Indexed on: 19 Aug '15Published on: 19 Aug '15Published in: Health policy and planning
Where once global health decisions were largely the domain of national governments and the World Health Organization, today networks of international organizations, governments, private philanthropies and other entities are actively shaping public policy. However, there is still limited understanding of how global networks form, how they create institutions, how they promote and sustain collective action, and how they adapt to changes in the policy environment. Understanding these processes is crucial to understanding their effectiveness: whether and how global networks influence policy and public health outcomes. This study seeks to address these gaps through the examination of the global network to stop tuberculosis (TB) and the factors influencing its effectiveness over time. Drawing from ∼200 document sources and 16 interviews with key informants, we trace the development of the Global Partnership to Stop TB and its work over the past decade. We find that having a centralized core group and a strategic brand helped the network to coalesce around a primary intervention strategy, directly observed treatment short course. This strategy was created before the network was formalized, and helped bring in donors, ministries of health and other organizations committed to fighting TB-growing the network. Adaptations to this strategy, the creation of a consensus-based Global Plan, and the creation of a variety of participatory venues for discussion, helped to expand and sustain the network. Presently, however, tensions have become more apparent within the network as it struggles with changing internal political dynamics and the evolution of the disease. While centralization and stability helped to launch and grow the network, the institutionalization of governance and strategy may have constrained adaptation. Institutionalization and centralization may, therefore, facilitate short-term success for networks, but may end up complicating longer-term effectiveness.