Efforts to strengthen health systems require the engagement of diverse, multidisciplinary stakeholder networks. Networks provide a forum for experimentation and knowledge creation, information exchange and the spread of good ideas and practice. They might be useful in addressing complex issues or ‘wicked’ problems, the solutions to which go beyond the control and scope of any one agency.
Innovation platforms are proposed as a novel type of network because of their diverse stakeholder composition and focus on problem solving within complex systems. Thus, they have potential applicability to health systems strengthening initiatives, even though they have been predominantly applied in the international agricultural development sector.
In this paper, we compare and contrast the concept of innovation platforms with other types of networks that can be used in efforts to strengthen primary healthcare systems, such as communities of practice, practice-based research networks and quality improvement collaboratives. We reflect on our ongoing research programme that applies innovation platform concepts to drive large-scale quality improvement in primary healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and outline our plans for evaluation. Lessons from our experience will find resonance with others working on similar initiatives in global health.