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SCUBY consortium meeting 7-9th June 2021

The first half hour I thought we were going to fail. Audio systems malfunctioning, video cameras pointing at strange angles of the room, country teams gathered in a room together from Slovenia (at community health centre in Ljubljana), Cambodia (at NIPH in Phnom Penh), the Netherlands (at Utrecht University Medical Centre) and Belgium (with UA partners at our beloved ITM and Wim from Kinshasa), virtually connected, creating echo’s as if it were a game making it more difficult to hear each other… True hybrid chaos. But then it just worked out. Like a storm at sea passing, the quiet calm returning, from being in murky waters one moment, to sailing on the luminous online sea the next. A few lessons drawn on the format for the hybrids among us: Speaking ‘up’ was a must. And raising critical questions was easier than finding answers.

After being ‘live’ in Ljubljana, Slovenia in 2019 and in Siem Reap, Cambodia in 2020 (more or less pre-COVID), 2021 gave us a whole different spectacle. Each day a different country was responsible for a social activity. We did a quiz about Slovenian natural wonders and their team members’ secret skills and hobbies, we sung along ‘I’m happy, I’m SCUBY’ and did a joint morning stretch. What else did we do? The 3-day meeting, our third annual gathering, was aimed at planning evaluation and sharing progress made in the SCUBY project. Despite reporting some expected COVID-related delays, each team is working together with stakeholders – both implementing and policy actors – towards improving integrated care for type 2 diabetes and hypertension. While approaches differ – programme implementation in Slovenia; networking, creating synergies and joint projects in Belgium; and generating buy-in for a political guidance document widely supported by stakeholders in Cambodia –, each country team has put tremendous work, thought and careful planning into roadmap development for scale-up and stakeholder engagements.

The more I learn on the process of stakeholder collaboration and co-creation in each country and the different socio-economic and political contexts, the more interesting and clear it becomes that every team is undertaking steps towards bringing evidence to policy and turning evidence into action.

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