Multi-disciplinary Knowledge Brokerage for Social Change: Developing the knowledge base to increase the efficacy of professional voluntarism in low resource settings

Louise Ackers
University of Salford, UK
Monday, 15 June 2015 - 12:00

Multi-disciplinary Knowledge Brokerage for Social Change:  Developing the knowledge base to increase the efficacy of professional voluntarism in low resource settings

Case Study: Improving Maternal and Newborn wellbeing in Uganda

This paper draws on the authors’ experience of managing and evaluating the ‘Sustainable Volunteering Project’ (SVP)[1]  and her current research on the MOVE project (Measuring the Outcomes of Volunteering for Education) [2]

Human resource challenges lie at the heart of the health systems problem in Uganda. Much development effort, and especially that involving mobile professional volunteers, focuses narrowly on the promotion of (unidirectional) skills transfers through formal training interventions. The evaluation of the SVP has shown that developments focused on narrow mono disciplinary conceptualisations of ‘capabilities’ and ‘motivations’ have little impact on behaviour change.  Drawing on a growing body of research concerned with the dynamics of behaviour change, the presentation highlights the importance of understanding the complexity of knowledge transfer relationships and the role that health worker motivation plays in ensuring that transferred knowledge is effectively utilised.

The paper examines the role that professional voluntarism can play, within the frame of structured volunteering programs, to improve the motivation of Ugandan health workers and increase opportunities for sustainable behaviour change.


[1] The Sustainable Volunteering Project is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) with the Tropical Health Education Trust (THET) acting as managing agent for the funds( The SVP deploys highly skilled professional volunteers from the UK to Uganda with the aim of improving maternal and newborn health through capacity-building and systems change.

[2] The MOVE Project is funded by Health Education North West. For more details see: (



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Short CV: 

Professor Louise Ackers holds a Chair in Social Policy in the School of Nursing, Midwifery, Social Work & Social Sciences at the University of Salford UK.

Her research focuses on highly skilled mobility and knowledge transfer processes. Much of her work has explored mobility in the context of science careers and the internationalisation of research. In addition to academic outputs she has worked closely with the research councils in the UK and with the European Commission in the development of policy on internationalisation, impact and research careers. Professor Ackers is applying her expertise in this area to the specific context of mobile professional voluntarism and its role in the reduction of maternal and neo-natal mortality Uganda. She has been coordinating the ‘Sustainable Volunteering Project’ which has deployed over 50 long term volunteers to Uganda ( She is also currently coordinating a project funded by Health Education North West (the training arm of the UK NHS) focused on understanding the returns to the NHS on international placements (  and a project involving the development of sustainable elective placements for undergraduate students.