As the year 2013 comes to a close it's time to make some resolutions and share some of our lessons learned as a young social enterprise.
Lesson #1: Just because you're young and feisty doesn't mean you don't have the answers
Our hero of the year is Nada, the young girl in Yemen who fled a child marriage and then spoke fiercely in her own defense. Can you imagine the bravery and the conviction it takes to take a stand against your parents and your culture as a ten year old girl? She embodies everything we believe will shake this world up and level the playing field. If you want to check in on Nada you'll find her as clear and well-spoken here in October. There is a sad twist, and that is the fate of her two older sisters.
We use this metaphor for our young social enterprise-- small with a big idea. But it is people like Nada who inspire us and it is the promise of her future that propels us, a social enterprise with a big idea.
Lesson #2: Not everyone is out to help you
One assumes that as a social enterprise that mentors and others are flocking to 'help.' Well, yes and no. We have worked with the most gracious, kind and whip-smart individuals. They have buoyed our cause, connected us and cheered us on. However, for every two such souls, there has been another hurdle we've had to crash into and clamber over. We have had every kind of subterfuge, intellectual property theft and incompetence you can imagine. The obstacles are not analogous to a video game-- they have psychological impact and they weigh on us. But they are nothing compared to the obstacles women face giving birth around the world. As another hero of ours, Dr. Sophie Webster said, "The risks to flying my own Cessna across sub-Saharan Africa pale in comparison to the risks faced by a woman giving birth in these countries."
Lesson #3: The simplest answers are often the best--and often they are right in front of us
We, in the U.S. and Europe are so immersed in our own medical solutions, and the promise of exporting them to the rest of the world. Yet the more we research and the more midwives and doctors we talk to, the more we believe the simplest solutions are the best ones.
In our labs and ventures many folks spend time and energy on inventing every kind of incubator under the sun-- when Mother Nature's incubator, in the form of Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is unrivaled in its efficacy and cost-effectiveness. We are looking for nutritional solutions when the moringa tree is rooted right in front of us. There is as much that we have to do as we have to undo. Women used to give birth squatting, letting gravity do its work. They used to simply provide breastmilk because there was no alternative. We have to ask some very tough questions in the year ahead-- starting with, where is the right balance between the perfectly natural approaches and the incredible inventions that can change the odds for those facing complications?
We'll have lots more to say, so stay tuned! Happy New Year everyone!