Global Development’s Latest Challenge: Conference Fatigue

They say those who can’t do, teach. But those who can do neither? They attend conferences.

Harsh as this claim may seem, anyone who has attended a global development conference in recent years could attest to the growing degree of uniformity among these meetings: their format, their speakers, their methods of audience engagement, the depth (or lack thereof) of their dialogue, the inevitable badge-gazing as attendees stroll through lobbies and hallways, eyes glued to nametags and lanyards. Isn’t it time these conferences were held accountable for serving a purpose commensurate with the goals to which they so loudly and so often aspire?

Full article on Huffington Post 

‘Sustainability’ Remains the Holy Grail: But the road to achieving it is paved with divergent visions

There are few, if any, keywords that receive as much airtime in global health and development as “sustainability”* (save for perhaps the dreaded I’s of “innovation” and “impact”). Fourteen letters long, it has at least as many connotations, as elusive to articulate as it is to achieve. Yet it remains the holy grail of all global development programs. It is the lighthouse that guides social entrepreneurships, the posts adjoining global health field goals, the fountain of youth empowerment. In (slightly) less figurative terms, it is the heart of the post-2015 development agenda, pumping blood into redefined interventions and targets that seek to end poverty and disease.

Two weeks ago, global health leaders gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the Partners’ Forum to shape the post-2015 agenda for maternal and child health. And, naturally, sustainability reared its mystical head. On the surface, it would appear that the roughly 1,200 participants from NGOs, UN agencies, governments, companies and universities reached an important consensus: Sustainability is and will remain a chief element of all efforts to end preventable maternal and child mortality. But just below the surface lay a truth even more profound: Sustainability manifests differently for just about everyone.

Full article on Next Billion 

Farm to Family (and, Hopefully, Health and Wealth): Produce distribution model in India builds in economic empowerment

When you think about efforts to improve global health, your mind is likely to turn to medical interventions: vaccines, health worker training, supplies, health infrastructure improvements and the like. But ensuring the health and well-being for low-income and vulnerable communities throughout the world often requires much more.

In India, “much more” comes in many forms. But for the social enterprise eKutir and its VeggieKart initiative, “much more” means agriculture and nutrition, and it means filling gaps in the value chain so farmers and consumers alike can share in healthier, more productive livelihoods.

Full article on Next Billion 

Ziqitza ambulances make money while serving India’s poor

In the ever-evolving landscape of global business, it is not uncommon to conflate traditional business with social business – particularly when it comes to health.

How does, say, a pharmaceutical company that makes billions in profit by selling health products differ from a small enterprise that improves the health of a surrounding community and manages to stay financially solvent?

It is a nuanced distinction, but an important one. And it is one that Sweta Mangal, CEO of Ziqitza Health Care Limited – a leading social enterprise in India – recently made clear to me.

Full article on Christian Science Monitor 

Social Enterprise in Haiti: An oxymoron or a reality?

It is no secret that social entrepreneurship is trending. Not just on Twitter (via the hashtag #socent) but in real life, too, with thousands of socially minded innovators pioneering new, market-based solutions to some of the world’s toughest challenges.

But this “movement” has hit some roadblocks. In many parts of the world, communities are too poor to qualify as viable customers, leaving little if any revenue to be made. In other places, social enterprises have found success cultivating a market, but haven’t been able to scale up their operations beyond a small region or population. And in particularly vulnerable areas, NGOs have saturated the market such that businesses have no way of contending for customers. After all, how can anyone compete with free?

This last challenge is especially prevalent in Haiti, where the 2010 earthquake devastated hundreds of thousands of people and an ensuing cholera outbreak killed thousands more and remains endemic throughout the country. In light of this, foreign aid has flooded in from all angles, comprising two-thirds of the government’s budget and paving the way for unprecedented NGO activity: There are an estimated 16,000 NGOs in Haiti – more than one per square mile.

Full article on Next Billion 

When Human Rights Protests Cost Lives: How can the world fight Uganda’s anti-gay laws without hurting the health of its citizens? The private sector may be the answer

Just over a month ago, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni famously signed a harsh anti-gay bill into law, effectively outlawing same-sex activity in his country and prompting three Western nations to freeze their foreign aid to Uganda, with several more expected to follow suit.

Joining the majority of African countries – and (too) many others around the world – Uganda’s decision to ban homosexuality presents a critical dilemma for the international community: How can we reconcile the country’s unacceptable human rights violations with its dire need for development assistance? Can we make a diplomatic statement without comprising the health and economic condition of Uganda’s most vulnerable people? As one might expect, this nuanced challenge does not have a black and white solution; rather it falls into what I would call a newly minted “g(r)ay area of global development.”

Coming amid a flurry of recent stories linking LGBT rights and global development – from Russia’s anti-gay law that drew attentionduring the Sochi Olympics to World Vision USA’s decision to continue its discrimination against people in same-sex marriages – this latest anti-gay position reflects a trend among developing countries, especially those in Africa. According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, 38 African nations criminalize homosexuality, four of which have death penalty punishments built into their laws. Reprehensible in principle as they are inhumane in severity, these laws bring with them far-reaching implications about the continent’s overall development, perhaps most notably in their public health outcomes.

Full article on Next Billion