The USAID-funded Breakthrough ACTION has launched the SPARK program, a social and behavior change (SBC) internship and fellowship program aimed at enhancing the capacity of young professionals in SBC for health. The program builds on the success of the Advancing Communication Experientially (ACE) mentoring program, which was originally developed under the Tanzania Capacity and Communication Project (TCCP), led by Johns Hopkins’ Center for Communications Programs (JH-CCP). The ACE program benefited over 200 interns and fellows, contributing to a growing alumni base, which the SPARK program will now contribute to.
The SPARK program, launched over the weekend in Dar es Salaam, re-imagines and relaunches the ACE mentoring program. Through the program’s experiential learning initiative, recent graduates (interns) and mid-career professionals (fellows) will have the opportunity to gain practical skills in SBC through a blended learning approach over a period of six to twelve months. By participating in the SPARK program, these interns and fellows will also become part of the growing alumni base of over 200 beneficiaries.
USAID Breakthrough ACTION project, led by Johns Hopkins’ Center for Communications Programs (JH-CCP), which is funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) a Social Behavior Change (SBC) project designed to provide technical assistance to the Government of Tanzania (GoT) aims to improve the policy and implementation framework around SBC activities.
The goal of the project is to catalyze opportunities for Tanzanians to improve their health status by transforming socio-cultural norms and supporting the adoption of healthier behaviors. Speaking during the launch of the event, USAID Health Office Community Team Lead Dr Ifeyinwa Udo said the US Government is committed to ensuring that we build a skilled workforce in the health and development sector.
‘Today, we are witnessing a remarkable program that gives hands-on opportunities to graduates in the field of social and behavior change. I am also happy to see young professionals early in their careers enrolled in the program and receiving mentorship to be better at what they do and advance in the SBC career. I would like to commend the Breakthrough ACTION project for this initiative,’ added Dr Udo.
Waziri Nyoni, Chief Party of USAID Breakthrough ACTION and the project implementers said that the SPARK internship and fellowship program is a model for building the capacity of the next generation of social and behavior change professionals. ‘Through hands-on experience and blended learning opportunities, young professionals will gain the skills and knowledge they need to drive innovation, progress, and sustainability in the health sector. We are pleased to collaborate with the Ministry of Health and host organizations in implementing this program and look forward to its positive impact on health outcomes’, said Nyoni.
Commenting on the project, Simon Nzilibili a program officer at the Ministry of Health, Health Promotion Section said, ‘We appreciate the support that the USAID Breakthrough ACTION project has provided to our Ministry to build capacity in social and behavior change for health. We would like to thank the USAID Breakthrough ACTION project for this internship and fellowship program and look forward to continued collaboration and cooperation to address health challenges in Tanzania.’
One of the intern program beneficiaries Phebe Andrew said she is happy to have been selected for this internship opportunity and to be part of the next generation of social and behavior change professionals. ‘The program’s blended learning approach will provide me with the hands-on experience and mentorship I need to advance in my career path. I am grateful to the USAID Breakthrough ACTION project and the host organizations for investing in the professional development of young professionals like myself, and I am excited to see the positive impact this program will have on health outcomes in Tanzania, she added.
The SPARK program is designed to provide young professionals with the opportunity to apply social and behavior change theories and practices in real-life settings. The program offers a blended learning approach that combines classroom training, on-the-job training, and mentorship to ensure a comprehensive and hands-on learning experience.
The launch event provided an opportunity to showcase the potential impact of the SPARK program and inspire future professionals to drive innovation and progress in the field of social and behavior change. The USAID Breakthrough ACTION project encourages all partners in the health sector to create internship opportunities and invest in the professional development of young professionals.