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Introducing the Community Health Toolkit

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November 28, 2018

Author: Josh Nesbit

Today, I am incredibly excited to announce that we are launching the Community Health Toolkit with an inspiring group of partners. The toolkit is an open-source project, and the products will serve, collectively, as a public good for global health. For more background on the toolkit, I recommend reading through the site and these FAQs.

Medic Mobile has always developed free software, but our mission is pushing us to do more. As part of this launch, we are effectively transitioning our technical assets out from underneath our organizational umbrella – out into the open. We’re recognizing that simply posting code under an open license hasn’t been enough to kickstart the kind of movement that we hope to be part of. We’re opening up new code repositories, designer and developer resources, documentation for app development and deployment, product and research roadmaps, reference applications, and more.

This launch and our involvement signal big shifts for our organization. Looking into the future, we will no longer be the only team with the expertise to successfully design and deploy applications using the toolkit. Organizations around the world will be able to connect directly to share their ideas for community health programs. Developer resources and integrations will enable extensions of the toolkit beyond our control or management. We’ll continue working directly with our technical and implementing partners, and hope to see them collaborating more with each other, too.

So, why are we doing this? Our decision was influenced by urgent human needs, windows of opportunity for systems change, organizational and technological maturity, humility in the face of daily and multi-decade challenges, and a growing sense of community in our field. It was influenced by some amazing partners, who pushed us to do this and have signed up to help us make it work. With community health back on the global policy agenda, there is an unprecedented opportunity for a shared toolkit to address key challenges that health workers face in their day-to-day care work.

This unusual strategic decision is only possible because we’re a nonprofit technology company with a distinctive mission, and a preferential concern for those who have been marginalized. We are setting out to systematically release expertise and knowledge, rather than hoarding and consolidating it. We plan to step into the roles and activities that are needed, as opposed to entrenching and protecting the services we’re providing now. We want a technical strategy that encourages across-the-board investment in organizations doing hard and important work.

Medic Mobile will serve as the technical lead and initial steward for the Community Health Toolkit. We’ll contribute code, resources, documentation, and other assets – and we’ll facilitate contributions from others. We’re committed to supporting a vibrant, diverse community building a public good together.

We’ll bring unique experience to this challenge. More than a hundred people at Medic Mobile have collaborated with partners and health workers in twenty countries. These efforts have been carried out asynchronously and in real-time, across languages and timezones, facilitated by nearly every mode of connectivity and transportation. In the coming months and years, we’ll get even more comfortable visioning, prototyping, documenting, and discussing technical approaches out in the open.

Just as importantly, our partners bring remarkable experience to this effort. Our hypothesis is that investing in a shared toolkit will increase efficiency, reduce redundancy in technical efforts, and provide a platform for creative extension, integration, and research. We have recognized that the need is far greater than any one organization can support through hands-on implementation. We must equip governments and a growing community of implementers to own, scale, and extend these digital community health tools themselves. The toolkit will serve as a public good that can be implemented and extended by an ecosystem of governments and partners.

If we’re successful, then what we’re doing today, others will be able to do tomorrow. In our view, this is how a new model of care – and the technology supporting it – can be normalized. This is how the technology evolves in a human-centered way, accountable to communities. It’s also how, in the long term, those who understand the problems best will serve as designers, developers, and data scientists.

This increasingly open approach is suited to our organization’s mission, culture, and our belief that we are all health workers. Each of us has a role to play in advancing global health and securing health as a human right. In our view, contributing to the Community Health Toolkit is a pragmatic response to a call to care for others. We hope you will join us.

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