People + technology as a best investment

Gib Bulloch of Accenture Development Partnerships at the 5th Womensphere Emerging Leaders Global Summit held in January 2014. Photo by: Womensphere / CC BY-NC-ND

Gib Bulloch, founder and global managing director of Accenture Development Partnerships, is all about putting money into ideas that work.

In an interview with PSI Impact, he regrets how community health workers, often the backbone of local health systems in developing countries, are often ignored by the international aid community, as well as low-level technology that has proven great value for money like mHealth.

Bulloch thus supports investing in both — people and technology — to truly make progress in global health.

Check out the below interview for more insights from the head of Accenture Development Partnerships on scaling innovations, making better use of one’s resources to maximize development outcomes and managing risk:

Can you tell us about Accenture Development Partnerships and how it operates?

At ADP, we describe ourselves as a corporate social enterprise. We started as a means of going beyond the traditional one-off pro bono projects to be a self-sustaining, scalable vehicle for channeling our business and technology expertise to the development sector. We do that on a not-for-profit basis, but we’re a not-for-loss arm as well — ours is a cost neutral tripartite business model with an investment from Accenture, our employees, and our clients. With access to approximately 280,000 Accenture employees, we get the highest performers at marginal cost. When ADP first started, Accenture worked with businesses commercially, and we worked with NGOs, but we have seen a clear shift over the past five years. Moving forward, we will be working increasingly at the nexus of business, NGOs, governments, and community-based organizations.

What do you see as a best buy in global health?

Investing in community health workers. They are often the backbone of the local health system, and are instrumental in educating communities in preventative care — thereby easing the burden on the broader health systems. MHealth is also a best buy, and will start to challenge the roles, structures and actors in development and demonstrate great value for money as to how we diagnose and track diseases. Bringing investment in low and high tech innovations together also creates value for money. We’re working with AMREF and the government in Kenya to train CHWs using an mHealth platform, building upon lessons learned from the e-learning platform that we developed to train over 22,000 registered nurses. This multi-year investment has proven cost-effective and allowed us to move beyond training centers and into local communities, reaching thousands of community-based health workers.

There’s no point in just having a good idea or innovation without the right environment to move forward and take it to scale. How is ADP helping to build that environment for success?

To deliver these solutions, answers will come from bringing together new coalitions around particular issue platforms based on each organization’s competencies. At ADP, we see ourselves catalyzing and convening conversations that may ordinarily not happen. Someone once said, ‘What we need is some oomph on the ground in this country.’ So we provide the oomph in many cases.

If you could, how would you continue to focus your resources to do more?

Our bias is towards getting people to the front line where there is the greatest need — and least access — for our kind of capabilities. We want to strategize in conjunction with our clients and their employees. One interesting best buy is the notion of ‘social intrapreneurship,’ and how we can identify great development ideas amidst large companies already working at scale. We ran a “social intrapreneur” competition, and one of the winners was a middle-manager chemist from GSK, who developed a low-cost diagnostic tool — creating a new business opportunity for GSK, and massive social impact. Tapping into the innovation potential of all employees working in large companies is something that we are quite excited about.

There is a risk involved in piloting. How does ADP weigh the risks that are associated with any of these investments, and is there an example of risk that ADP took together with clients that has led to successful outcomes?

Because we are a self-sustaining non-profit model, we can experiment. Where we are successful, we can then go to scale. A good example is our work with Coca-Cola and the Gates Foundation, working to transfer knowledge and technology from Coca-Cola’s logistics expertise and operations: Why can we get a Coke anywhere in the world but we can’t get medicines where they are needed most? We set out to improve the effectiveness of the health system and proved the model in Tanzania, finding that significant savings — up to 25 percent — can be taken out of logistics costs. Now we’ve taken the model to Ghana and are looking at branching out to about 10 countries in Africa. When something works, we can scale it. We have to get beyond this mentality of projects and pilots and move toward scalable platforms and solutions.

This story is part of Best Buys in Global Health, a campaign by PSI, PATH and Devex to highlight sound investments in global health. Find out more.

Read more:

Technology ‘disrupting’ traditional aid model — Accenture

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