I recently had the opportunity to represent VillageReach and the Malawi-based mHealth program Chipatala Cha Pa Foni (CCPF) at a capacity building workshop hosted and facilitated by Open Capital, an ICT organization based in Nairobi, Kenya. I joined 10 other grantees of the United Nation Foundation’s Innovations Working Group, an initiative committed to advancing the the use of mobile technology to improve health outcomes – particularly as it relates to development in low- and middle-income countries.
IWG sponsored us to attend, providing the opportunity to share best practices with other leading programs, while challenging us to answer tough questions about our models for scale and sustainability. Open Capital “grilled us” to better understand and define our project’s value proposition and planning for growth with emphasis on how to achieve our potential and what resources are required to do that. These discussions lead to more understanding about investor expectations and managing investor processes.
We had the privilege to hear from some incredible speakers that presented on a wide range of topics relevant to our work, for example government engagement and The Global Fund application process. Several statements made during these presentations stood out to me:
- Having a well-defined value proposition helps an organization focus on activities that are core to its mission and to develop clear, coherent communication strategies.
- Transition to sustainability is a gradual process that takes different amounts of time for different organizations; often the non-profit and for profit parts of the organization will run in parallel for a number of years – the non-profit arm of a business might run as a “loss-leader” for strategic reasons (e.g. customer retention, tax purposes, social mission)
- Financial projections are important even for donor-funded organizations: they set milestones, budget for costs, and determine financing needs
The workshop format was very interactive, engaging participants in different ways to present and defend projects. Activities ranged from group discussions to individual presentations, judged by a panel who assessed the uniqueness and relevance of the projects and offered advice on how best to improve them.
I had experienced a similar panel earlier in the year at the Regional Conference on Digital Health Summit where VillageReach took second place. This time, I am proud to say that VillageReach and CCPF received the highest votes out of all 10 presenters! No doubt this success can be attributed in part to a new partnership between Africa’s largest mobile carrier, Airtel and a merger between their Dial-a- Doc service and CCPF. This partnership is paving the way for a sustainable mHealth model, something that all of us who have worked on CCPF are incredibly excited about.
It is my hope that with its expansion in scope and geography in the coming year Chipatala Cha Pa Foni will significantly improve health outcomes in Malawi
Finally, it should be put on the record that, having the highest votes in two mobile health summits demonstrates how innovative and relevant CCPF has been to Malawi and the broader global mHealth community, particularly in Africa. It is my hope that with its expansion in scope and geography in the coming year Chipatala Cha Pa Foni will significantly improve health outcomes in Malawi for the underserved population that it is meant to serve and support. I am hopeful that our current partners, along with IWG, will continue to support VillageReach’s work to increase the capacity and reach of my country’s national health system by leveraging the power of mobile technology to improve access to reliable, relevant and timely health information and care for all Malawians.