Friday, November 13, 2009

Shamelessly Plugging My Job

So, I've been doing a lot of work over the past months, in a support and research function, around getting mothers2mothers ready for various meetings with Very Important People in the US. I'm not plugging myself here (unless you want me to brag about my PowerPoint skills...actually, maybe not) but rather mothers2mothers, which has just gone through an insane period of growth and has had enormous success in the past few years. To give you an idea, in 2007, we had 150 sites offering PMTCT counseling through Mentor Mothers, and we reached 55,000 clients. In 2009, we will have 600 sites in seven countries and will reach 300,000 HIV-positive pregnant women by the end of the year. This is 20% of all HIV-positive pregnant women in the world.

As Gene once said (and I paraphrase), that's the sort of thing you hear that makes you break down and cry.

mothers2mothers was the recipient of the 2008 Skoll Foundation Social Entrepreneur Award, and we've been making ripples in the social entrepreneurship, philanthrocapitalism, and venture philanthropy realms since then. Recently, my boss met with Skoll to talk about our success. You can see the Skoll post written about the meeting here, but I have also reprinted part of it below. The excerpt discusses m2m's "heresies"--the things we were doing that were radically different from most public health NGOs that we didn't even know were unique at the time.

Gene has a great set of lessons that he’s learned in the process of “building a program for today, but an organization for the long term.” I think they’re worth repeating:

  • Do one thing well - beware mission creep.
  • Don’t say yes unless you mean it - don’t morph what you do just to try to meet funder requests.
  • Magical thinking isn’t a strategy - we may all want something to be different, but we need to work with what we have.
  • Pay people fairly for what they do - mothers2mothers pays their local community mentor mothers, whom they train intensively on the preventive medical practices and coaching techniques needed to make the program successful. (Sadly, this concept is not widely embraced among providers of public health assistance in Africa, many of whom still insist on volunteer community health workers.)
  • “Development” and “Advancement” are euphemisms for sales, marketing and investor relations - call things what they are. There’s nothing wrong with this.
  • Technology won’t solve everything - mothers2mothers isn’t about the medicine, it’s about behaviors and practices.
  • Neither will process - it’s not about outputs, it’s about impact.
  • Neither cash nor caring are scalable commodities - you need to constantly replenish these.
  • Overhead is not evil - the best ideas, without an effective organization to deploy them, won’t succeed.

And, in keeping with my attempt to post more pictures, here is a photo from Wenli's blog that illustrates how "nice" the "spring/summer" weather has been so far. So glad I brought a fleece blanket to the Muizenberg beach.

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