COVID-19 occurrence is an unprecedented situation for governments and companies. Institutions are having a challenging time to come to terms with the outbreak of COVID-19.Organization leaders are responding promptly and urgently to the best of their capacity. Above all, this time is pointed out as key moment for leaders to step up and do what’s right to protect their staffs, clients and the company.

Since the occurrence of the pandemic in Ethiopia, Frontieri have been engaged in different responsive mechanisms to the outbreak. We had a one to one interview session with managing Partner for Ethiopia Office- Dr Belaineh Legesse on a set of actions the institution is conducting in mitigating the impacts of the pandemic and also a plan for what comes after.

Interviewer: Could you give us a brief explanation on how Frontieri is responding to COVID-19 in general?

Dr Belaineh: Frontieri together with its staff members is responding to COVID-19 in different ways. First we are responding by functioning effectively to safeguard the health and safety of our staffs, we are ensuring that all employees stay safe and healthy during this time. For employees which their work does not require attendance in the office has been given all the relevant protective and working materials to work from home. As well as, those working in the office, hand sanitizers and face masks are provided to follow strict hygiene.

Interviewer: What role is Frontieri playing in mitigating the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis?

Dr Belaineh: As a knowledge generation institution, much is expected to assist informed decision making by all concerned. In beginning of April, we have conducted a nationally representative phone-based survey at rural and urban location of Ethiopia. the findings of the survey are aimed to provide insights for potential interventions by concerned governmental and nongovernmental organizations. We believe research findings are vital for identifying major intervention areas by the government. So taking that in mind, we have comprehensively communicated our research finding via radio television and also conducted a webinar by including additional experts for our  finding and recommendation reach all concerned including the public.

As per the economic impacts of the pandemic, we know it will affect vulnerable people the most. So our institution with its staff also offered support to the most vulnerable communities by contributing 150,000 Birr for assisting the government intervention for the community in need.

Interviewer: When it comes to provision of service in amidst COVID-19, we know the pandemic affects the way surveys are conducted. As conducting survey involves travelling and creation of groups for discussions, we can say it has become challenging in functioning the way it was. Are there new mechanisms put in place to ease the impact of the pandemic in the overall process of conducting survey?

Dr Belaineh: Like mentioned, conducting survey in allover the region become challenging due to the restrictions in place because of COVID-19. However, this opens an opportunity for adopting an innovative way of conducting surveys. Before the pandemic, our institutions used CAPI (computer based personal interview) to conduct and analyze data collected from the field. After the outbreak, we started to use the computer based system called CATI (computer assisted telephone interview). We have launched (pilot tested) the system by the national survey we have conducted regarding COVID-19. This new system will be supportive to conduct a telephone based survey for projects without compromising data quality,

Interviewer: As the survey will be conducted by working from home, what aspects are challenging in changing the way survey was conducted?

Dr Belaineh: Well, for experts who work from home we have a planned mechanism with  monitoring and evaluation platform in place and since all are professionals, it does not turn out to be that much challenging for us. With regard to the new method we employed, since it is new in Ethiopia more communication and dialogue is expected from us to convince our clients that the method is feasible in conducting the work. We have also designed different protocols to be applied while collecting data, reporting and related matters. A lot is expected from us for continuous engagement and dialogue to explain data quality including sampling procedures will be managed by the different protocols designed and data quality will not be compromised.

Interviewer: What does the future hold for Frontieri on reducing the impact of COVID-19 on its service? 

Dr Belaineh: Unprecedented outbreaks like this force governments and institutions to re-examine their ways of conducting research and advisory services, adapt new ways and change accordingly. What the future holds in our way of conducting research is uncertain. However, evidence based decisions will be made by Frontieri management as we move forward. We will continue to have dialogues with our clients in the alternative data collection method: telephone based survey and ascertaining that quality data and protocols will not be compromised.

We remain a trusted partner providing professional support to curtail the effects of the pandemic in Ethiopia.