Background: The success of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is predicated on multisectoral collaboration (MSC), and the COVID-19 pandemic makes it more urgent to learn how this can be done better. Complex challenges facing countries, such as COVID-19, cut across health, education, environment, financial and other sectors. Addressing these challenges requires the range of responsible sectors and intersecting services – across health, education, social and financial protection, economic development, law enforcement, among others – transform the way they work together towards shared goals. While the necessity of MSC is recognized, research is needed to understand how sectors collaborate, inform how to do so more efficiently, effectively and equitably, and ascertain similarities and differences across contexts. To answer these questions and inform practice, research to strengthen the evidence-base on MSC is critical. Methods: This paper draws on a 12-country study series on MSC for health and sustainable development, in the context of the health and rights of women, children and adolescents. It is written by core members of the research coordination and country teams. Issues were analyzed during the study period through ‘real-time’ discussions and structured reporting, as well as through literature reviews and retrospective feedback and analysis at the end of the study. Results: We identify four considerations that are unique to MSC research which will be of interest to other researchers, in the context of COVID-19 and beyond: 1) use theoretical frameworks to frame research questions as relevant to all sectors and to facilitate theoretical generalizability and evolution; 2) specifically incorporate sectoral analysis into MSC research methods; 3) develop a core set of research questions, using mixed methods and contextual adaptations as needed, with agreement on criteria for research rigor; and 4) identify shared indicators of success and failure across sectors to assess MSCs. Conclusion: In responding to COVID-19 it is evident that effective MSC is an urgent priority. It enables partners from diverse sectors to effectively convene to do more together than alone. Our findings have practical relevance for achieving this objective and contribute to the growing literature on partnerships and collaboration. We must seize the opportunity here to identify remaining knowledge gaps on how diverse sectors can work together efficiently and effectively in different settings to accelerate progress towards achieving shared goals.
- Adolescent health
- Multisectoral collaboration
- Sustainable development goals
- children’s health
- women’s health