Kyle Poplin

Weekly Roundup – 7/4/14: Finding best buys in global health, and not falling in love with ideas

There’s been much talk lately about best buys in global health.

OPIC, the U.S. government’s development finance institution, has some ideas on that front.

At its inaugural Impact Awards ceremony several weeks ago, OPIC gave its Access to Finance award to the Medical Credit Fund, a nonprofit health investment fund. OPIC loaned $5.4 million to MCF to support small health clinics in Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria. These private clinics are often the main source of health care for many people in Africa, and frequently have trouble getting even small bank loans. Meanwhile, MCF makes loans as small as $3,000.

MCF is an initiative of the PharmAccess Foundation, which has a system in place to rank health care providers. (See a past NB post on PharmAccess here). So, to get a loan from the Medical Credit Fund, your organization first has to have an assessment. The “screening” seems to be working; to date the fund has given loans to more than 500 health care providers and notes a repayment rate of 97.3 percent.

MCF has won other awards – it earned a $2.5 million grant for winning the G20 SME Finance Challenge – and is also supported by the Calvert Foundation, the Soros Economic Development Fund, the International Finance Corp., the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others.

MCF is lending money to the small clinics that make a difference in the lives of many in sub-Saharan Africa, and those loans are getting repaid. And, we were reminded by their accomplishments this week in a video via the 2014 TBLI Conference, which features an interview with John A. Simon, a founder and managing Partner of Total Impact Advisors as well as an advisor to MCF (see below). It’s obviously doing something right and is a model worthy of recognition and further study.

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We’re protective of social entrepreneurs here at NextBillion Health Care; we see them as pioneers at the forefront of global change. So we like to keep our eyes open for lessons learned.

We got such a lesson recently from Mark Brown, who founded, and recently folded “One in Four,” a magazine written by and for people with mental health difficulties. He wondered aloud, and wonderfully, with a quote in an article in The Guardian: “As with anyone launching themselves into an ambitious project led by ideas rather than market analysis, our enthusiasm and social drive blinded us to one oft-uttered business saying: There may be a gap in the market but is there a market in the gap?”

And, from a blog about the Berlin Peace Innovation Lab on The Changer, “Don’t fall in love with an idea. It is 99 percent likely to be crap. It’s not the idea that matters, it’s the process for developing the right idea.”

We’re seeing these concepts – finding the right market and embracing evolution – play out in real time. In a blog this week on NBHC, MamaCarts co-founder Rachael Miller says, “If we’re not changing, we’re doing something wrong.” Her food cart microfranchise idea won a 2013 Rockefeller Foundation Centennial Innovation Challenge Award, yet her organization is not married to a set way of doing things. MamaCarts is allowing on-the-ground reality to dictate its course. (Stay tuned for part two of her two-part post on NBHC next week.)

We’re reminded of our old favorite Simon Berry of ColaLife, who famously based his anti-diarrheal medicine delivery on inclusion in crates of Coca-Cola – and named his effort accordingly – only to see that he could have more impact when Coke wasn’t involved. He was willing to change the very cornerstone of ColaLife when reality didn’t match expectations. (And now he’s back in the UK seeking funding for a national scale-up of his organization in Zambia.)

Please let us know about lessons your organization has learned. Shared knowledge is what NBHC and the broader NextBillion community is all about.

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Finally, we had some news in our very building this week when Paul Clyde was named the new president of the William Davidson Institute, the parent organization of NextBillion.

We’re especially excited about the announcement because of Clyde’s background in health care and his firsthand experience with emerging economies. He was, in fact, featured on these pages, here and here.

Clyde’s a lecturer at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and, over the past 15 years, has advised or run more than 50 health care projects in 12 emerging markets. He’s worked with WDI on collaborations with numerous institutions on the development of business education programs in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan and projects with state-owned and private firms in India, Singapore and Romania.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Indiana University and a master’s in business administration and Ph.D. in economics from UCLA.

Kyle Poplin is the editor of NB Health Care.

In Case You Missed It … This Week on NextBillion

NexThought Monday – The Cash Paradox: Is cash the poor’s best friend – or secret enemy? By Bhaskar Chakravorti

Marketing Nutrition for the BoP: New report by Hystra focuses on successes and failures of market-based approaches By Lucie Klarsfeld

NextBillion to Cease Publication of Spanish-language, Brazil Sites By Scott AndersonWDI

Healthy Foods and New Jobs, Part 1: MamaCarts learns valuable lessons while launching food cart delivery service from scratch By Rachael Miller

Social Lending for Smallholders: Opportunities to support social lenders in closing the smallholder agricultural finance gap By Laura Goldman

Supporting the Growth of Inclusive Businesses: Three lessons on ’industry facilitation’ By Donika Dimovska

Facilitating New Markets: Philanthropies are uniquely suited to fostering market-based solutions to poverty By Geeta Goel

business development, impact investing, William Davidson Institute