Sam Nye, Joint Head of CoMO
It’s already February 2024. That means a very exciting milestone for CoMO. This year is 20 years since meningitis organisations and advocates from around the world came together and agreed to create a global network to defeat meningitis.
We’ve come a very long way since then. We’ve moved our headquarters from Australia to the UK, we’ve played a key role in the WHO Global Road Map to Defeat Meningitis by 2030 and it’s three years since we became part of Meningitis Research Foundation.
We’ve got lots of plans for our 20th year, so here’s what’s ahead.
Growing CoMO’s membership
Over the past few years, we’ve seen significant growth in CoMO’s membership, especially in our Africa region, thanks in part to the visibility and vision of the WHO Global Road Map to Defeat Meningitis by 2030.
We need CoMO to continue to grow, reaching parts of the world that currently have no members and who are consequently missing the critical perspective of those closest to the experience of meningitis.
We will be working to identify new members this year, with a particular focus on the Asia Pacific region, where we've historically found it difficult to bring new groups and advocates on board.
Supporting our members with what they need
Before we can look to grow, we need to make sure we’re providing the best possible membership for our existing members – some of whom have been with us since the very beginning.
We’ve been working hard since the end of 2023 to create the best package for members at all stages, bringing in new expertise to support the development of this for CoMO. Laura Ross joined us in the middle of January as joint Head of CoMO – expect to hear more from Laura very soon.
One of our top priorities will always be supporting our members to be strong advocates to defeat meningitis. There’s no doubt that we’re stronger together.
We re-launched our quarterly regional calls at the end of last year and this year we’re trying out new tools to make it even easier for members to take part, using live translations.
Our annual members’ conference in 2024 and 2025
Attendees at our 2023 conference
An even bigger moment for us to come together is, of course, our annual member conference.
Last year was our first in-person conference since the pandemic, and it was inspiring to see everyone together again. It was noticeable, however, that a significant proportion of our membership couldn’t join us, due to the distance they'd have to travel, visa problems or concerns about language barriers.
This year we are aiming to get our largest membership participation so far and to do this we will be holding a virtual conference in June 2024, with live translations and an emphasis on maximum accessibility for all members. At the same time, we have already started to make plans for the next in-person conference for June 2025, which will be our very first in Africa.
Powerful campaigns and the launch of our World Meningitis Day advocacy fund
Powerful advocacy also requires the right tools. We will be building on the success of last year’s awareness campaigns by providing refreshed resources for both World Immunization Week (with our immunization toolkit) and World Meningitis Day.
Members will, once again, be able to play an integral role in the creation and execution of the most successful meningitis awareness day in the world – World Meningitis Day (pioneered by CoMO members in 2009).
One of our most exciting new developments this year will be the launch of our World Meningitis Day advocacy fund, to support members to run activities in their communities and countries on 5th October. More on this in the months ahead.
CoMO and the Road Map: more from Race to 2030
As a backdrop to everything we do is, of course, the WHO Global Road Map to Defeat Meningitis by 2030. The vast majority of what we do as a member organisation connects to this, which is why last year we launched our Race to 2030 program (to support members in being up-to-date with, and engaged with, Road Map developments).
Our network is crucial in keeping the voice of civil society at the very heart of the Road Map as it is implemented. Through continued consultation with our members, we will be producing more resources throughout 2024 and beyond to help members advocate for the changes they want to see where they are, be that improved access to vaccination or better after-care for people who’ve already been affected by the disease.
Reaching more and more people: new website and flying the meningitis flag
To showcase the inspiring work of our members, and to encourage others to join us, we’ll also be completely refreshing our website, bringing it together with the Meningitis Research Foundation website to reach, inform and engage with more people across the world on why meningitis should, and must, be defeated. And we’ll continue to fly the Meningitis Flag, so that more and more people are aware of why everyone should be protected against meningitis, why we must support those affected by it and how it can be defeated.
We’ve got a busy year in front of us, and with 2025 just around the corner, marking the halfway point for the Road Map’s goals, it’s never been more important for us to work together. We’ve come so far in 20 years. What can our movement achieve in another 20?