"The Coalition had consultants in the past -- but this time, it was different," said Samuel Boateng Arthur, from Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health. "The team worked with us to set the agenda. We were involved at every step -- and their outside perspective helped us understand where the Coalition needs to go now." Arthur, the Regional Chairman for an organization that coordinates the work of 400 health NGOs in Ghana, is not speaking about a team of hired guns or paid consultants, but rather a group of employees from PwC, PIMCO, and the Dow Chemical Company working with the organization on a pro bono project. Last month, employees came to Accra, Ghana from throughout the US and Europe to take part in the Global Health Corporate Champions, an activity of U.S. Agency for International Development's Global Health Fellows Program (GHFP) II. They spent one ambitious and demanding month embedded in the Coalition and other powerhouse NGOs including HealthKeepers Network. Working side-by-side with leaders from these organizations, they delivered projects including a business plan, charting one organization's strategic direction for the next five years, and a communications strategy for another, complete with new materials and processes. Some of these participants included Aubrey Annan, Director of PwC's Health Industries Advisory, Austin Cazort who manages content marketing at PIMCO, and Darrell Boverhof, who is ordinarily immersed in world material science, from Dow. They probed their host to better understand its strengths, limitations, and areas of opportunity. "I expected that funding would be tight, mostly because Ghana was recently upgraded to middle-income status and would soon lose much of the funding that had been available to it as a low-income country," said Austin. "Once in Accra, however, I was shocked by the additional hurdles that non-profits face in an emerging market setting. Most of the issues have to do with access--access to funding, internet, roads, healthcare supplies, and training. I found that the individuals working in these organizations were passionate and highly educated, but were hindered in their effectiveness because of the infrastructure barriers that influenced business on all levels." The learning that comes out of these projects is not one-sided, nor is it limited to nonprofits. Applying professional skills in a cross-sector, emerging market setting builds a participant's leadership chops -- accelerating emotional intelligence and increasing their understanding of the nuances of working in a globalized economy. "The US tends to be very transactional with business engagement -- meaning people feel comfortable moving ahead with business matters without having established a relationship," said Darrell, who serves as Dow's Director of Product Sustainability Consulting. "In contrast, Ghanaians are very relationship-oriented, where they feel a need to develop trust and familiarity -- a relationship --prior to moving forward. I observed this at so many levels -- from our work with our NGO clients to the street hustler whose first priority is to engage and then the sell the merchandise." (See A Lesson in Sales, Ghana Style.) "Observing these cultural differences gave me a new self-awareness. It reminded me how relationships are a means for effective business engagement."
Pro bono participants are the future leaders of corporations that command billions of dollars in capital. Insights like Austin's and Darrell's -- gained through the eyes of experience -- infuses a new way of thinking about how to navigate the business opportunities that exist in emerging and frontier markets. They learn the importance of developing contextually-appropriate solutions not just in Ghana, but in any emerging market setting.
"Every day my eyes are opened further," reflected Global Health Corporate Champion participant, Marta Bezoari from PIMCO when she was in Ghana. "I learn things I never knew I didn't know. When I get back to the US, I want to raise awareness about Ghana from an investment perspective through my work at PIMCO." At PYXERA Global, we want to see a generation of corporate leaders infused with this kind of lens -- a mindset that will influence her or his approach to corporate strategy. A Catalyst for Collaboration
Drawing in different mindsets to health challenges traditionally tackled by one sector unlocks new thinking. The Global Health Corporate Champions was conceived in collaboration with USAID's Global Health Fellows Program (GHFP) II with the aim of diversifying the global health workforce by attracting corporate expertise. Implemented by the Public Health Institute and PYXERA Global, it brings business operational skills into the field of global health, which is a critical element of diversity. "This is a mini public-private-partnership in action," points out Sharon Rudy, Director of GHFP-II. "USAID makes this program possible by providing the underlying support through the Global Health Fellows Program II, while the corporate partners provide expertise through the skills and time of their employees." New Industry X New Collaborators X New Country = Adaptable Leadership
In my earlier piece, Beating VUCA's Whiplash, I outlined a framework of the leadership competencies necessary to create market-based solutions to the high-stakes social challenges facing the global economy. These include:
· Resiliency in the face of volatility · Adaptability to counter ubiquitous uncertainty · Distilled simplicity to approach complex problems · A curious mindset to unravel ambiguity
For one month, the Global Health Corporate Champions had to call on or quickly develop these abilities. They left behind all their known contexts -- their day jobs, their homes and families, their industries and sectors, and their countries to work in an environment where each of these were unknown. This type of experience is the birthplace of adaptable leadership. Comparatively, participant Aubrey Annan consults for PwC clients with tremendous budgets. "I have been impressed with the passion the NGOs have showed towards providing healthcare to the underserved, considering the various infrastructure and funding challenges and the prevalence of malaria and other communicable diseases," he says. "Working with limited resources and the funding constraints of Ghana's health sector, I'm not only learning more about healthcare challenges outside the US -- I'm learning new ways to approach problems that I'm bringing back to PwC."