Mapping networks to improve knowledge exchange among family planning and reproductive health organizations in Ethiopia


  • Sarah V. Harlan
  • Tara M. Sullivan
  • Samson E. Hailegiorgis


networks, reproductive health, network mapping, knowledge mapping, family planning, social knowledge management, Ethiopia


Ethiopia’s fertility rate is 4.8 and maternal mortality ratio is 673/100,000. These poor family planning/reproductive health (FP/RH) indicators are due in part to inadequate systems for Social Knowledge Management (SKM). The Knowledge for Health Project conducted qualitative research to identify: 1) key FP/RH actors; 2) SKM barriers/facilitators; and 3) opportunities to leverage networks and resources to improve uptake of evidence and best practices. Researchers conducted Network-Mapping exercises, interviews, and focus group discussions among 41 national, regional, and zonal/woreda stakeholders in Ethiopia. Participants identified FP/RH actors, and discussed each actor’s relative influence and role in enabling/impeding knowledge exchange. They assessed health information needs and challenges, and made recommendations for improvement. Over 100 actors were identified. The Ministry of Health is central to information flow, and new knowledge often diffuses slowly to others. Needs differ by level: National-level professionals need policy and strategy documents, while regional- and community-level professionals request contextualized information. This innovative, participatory methodology facilitated a thorough examination of Ethiopia’s FP/RH knowledge exchange network and allowed stakeholders to make recommendations for strengthening SKM systems and programs. These suggestions included: supporting FP/RH networks, developing a central FP/RH repository, tailoring resources to the local context, and preventing bottlenecks created by information gatekeepers.