If the Soup Is Sweet
WE’s first foray into an immersive, international pro bono program in Accra, Ghana, has concluded. Hugh, Stephanie and I have returned to our respective offices across the globe, feeling inspired and refreshed.
While in country, we wrote about how welcome we were, the feeling of Accra being in motion, and how important it is to shut up and listen. And now that we’re home, we can reflect on the big takeaways of WE’s Global Pro Bono Experience program. What we experienced. What we learned. What impact we had.
Spoiler: Everyone wins!
First, a quick refresher on the USAID Global Corporate Health Champions program itself: Stephanie, Hugh and I were three of 13 professionals from four countries and four companies — WE, Dow Chemical, SAP and PIMCO. We were embedded for one month in Accra, Ghana. The 13 of us drew from our collective expertise in management, communications, product sustainability, operations and finance to complete consulting projects for four social sector health organizations that provide vital healthcare services for communities throughout the region.
Making the Soup Sweet
The very first day we met our new clients, we heard a phrase that served as a beacon for the remainder of the month: If the soup is sweet, they will pull their chairs to the table.
No matter what continent you’re on, everyone wants their intended audience to pull their chairs to the table.
Our goal for the remaining four weeks centered around ways each of our respective organizations could define and deliver on their value proposition — aka sweeten their soup — to ultimately improve the effectiveness of their services.
As Hugh and I began work with our team, we learned a very important early lesson about making soup sweet. Our organization, the Ghana Registered Midwives Association (GRMA), gave us its 45-page strategy plan developed in 2011 by another set of consultants. It was very thorough and complete, but none of it had actually been implemented. The plan told GRMA why its soup wasn’t sweet and what it needed to do about it, but it hadn’t provided the recipe for how to sweeten it.
Team GRMA met with a vast array of stakeholders including Ghana’s first lady, the Ministry of Health and high-level education institutions to figure out what the recipe should be. Each other team also met with similarly important stakeholders and influencers to formulate their ideal recipe.
Ultimately, our collective recommendations to the NGOs involved a combination of new communications strategies, operational processes or data capture, and analysis techniques. But most important, we each focused on what would help each organization move from plan to action — for example, creating new, simple tools to run the organization better or facilitating media and presentation training to build capacity. Each team left Ghana hopeful that our work will keep each NGO’s soup sweet for a long time to come.
The Recipe for a Triple Benefit
The best part about this metaphor is that it can also extend. So many stakeholders were involved in this recipe, not just the local NGOs but also PYXERA Global (the facilitating organization), USAID and our team’s respective companies. To ultimately be successful as GHCC participants, the soup needs to taste sweet to everyone.
All 13 of us agreed that this program benefited us as much as the local NGOs. We were each skillfully matched with an organization that needed our unique talents, but also paired with teammates who exposed us to new expertise. Working with professionals from three other companies covering a vast array of skill sets meant that we learned just as much from each other as our local organizations learned from us.
We had to learn and adjust to the working styles of not just one but five different countries, and we had to learn to communicate with five different dialects of English, giving us all a global perspective, not just about Ghana and Africa but about every country we were representing there. We have now returned home refreshed and inspired after a month of socially impactful pro bono work, but we have also returned to our respective companies as stronger and more confident leaders with a more educated and collaborative view of the world.
That’s a lot of sweet soup going around!
Ultimately, though, our month of work means that more people will survive and live healthier lives. I’m not sure there can be a more rewarding impact than that.
Local NGOs That Benefited:
Companies That Participated:
13 consultants from four companies (WE Communications, Dow Chemical, PIMCO, SAP) and four countries (USA, UK, Germany, China).