize the event within this people-centric approach, it began with a powerful video showcasing the voices from the communities that the #COVIDActionCollab works with. Curated by our partners, the videos were shot by the community members themselves on the nearest smartphones they could access. 

Shama Karkal, Trustee, Catalyst Foundation, reintroduced the #COVIDActionCollaborative, outlining goals of synergizing, augmenting and accelerating impact, building resilience for vulnerable communities and creating a dynamic humanitarian response ecosystem. This people-centric collaborative of 287 partners is present in all 28 states and 6 union territories of India, reaching 3 million vulnerable people, with an ambition to reach 10 million in the next two years.  

The conference was also graced by Dr. Manohar Agnani, Joint Secretary, MoHFW, Govt of India. The significance of networks and collaborations in the response to COVID-19 and in building stronger systems was evident from Dr Agnani’s address. Dr Agnani also emphasized on  government’s COVID response efforts to have been strengthened by joining hands with the private sector and civil society organizations, and highlighted the need for collaboratives like the CAC  which can help governments in developing customized interventions for vulnerable populations.

In an interactive panel discussion within the conference there was a riveting discussion on the need for and purpose of networks, and how collaboratives like the CAC can be successful in achieving the objectives it has set out to do. It was moderated by Shiv Kumar, Co-founder and Director of CMS. On the panel were Madan Padaki, Co-founder of G.A.M.E India, Gayathri Vasudevan, Chairperson of LabourNet Services and JVR Prasada Rao, former Health Secretary, Govt of India. It was a highly interactive session, with our partners actively engaging in Q&A and polls – the responses to which kicked off conversations among the panelists.  

The pandemic, despite wreaking havoc on our existing systems, is an opportunity to take a pause and recalibrate our systems towards ensuring a “resilient and adaptive society”, as Dr. Neeta Rao, Senior Health Lead for USAID, said in her closing remarks.  And it’s going to need a multi-sectoral and collaborative effort. 

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