Jamra primary scholl for children affected by HIV/AIDS, drugs or poverty, Senegal (c) Nell Freeman/Alliance Participants in the Photovioce project, Ecuador © Marcela Nievas for the Alliance
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Blue Sky Weeks: fostering South-to-South learning


Aids Alliance

"This is not just meeting, this is meaningful meeting”, these are the words of Sonal Mehta from Alliance India, who attended the Alliance’s regional Blue Sky Week for Asia and Eastern Europe this September.

Our annual Blue Sky Weeks provide Linking Organisations (LOs) in the same region with the opportunity to meet for discussions and to share their knowledge and experiences.

Gaspar Sitefane, Executive Director of MONASO, our LO in Mozambique, attended the Africa Blue Sky Week and summed up the benefits of the meetings saying “we can openly share our experience, our problems, our challenges and our victories and everyone listens and tries to help”.

The Africa and Asia and Eastern Europe Blue Sky Weeks took place from 16-20 September in South Africa and Thailand, hosted by The AIDS Consortium and the Alliance Regional Representation Office respectively. Together, the two meetings saw over 70 participants from 22 countries take part.

The Latin America and the Caribbean Blue Sky Week is scheduled for 1-5 October and will be hosted by Atlacatl in El Salvador, with participants from 15 countries in the region.

New strategy, new future

A hot topic this year was the Alliance’s proposed new strategy for 2013-2020. Feedback from LOs is vital to the process of drafting the strategy and will be incorporated into the final version, which will be launched early next year.

Joydeep Sen, manager of the Regional Technical Support Hub for South Asia praised the consultation process saying that “the Alliance is very different to other organisations because you don't just come up with a strategy and expect people to follow it.  This has been a space for us to talk about what we're doing."

Debating the new Alliance strategy at the 2012 Blue Sky Week for Asia and Eastern Europe (c) The Alliance

Another key focus at both Blue Sky Weeks was improving organisational sustainability in a rapidly changing environment. Presentations and discussions looked at the drivers of organisational sustainability including: national and international advocacy; value for money; systems for managing global fund and other donors and alternative funding.

“I've seen that funding is really important and that we really need to be able to sustain ourselves” said Roswati Ghani, Executive Director of the Malaysian AIDS Council, while Paul Sagna, Chair of ANCS in Senegal, commented that “sustainability is not just a question of the LO, we need to make civil society organisations sustainable too.”

Field visits

Highlights of the Blue Sky Weeks are the field visits to see the work of community based organisations which the host organisations support.

One of the projects attendees in South Africa visited was the Tjogang Sechaba Community Project in Soweto, a drop in centre which supports orphans and children who have been made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS. The project provides two meals a day to over 700 children. The children can stay after school in a safe environment until they are taken home. Alain Manouan, the Alliance’s Programme Manager for West and North Africa, reflected on the importance of the field visits, saying “we had a very tangible example of how our intervention can produce changes and positive impacts on the lives of individuals”.

Learning exchange

Blue Sky Weeks are not the only way that we help to facilitate learning between of LOs. We also organise regular horizontal learning exchanges, during which LOs visit each other to share their experiences in key areas. You can read more about the scheme here.