Zambia and Kenya

Sprinting towards a stronger workforce

The Challenge

Can human-centred solutions motivate a health system’s most important resource?

The Context

PATH’s newly established Living Labs team in Zambia was set up to work on one, vital task: understand what’s behind the low morale of health workers. Then figure out how to reverse it. March 2020: we were on our way to Zambia to run a Human Centred Design bootcamp with the PATH Living Labs team. We were so psyched to meet this amazing team in person and roll up our sleeves for a week of collaboration. And then Covid-19 happened. Within days, we had to quickly turn our multi-day in person curriculum virtual, to help this new PATH team get up to speed on their challenge, without any human interaction – on our side or theirs.






Zambia has less than half the required WHO recommended workforce in all categories.

Zambian doctors who emigrate to the US could earn up to 20 times more – or 5 times more in some other African countries.

Nearly 8 out of 10
children are on
antiretroviral treatment.

Over 1.2 million adults and children live with HIV. Many health workers contract HIV and AIDS, contributing to health worker shortages.

Better training and job stability incentivise health workers to remain in post, despite lower salaries. Many health workers would like more opportunities for career paths.

What We Heard

Health worker motivation in Zambia is low due to various factors: poor wages, understaffed workforce, and a lack of social standing.

The Living Lab team was newly formed, coming on board just days before their very first HCD bootcamp. But they weren’t going to let this minor setback – or Covid-19 – stop them from setting ambitious targets. They needed to get their sprint cycles up and running as quickly as possible, now more urgent amidst a global pandemic on the rise.

Our Solution

Pausing wasn’t an option: we had one week to retool our approach. Everyone on the Common Thread team was grounded from travel, but lockdowns had not yet hit Zambia. Participants were from 6 different countries and 4 different continents. Our partners had to trust us as we experimented with new ways of facilitation. We delivered our first-ever human centred design workshop completely virtually.

That experiment kicked off the creation of what became a remote support system for the Living Labs teams in both Zambia and the more firmly established team in Kenya. Common Thread designed and delivered a program of six workshops, fortnightly coaching calls and tools to boost the team’s effectiveness on the ground to develop as many ideas with potential to increase immunization rates. The team has iterated on improved job-aids, training packages and simple tweaks to how immunization can be more effectively delivered.

Making sure health workers are motivated has arguably never felt more urgent than during the Sars-Cov-2 outbreak. We were so excited to help the Living Labs team find ways to make sure Zambian and Kenyan health workers feel valued, listened to and supported in their life-saving work.

See the tool ›

We can do great things together.