What was the defining moment that you led to this innovation?
Eight months ago my partner, an ob-gyn on the faculty at UCSF working in Western Kenya, described her friend’s death during childbirth in Kisumu. It was postpartum hemorrhage that could have been easily avoided with better care.
At about the same time a friend and colleague at the Acumen Fund, who sits on the board of India’s largest chain of maternity hospitals, was wondering why there were no maternity care ventures at scale in East Africa. The more we looked into it in Nairobi, it became clear that despite the glaring public health need, no one was tackling this issue creatively.
I have worked on global health issues for years, and I have been in Kenya this last year looking for investments in businesses serving low income populations. This issue is more compelling than any other I’ve worked on, and seeing it through the eyes of my partner in Kisumu has made it particularly personal.
From that moment of inspiration nine months ago, Jacaranda Health has evolved from an idea to a well-prepared venture in the process of launching its pilot. We have spent the last six months assessing the market, developing a new model for care, and initiating the partnerships to make it a success. In the autumn, we invested in a thorough market assessment, and I left Acumen three months ago to devote myself full time to getting Jacaranda Health up and running.
Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.
I quit my job with the Acumen Fund in Kenya to make this leap not simply because I am excited about the potential impact, but because I’m confident about making it work. Two qualities serve me well for this role: (a) deep functional experience in this setting, and (b) local and international support networks.
I am from the US but spent most of my childhood overseas. In the last few years, I worked in the slums of Bombay, on drug supply chains in Vietnam, and more relevantly, I spent the last year working with East African businesses serving the urban poor. I know our target clientele well.
I spent the last six months working with my partner (an obstetrician on the faculty at UCSF) to understand obstetric needs and challenges for low-income women, and I know East Africa’s maternity landscape well. In the fall, I led a team of 15 Kenyan women through Jacaranda’s market assessment – trained facilitators, coordinators, local liaisons, translators, and a team of young videographers.
An innovative health venture has many moving parts: clinical, logistical, marketing, HR. My biggest take-away from my work with Acumen Fund is that successful social entrepreneurs must know how to run a business, but above all, must have the resourcefulness and humility to delegate expertise to team-members, consultants, volunteers, and partners.
I know how to run a small businesses in Kenya, I understand what it takes to run a good team and make a model like this sustainable. In this respect my MBA from Berkeley is less valuable than the practical experiences and networks I have built on the ground. I am not a doctor or technologist, but I am bringing together the best expertise to help us with these elements of the business model.
How did you first hear about Changemakers?
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