February 26, 2019

A Match Made in Innovation Heaven: Partnerships & Collaboration

At the end of January, assistant director of programs Andrea Taylor spoke at the SDG Mashup hosted at Impact Hub Geneva in Switzerland. The purpose of the SDG Mashup on the UN's Sustainable Development Goal 3 Good Health and Well-being was to not only showcase leading innovations in healthcare that have impact on SDG 3, but to foster connections and collaborations between sectors to accelerate the achievement of SDG 3. This is a summary of her talk.

If all it took to solve the sustainable development goal 3 (SDG3) were good ideas, we could all go home and celebrate; job well done. But as all innovators know, good ideas are not enough. The challenge ahead of us is to get these good ideas to market, to iterate and scale them, and then to adapt them to new contexts. And one of the best ways to do this is to form partnerships and collaborations.

Here are two examples of how innovators in our network have scaled through doing just this:

MicroensureInnovator MicroEnsure develops insurance products for emerging markets in Africa and south Asia. Eighty-five percent of their customers have never had any insurance previously. MicroEnsure formed a partnership with Airtel, one of the top mobile phone providers in sub-Saharan Africa, and offered their customers automatic health insurance upon purchasing a prepaid package. Customers could increase their benefits by purchasing more airtime. As the customers experienced the benefits, Airtel sales increased significantly. This gave Airtel a competitive advantage, helped MicroEnsure scale into a new market, and improved primary care use. While health insurance and mobile phones are perhaps not a natural match, this collaboration led to a win for everyone.

 

Penda HealthAnother innovator, Penda Health, is a network of outpatient health centers targeting low- and middle-income communities in Nairobi. The premise is that low-cost, high-quality care can prevent and treat the leading causes of mortality and morbidity. Through Innovations in Healthcare, Penda has connected with impact investors, raising more than three million dollars, and with philanthropic funders, including the Pfizer Foundation, who have supported the development of new services. Innovations in Healthcare has also connected Penda with industry experts, a pro bono legal counsel, a finance executive to coach their team, academic researchers who evaluated their health impacts, and a strategy coach. With all this support, Penda has grown from one clinic in 2012 to eleven in 2018 and sees 150,000 patients a year. Their patient population is ninety-one percent low income and their clinics are self-sustaining and become profitable within twelve months.

 

 The Role of Pivoting

White paperThis talk of collaborative success does not always come easily, however. Pivoting often occurs when the original idea or strategy does not result as planned. This month, Innovations in Healthcare, in partnership with and the Pfizer Foundation’s Global Health Innovation Grants program, released a white paper on this very topic. Here are two key points about pivots:

  •  It is important to measure results from the start so that you know early if a pivot is needed. Set success metrics and then review them. Failing fast and iterating is a key marker of innovations that will scale.
  • Communicate clearly to all partners, including advisors, staff, funders, and customers throughout the pivot process.
 
Together We Can

As discussed at Impact Hub, there are many inspiring ideas and clever teams focused on achieving SDG3. But scaling good ideas and impact is harder than it looks. It requires collaboration and aligned goals across many different players. Innovations in Healthcare was launched out of a collaboration that began in Switzerland. Multinational corporations, funders, innovators, and an academic center came together to work toward a common goal. Seven years later, we facilitate a network of innovative models around the world that are spreading through partnerships and collaboration. Ninety-three percent of our network reported growth in the past year; seventy-five percent expanded to new locations and forty-two percent expanded into new countries. If we find ways to align our interests and collaborate, we can achieve health and well-being for all. Geneva is in the unique position of having all of the needed players in abundance. Through the Impact Hub’s coordinating work, there is a great opportunity to demonstrate what we can achieve together and to change millions of lives.

 
Read more about Innovations in Healthcare’ network of innovators here.

Andrea Taylor