Industry partnerships can help leverage resources to advance HIV/AIDS vaccine research, service delivery, and policy advocacy goals. This often involves capacity building for international and local non- governmental organizations (NGOs). International volunteering is increasingly being used as a capacity building strategy, yet little is known about how corporate volunteers help to improve performance of NGOs in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
This case study helps to extend our understanding by analyzing how the Pfizer Global Health Fellows (GHF) program helped develop capacity of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), looking specifically at Fellowship activities in South Africa, Kenya, and Uganda. From 2005–2009, 8 Pfizer GHF worked with IAVI and local research centers to strengthen capacity to conduct and monitor vaccine trials to meet international standards and expand trial activities. Data collection for the case study included review of Fellow job descriptions, online journals, evaluation reports, and interviews with Fellows and IAVI staff. Qualitative methods were used to analyze factors which influenced the process and outcomes of capacity strengthening.
Fellows filled critical short-term expert staffing needs at IAVI as well as providing technical assistance and staff development activities. Capacity building included assistance in establishing operating procedures for the start-up period of research centers; training staff in Good Clinical Practice (GCP); developing monitoring capacity (staff and systems) to assure that centers are audit-ready at all times; and strategic planning for data management systems. Factors key to the success of volunteering partnerships included similarities in mission between the corporate and NGO partners, expertise and experience of Fellows, and attitudes of partner organization staff.
By developing standard operating procedures, ensuring that monitoring and regulatory compliance systems were in place, training African investigators and community members, and engaging in other systems strengthening activities, the GHF program helped IAVI to accelerate vaccine development activities in the field, and to develop the organization’s capacity to manage change in the future. Our study suggests that a program of sustained corporate volunteering over several years may increase organizational learning and trust, leading to stronger capacity to advance and achieve NGO goals.