Process evaluation of knowledge transfer across industries: Leveraging Coca-Cola’s supply chain expertise for medicine availability in Tanzania
Persistent gaps in the availability of essential medicines have slowed the achievement of global health targets. Despite the supply chain knowledge and expertise that ministries of health might glean from other industries, limited empirical research has examined the process of knowledge transfer from other industries into global public health. We examined a partnership designed to improve the availability of medical supplies in Tanzania by transferring knowledge from The Coca-Cola system to Tanzania’s Medical Stores Department (MSD). We conducted a process evaluation including in-depth interviews with 70 participants between July 2011 and May 2014, corresponding to each phase of the partnership, with focus on challenges and strategies to address them, as well as benefits perceived by partners. Partners faced challenges in (1) identifying relevant knowledge to transfer, (2) translating operational solutions from Coca-Cola to MSD, and (3) maintaining momentum between project phases. Strategies to respond to these challenges emerged through real-time problem solving and included (1) leveraging the receptivity of MSD leadership, (2) engaging a boundary spanner to identify knowledge to transfer, (3) promoting local recognition of commonalities across industries, (4) engaging external technical experts to manage translation activities, (5) developing tools with visible benefits for MSD, (6) investing in local relationships, and (7) providing time and space for the partnership model to evolve. Benefits of the partnership perceived by MSD staff included enhanced collaboration and communication, more proactive orientations in managing operations, and greater attention to performance management. Benefits perceived by Coca-Cola staff included strengthened knowledge transfer capability and enhanced job satisfaction. Linking theoretical constructs with practical experiences from the field, we highlight the challenges, emergent strategies, and perceived benefits of a partnership across industry boundaries that may be useful to others seeking to promote the transfer of knowledge to improve global health.