QF’s WISH 2020 to go virtual amid COVID-19

September 13, 2020

THE transformations made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic have driven institutions around the world to find new ways of continuing the work they do, including the World Innovation Summit for Health, Qatar Foundation’s global health initiative.
With a gathering of global expertise designed to build a healthier world through collaboration, the next edition of WISH will take place online on November 15-19 and aims to capitalise on the new opportunities making it an unprecedented experience for unprecedented times. Since the pandemic began, WISH has ensured dialogue and exchange of perspectives and experiences about the most pressing global health issues have continued via virtual platforms. And that approach also applies to the forthcoming flagship event in the World Innovation Summit for Health’s (WISH) calendar.
Sultana Afdhal, CEO of WISH, explains: “We are going fully virtual for WISH 2020. Our original plan was to hold a blended event, with the summit being held in its traditional location at Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC), and participants being involved remotely as well.
“Ultimately, our decision to host a fully virtual summit was driven by the global situation we are all encountering. WISH’s global community comprises many healthcare workers and leaders, who are experiencing the most complicated and busiest time of their lives this year and by being fully virtual we are ensuring that they will still be able to participate from wherever they are in the world.”
Although virtual events have become the norm over recent months, the face-to-face networking experience is one of the hallmarks of a ‘physical’ event, and WISH is making sure it can recreate these in virtual form for its upcoming summit.
“We loved welcoming people to Doha for past WISH editions”, Afdhal says. “And although they will not be physically coming to Doha this year, we want to make sure the feeling that this is a platform whose roots are in Qatar remains. We have always been proud of the opportunity to showcase Qatari innovation in health, and the work of Qatar Foundation, and we have been careful to ensure that people from around the world will be able to recognise it in virtual form as well.
“With so many international participants, we want to emphasise Qatar’s focus on, and achievements in, healthcare innovation in online form, and for participants to have a full perspective on the innovations that are being developed here.”
According to Nick Bradshaw, WISH’s director of partnerships and outreach, innovating and creating solutions to make the virtual WISH 2020 as much of a success as its physical predecessors is an ongoing challenge, but an exciting one. “WISH 2020 will not be like a conference call”, he says. “It is going to be very immersive and interactive.
“People will be able to ‘virtually’ enter QNCC, arriving under Maman (the spider sculpture at the heart of the venue), and will be able to enjoy the many different elements of the summit from there, with the opportunity to interact and explore exhibition spaces”.
Previously held over two days, WISH 2020 will have an expanded programme spanning five days. Ms Afdhal says: “The current situation has given us more flexibility and allowed us to have a bigger programme this year. “Normally, our plans are influenced by the size of the venue and the number of people who will be flying in, but in virtual form this is not a consideration. We also do not want our participants to experience the ‘panel fatigue’ that can come from watching session after session online, so we are making sure we factor in breaks that give them the chance to truly explore the event and what it has to offer.”
The main events of the summit will incorporate a mixture of panel discussions with global healthcare experts where people can not only watch but also ask questions; and exhibition spaces galleries, and booths where people can interact and meet the authors of WISH research reports. There will also be active workshops where everybody’s voice is heard, which can be harder to achieve at a physical summit.
The thematic focus of the event will include climate change and health and mental health; and although it was not part of the original plan for the event, COVID-19 will feature in many of the discussions taking place across the five days. “WISH seeks to address global health challenges in an innovative way, and there has never been a more pressing health challenge than COVID-19,” said Bradshaw.
“COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on global health like never before, and it has highlighted the importance of sharing knowledge and of working collaboratively across societies and international borders. Policymakers, researchers, doctors, nurses and many more people from across the WISH community are involved in tackling the current pandemic.
“At previous summits, we have had a strong focus on healthcare leaders. This is still a core element of our summit, but this time, we are also ensuring we place frontline healthcare workers in the spotlight, bringing them into our discussions and supporting and celebrating them.”

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