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The Network for Improving Quality of Care for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (QCN) is intended to facilitate learning, action, leadership and accountability for improving quality of care in member countries. This requires legitimacy-a network's right to exert power within national contexts. This is reflected, for example, in a government's buy-in and perceived ownership of the work of the network. During 2019-2022 we conducted iterative rounds of stakeholder interviews, observations of meetings, document review, and hospital observations in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Malawi, Uganda and at the global level. We developed a framework drawing on three models: Tallberg and Zurn which conceptualizes legitimacy of international organisations dependent on their features, the legitimation process and beliefs of audiences; Nasiritousi and Faber, which looks at legitimacy in terms of problem, purpose, procedure, and performance of institutions; Sanderink and Nasiritousi, to characterize networks in terms of political, normative and cognitive interactions. We used thematic analysis to characterize, compare and contrast institutional interactions in a cross-case synthesis to determine salient features. Political and normative interactions were favourable within and between countries and at global level since collective decisions, collaborative efforts, and commitment to QCN goals were observed at all levels. Sharing resources and common principles were not common between network countries, indicating limits of the network. Cognitive interactions-those related to information sharing and transfer of ideas-were more challenging, with the bi-directional transfer, synthesis and harmonization of concepts and methods, being largely absent among and within countries. These may be required for increasing government ownership of QCN work, the embeddedness of the network, and its legitimacy. While we find evidence supporting the legitimacy of QCN from the perspective of country governments, further work and time are required for governments to own and embed the work of QCN in routine care.

Original publication




Journal article


PLOS Glob Public Health

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