PIMCO Foundation

Global Health Corporate Champions - The Return

In my previous blog I discussed the importance of building personal relationships and the impact that has on business outcomes.

In my previous blog I discussed the importance of building personal relationships and the impact that has on business outcomes. I will now attempt to discuss the scope of my project in greater detail, the work we did for our host organization, and promote the benefits of pro bono work.

To recap, our client, The HealthKeepers Network (HKN), is a social marketing NGO that adopts a franchising business model in order to address key health objectives in local communities around Ghana. Their focus is primarily on prevention and education of HIV, malaria, effects of drinking unsanitary water, along with family planning and hygiene. The organization buys products wholesale and sells them to community leaders (mainly women), called “HealthKeepers,” for a small mark up. The HealthKeepers then walk door to door in their communities and educate families on health issues, and ultimately sell them products based upon their needs. Upon the sale, the HealthKeeper also charges a small markup on the product to the end client, so they are essentially running their own for-profit business. This is an effective model that also has other key benefits, such as empowering women and educating local communities, which are critical to creating positive long-term behavioral changes in health. Most NGOs in Ghana focus on addressing the symptoms of key health issues, but very few try to address the causes. The HealthKeepers Network addresses the causes by focusing on prevention and education, so it was critical that we help this organization grow to impact more communities.

The scope of our project was to aid the HealthKeepers Network in addressing current sustainability and driving future growth to ensure that more people are receiving the critical services that they provide. They currently receive funding through the United States Agency of International Development, but that contract is set to expire in 2017 and as a result they needed to evaluate their current processes and get more funding. In order to do this, we identified three key areas where the organization needed enhancements. They needed to improve their communications framework, make operational enhancements related to their organizational structure and processes, and develop a framework of funding and partnerships. This was a daunting task given the timeframe of only one month to produce these deliverables, but we were grateful to be working with the Executive Director of HKN, Daniel Mensah, who had set us up for success prior to our arrival with every meeting and event we needed in order to understand these issues and provide recommendations as quickly as possible.

We learned almost immediately that HKN had a very powerful and unique story, but they didn’t know how to communicate it. In order to more properly convey the HKN brand, they needed to define their value proposition into three key themes in order to streamline messaging across different stakeholders, drive awareness, and secure buy in from partners and funders. These three themes were identified as the unique distribution network HKN has with key relationships among community members across 26 districts in Ghana, the education and training process critical to informing underserved communities on key health issues in order to enact positive long term behavioral changes in health, and the empowerment of women due to their franchisee business model which is critical to creating healthier outcomes and evolving communities. Once this value proposition was defined, we needed to identify a clear understanding of the different stakeholders involved and provide the HealthKeepers Network with tools/guidelines (such as branding, internet, media, etc) to help drive the consistency of that message.

Next we identified several enhancements that could be made to HKN’s current operational processes in order to make them more efficient both now and in the future as they continue to expand their impact into new communities. HKN requires senior resources such as dedicated Communications and HR executives. However, we recognized that these resources are very expensive and HKN couldn't afford to hire them given current funding levels, so in order to address this issue we proposed utilizing interns from the University of Ghana (dozens of interns are immersed into the NGO sphere each year as a learning experience) to take on daily administrative tasks and free up time for the most senior resources to spend addressing the communication and HR needs HKN has.

We also revamped their reporting system for recording Key Performance Indicators, which are essential to legitimizing the communications strategy, providing actionable detail for use with monitoring and evaluation of the business, and to support the case for future funding. I built their metrics infrastructure using several excel spreadsheets and made recommendations as to which Key Performance Indicators were most important to focus on in the short-term and which were important to monitoring long-term success. We also worked to update their product and forecasting policies to ensure that HKN’s current inventory reflects the demand of each community and that there was a sufficient amount of product on hand to maximize output.

Improving the communications strategy and enhancing operational processes still could not guarantee near term sustainability and future growth. We worked with HKN to also identify a list of complimentary partners to supplement their existing expertise and amplify their current services. They also needed to diversify their funding strategy from a single funder (United States Agency for International Development i.e. USAID) to more diversified sources of funding (private sector, endowments, private donations) to reduce vulnerability and increase level of support to current and future aspirations, so we created a template for them to use to request additional funding in the most effective manner.

Recognizing that the recommendations we provided could not be completed all at once, we also prioritized each deliverable into three phases to provide them with a road map to sustaining and growing their operations over the next five years.

Overall, the Global Health Corporate Champions program was a life-changing experience. Having the opportunity to observe individuals and organizations that truly live to serve others was very humbling and inspiring. Experiencing the welcoming Ghanaian culture was amazing, and the multi-company structure of this pro bono program allowed me to learn from colleagues of different backgrounds and experiences and expand my global leadership skills.

I am grateful to PIMCO, the PIMCO Foundation, and my team for giving me the opportunity to experience the many benefits of this pro bono project. I can say with confidence that while the work I did will have a lasting impact with the HealthKeepers Network, I learned a lot more from them than they learned from me. To my colleagues at PIMCO, I highly recommend both this program and pro bono work in any form. We are very fortunate to work at a firm that encourages this type of experience. Take advantage of it.

The Volunteer

Tim Quagliarello

Senior Associate

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