Shared value. Partnerships. Collaborative innovation. We hear these words a lot in defining the ideals of successful business relationships, but they also are very much at the center of public, joint public–private, industry, and individual efforts in developing solutions for broader global concerns. The connections, energy, talents, and resourcefulness that are at the heart of those solutions were the focus of the Women in the World Summit, held in New York last month. Organized by the Daily Beast and Newsweek, the summit generated an instructive and meaningful dialogue on the diversified approaches that are and can be used to advance the role of women, particularly in developing countries, inclusive of global health initiatives.
The summit brought together leaders from business, government, and nonprofit organizations as well as individuals that are on the front lines in villages and communities around the world. They shared their perspectives and experience in working on specific projects to bring about increased access to healthcare and education, business development, and individual economic advancement. While attending the summit, I was impressed by industry efforts to provide support in tackling larger global concerns, not only in cash and product donations, but also by using collaborative service models. In these collaborations, companies offer their expertise in technical support, business management, supply-chain management, marketing, and other areas to support social entrepreneurs, small- or medium-sized business, or other organizations to create sustainable models that contribute to economic and social progress. A report of the summit can be found in the April issue of Pharmaceutical Technology’s Sourcing and Management as part of our coverage of corporate citizenship and sustainability.
The importance of this work was underscored by the panelists at the summit, which included leaders from government, business, and nonprofit organizations. Speaking at the summit were: former US President and head of the William J Clinton Foundation, Bill Clinton; US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodman Clinton; former US Secretary of States Madeline Albright and Condoleezza Rice; Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues at the US State Department, Melanne Verveer; former Chilean president and now Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet; and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, managing director of the World Bank.
Business leaders from technology, financial, media, and consumer sectors also participated. They included: Pam Darwin, vice-president of geoscience at ExxonMobil Production Company; Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook; Susan Sobbott, president of American Express OPEN; Gabi Zedlmayer, vice-president of global social innovation at Hewlett-Packard; Diane von Furstenberg, chairman and CEO of Diane von Furstenberg Studio LP; Dina Habib Powell, president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and managing director and global head of corporate engagement; and John Donahoe, president and CEO of eBay. Representatives from philanthropic and humanitarian groups also spoke, including Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation; and Katy Bushkin Calvin, CEO of the United Nations Foundation.
The summit provided panelists and attendees an opportunity to gain an understanding not only of the specific challenges in advancing economic and social development, but also more importantly, of the solutions that are being taken individually and collectively. The insight that was the most valuable was from the women from the front lines in the developing world who are directly engaged in projects to improve the quality of life for those around them. In highlighting just a few of the panelists, Hawa Abdi, MD, founder of the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation and HA Village in Somalia, discussed how she founded and now heads a hospital and community in Somalia where more than 90,000 Somalis, many of them refugees, receive food and medical care. Amy G. Lehman MD, MBA, founder and executive director of the Lake Tanganyika Floating Health Clinic, discussed her efforts in addressing the problem of healthcare access for isolated communities in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa. Eva Walusimbi, an entrepreneur at Solar Sister, an ExxonMobil partner and social enterprise, spoke of her work in selling solar lights in Uganda and her work in training and recruiting female entrepreneurs for building solar businesses in that country.
In listening to their stories, I was struck not only be the powerful reports of their work, but I also gained a better understanding from these first-hand accounts of the importance of building the connections necessary to produce solutions, and perhaps more significantly, of the shared value that our individual and collective participation can create. Secretary of State Clinton perhaps summed it up best in her keynote address at the summit. In speaking of the work of Dr. Hawa Abdi, she said, “When you looked at the smile on her face, you know that it is a life well led, a life in the service of others.”