We believe that the world’s greatest challenges will never be solved by one person or organization alone. We need to work together! We are introducing our new series #MeetTheCreators with a monthly interview with a member showing his/her impact and work for reaching the sustainable development goals.
Meet our SDG this month:
The Sustainable Development Goal Nr 3 wants to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
Meet our creators this month:
|SDG:||Nr 3 – Good health and well-being|
Stefano, you co-founded a consulting agency spezialised in Global Health; what are you now working on?
My partner, a medical doctor and former WHO officer, and me coming from a mixed business and public health background saw an unmet need in the work performed by Global Health Organizations such as WHO, Gavi, UNICEF, the Gates Foundation while contributing to the achievement of the SDGs. We believe that MMGH Consulting can help address that need.
What unmet need specifically do you refer to? And does this relate to the Sustainable Development Goals?
We work on communicable diseases and immunization; this means Sustainable Development Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all. In the specific, we work with Global Health organizations throughout the entire life cycle of their programs. From designing strategies to combat a disease, to supporting with the definition of investment cases that can help fundraise, from facilitating the definition of the appropriate technical requirements of products and programs to helping design successful programs and products. Once the program or product is in place and launched, we help in evaluating and monitoring it, or assess supply and demand, balances, etc. In doing so we always keep well in mind the ultimate goal – saving lives and improving quality of life.
What are you trying to do different from other agencies in this space?
Normally, in Global Health you find a lot of expertise on the technical and scientific side. You can discuss epidemiology, technical development, how to reach a certain population or downstream, how to measure the results and hard data elements. If you are a commercial organization how much revenue have you generated. There is less discussion about the soft component of the equation. The understanding of the interrelation between multiple domains that determine the health outcomes. Our approach is to combine the scientific and technical approach to health problems with the societal, human and behavioural aspect. If I design a better medicine that the patient doesn’t want to take or a new program that is not accepted by the population – it will have no impact.
How is the transition going for you from working as employee to being an entrepreneur?
For the first 20 years of my professional life, I moved back and forth from public and private sector. I always had an interest for the entrepreneurial “creation-side”. Even when in large organizations, I enjoyed the opportunity of shaping something from an unmet need. A bit more than one year ago, I decided to give it a try. First, I worked on revitalizing a biotech start-up that was developing an interesting new platform for vaccine development, this lasted only 8 months. I am now trying again with a completely different idea for a different type of problem: providing Global Health Organizations with a truly multidisciplinary support framework for their decisions. I don’t really like calling it a service, because it is more than that.
You cover such a wide range of problems – from adoption to coordinating with organizations and partnerships – how do choose your projects?
So far projects have found us… From a business standpoint, we try to think very practically and ask ourselves which organizations may need our combined set of skills. We also look at which projects we can help to generate a broader impact. It’s a combination between traditional business development and a more goal-oriented approach that looks at long lasting and sustainable impact. As far as we can, we would like to avoid working on projects just for the sake of revenue.
|MMGH facilitates the Mid-Term review of the Regional Strategic Plan on Immunisation at WHO’s regional office in Brazaville, Congo Republic (Foto by MMGH Consulting)|
Where do you find the room to experiment while you are dealing with such complex projects?
We are seriously thinking about engineering space for it and going as far as saying that a certain percentage of our time should not be billable. The vision, is that everybody in the company should have 20% time where they can experiment, learn and be creative. If at the end of the year you have billed 100% of your hours it is rather difficult to be innovative squeezed by project timelines and deliverables. And a 20% of your time not billable still leave sufficient return for everybody to be happy with a fair economic return.
I strongly believe in this, because through my career, in all my positions I often ended up being squeezed. No matter which part of the value chain you are part of. You can be a supplier, you can be a producer. You are always working 110%. And you have no time to stop and think. You must be intentional to consciously stop and think.
Is this also the reason for you to have joined Impact Hub Zurich?
Yes, I joined to have that space and interaction with people from other fields, from where new ideas come. It seemed logical to join. This kind of exchange happens much easier in an environment that is multidisciplinary with people not all working on the same thing. And the environment is exciting and stimulating. Learning from my failed experience in the past, you must do something that motivates you and excites you every day. But you also must do it with people who share the same values. You find all of this at the Hub.
What would you tell people who want to work in Global Health?
(Stefano, makes a funny noise, that sounds as if that was equally a very exciting and very bad idea). Let’s start with saying that this is a not a straightforward space to work in. On one hand I cannot think about anything more involving than helping saving women’s lives or children’s lives and to work to help people and countries who are the most fragile and at risk. We work on SDG3 – on immunization and communicable diseases and it is about saving lives and improving lives of women and kids. On the other hand, it is a very special field that requires many skills, especially if you try to “join the club” later in your professional life where paradoxically you can contribute more taking a more diverse experience. Because ultimately, it’s a very special world, rather closed, with its own rules, with its own ways of operating and with organizations that in their functioning are not the easiest to understand. And if you don’t understand the people and the organizations, it is quite difficult to work in. Not because people reject you, but because you are simply not on the same wave-length. That’s the biggest obstacle that private companies trying to work in Global Health must overcome.
Since you started building the company has there been something surprising that happened and you could share?
It may be serendipity, but it has occurred frequently that after discussing casually a topic with someone, within days, this topic becomes the centre for a potential solution or a new contract. To me this goes back to the vision of the Impact Hub: an open network of people with whom you can discuss ideas that can grow. This really is at the core of today’s world and about how we find solutions. Since we started out agency, it has occurred much more frequently than I thought it would.
Sonja Bichsel, Storytelling, Communications, Civic participation, Education & Coaching