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The power of partnering for global health equity!

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”African proverb

This proverb very much resonated with me this past  week when I participated in a summit about Accelerating Healthcare Access(AHA)  with the Philips Foundation and Ashoka.

Over the last 3 months I had the special privilege of being part of the Ashoka Globalizer program. This is a collaborative effort between Ashoka, the world’s leading social entrepreneur incubator, and the Philips Foundation to support scaling of novel healthcare solutions in developing countries.

With the Ashoka Globalizer program, Philips employees got to lend our business skills to social entrepreneurs who are at the front line of solving healthcare problems in developing countries. The organization that I supported, Shonaquip, is a social enterprise with 15+ years experience in fighting for inclusion for children with mobility disability. We did  a 3 month engagement of helping them build a strategy to scale their impact across sub Saharan Africa.

It is well known that developing countries are experiencing a shift in health patterns for the past few decades, to look more like their developed counterparts. Great public health work has given us a control over infectious diseases and additionally globalization/ urbanization and lifestyle changes are driving the rise of  chronic diseases in developing countries. This phenomenon is a call to action for the world’s leading healthcare companies that have since mastered solution for the chronic diseases in developed markets. Additionally, these same healthcare companies are experiencing squeezed margins in the saturated developed markets and have been in search of new growth opportunities, hence the rise of the phenomenon of  “emerging markets.”

However for most companies these markets have remained just that, “emerging” since they started out in them, and shareholders are still waiting for the promised growth.They wanted to go fast, alone and quickly realized it does not work.

The biggest reason for this has been organizations finding out that the solutions and experience they built their success on in developed markets do not directly apply to the complexity of emerging markets. A learning and experience curve is therefore required to be successful in them. What better way to learn than to partner with those who have the experience and knowledge of this space, non-profits and in this case social entrepreneurs.

Non-profits and social entrepreneurs are incredible sources of knowledge and experience about solving problems in emerging markets. They have been on the ground for decades, delivering services and products to last mile communities in spite of the broken healthcare systems in most developing settings. However they often lack business knowledge, networks and resources to adequately scale their impact and this is where companies like Philips come in.

The Ashoka globalizer program occupies an important space of shared value between social entrepreneurs and corporate entities. It bridges the knowledge, resource and experience gap between social entrepreneurs and corporate partners by leveraging the capabilities of Philips employees as an industry leader in health technology to support passionate Ashoka fellows who maybe less business savvy.

All smiles meeting Shona, Sarah and Michela for the first time in person, since working together virtually for 3 months! 

My journey as part of the team supporting Shonaquip was profound in many ways.  I first of all have immense respect for their passion and work and our team quickly realized we cannot tell them how to do it better. Our business skills came in handy in figuring out how they communicate their mission and vision succinctly to the varied stakeholders in their ecosystem, in particular the corporate funders that they were appealing to for support in their project. My personal marketing expertise was key to unlocking questions of Shonaquip’s  value proposition to their stakeholders and collectively, the team got Shonaquip to a robust deliverable including project management specifics and business modelling that would inspire confidence in their teams and their stakeholders. 3 days before the summit, we were proud to learn that they had been awarded the funding they were working towards throughout our time together.

I am inspired and energized by the Ashoka globalizer and the promise of what partnering for global health equity can achieve. It also signifies a shift in the western approach to solving problems in developing countries, from a paternalistic approach of imposing their solutions into this space, to a more productive approach of  leveraging local knowledge and co-creating solutions with those on the ground.

Through strategic partnering such as in the Ashoka Globalizer program, I sincerely believe we will go far together in the fight for global health equity!

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