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 (WISH), the global health initiative of Qatar Foundation. 

In preparing to host the next edition of the WISH Summit – a gathering of global expertise designed to build a healthier world through collaboration – WISH aims to capitalise on the new opportunities that the online event in November opens up, making it an unprecedented experience for unprecedented times.

Since the pandemic began, it has ensured dialogue and the exchange of perspectives and experiences about the most pressing global health issues facing global society continue via virtual platforms. And that approach also applies to the forthcoming flagship event in the WISH calendar.

Sultana Afdhal
Sultana Afdhal

As WISH CEO Sultana Afdhal explains, they are going fully virtual for WISH 2020 – the 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, the decision to host a fully virtual summit was driven by the global situation we are all encountering, but 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.

Afdhal said that although participants will not be coming to Doha physically this year, they want to make sure (that) 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.

She said that with so many international participants, they want to emphasise Qatar’s focus and achievements in healthcare innovation and for participants to have a full perspective on the innovations that are being developed here.

Nick Bradshaw
Nick Bradshaw

According to Nick Bradshaw, Director of Partnerships and Outreach at WISH, innovating and creating solutions to make the virtual 2020 Summit 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. It’s going to be very immersive and interactive.

He said that 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, the WISH 2020 Summit will have an expanded programme spanning five days. As Afdhal explained, the current situation has given them more flexibility and allowed them to have a bigger programme this year.

WISH 2020 Summit PR 1

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 with 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 will be 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 not part of the original plans for the event, COVID-19 will feature in many of the discussions taking place across the five days.

Bradshaw said that WISH seeks to address global health challenges in an innovative way, and there has never been a more pressing health challenge than COVID-19.

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.

According to Bradshaw, they have had a strong focus on healthcare leaders in previous summits, and he said that this is still a core element of the summit but this time, they are also ensuring that frontline healthcare workers are in the spotlight. Holding the WISH 2020 Summit online means they are able to invite more of them virtually – bring them into discussions, and supporting and celebrating them.

For more information about the WISH 2020 Summit and to register, visit wish.org.qa