Healthy Entrepreneurs (HE) distributes high quality and affordable essential health products, services, and information enhancing the health of people in developing countries. HE does this by organizing an end-to-end supply chain to local entrepreneurs, who run pharmacies or drugstores and health facilities. Mango Tree provides innovative learning resources to facilitate interpersonal communication and grassroots education initiatives across East Africa. The two organizations partnered up to participate in the 2017 CHMI Learning Exchange. This blog was written to share HE’s perspective on peer learning and what they gained from this learning exchange.
Healthy Entrepreneurs (HE) was recently able to participate in our second CHMI Learning Exchange. As a young social enterprise focusing on the last mile distribution of medicine and health services in underserviced rural areas of low- and middle-income countries, we are constantly seeking external input to grow and make our actions result in the outcomes we envision. Healthy Entrepreneurs’ goal in 2017 is to improve the efficiency and impact of our activities on the entrepreneurs and communities we’re working with. The 2017 CHMI Learning Exchange gave us a much-needed opportunity to look critically at our work, especially the training materials that are used to train entrepreneurs and give them a head start. The training materials needed improvement because they were originally developed from behind a desk, so the content and methodology was not specifically user centred and needed adjustment.
Our partner for this learning exchange was Mango Tree, a creative design company that develops educational materials in which the user is put central. By hosting user centred focus groups, they are able to identify the needs of the users and develop training materials around those needs. The materials are therefore more effective and efficient, and by adopting these practices, HE is able to create tailor made materials for the future entrepreneurs we’re working with.
We decided to participate in another learning exchange because we believe that without external help and knowledge we won’t be able to fulfil the objectives of our organisation. As an example, we are working with local implementing partners around the world to be able to find, train and supply entrepreneurs with new health products and medicine. HE’s partnership with Mango Tree allowed us to grow and learn from their technical expertise and experience in capacity building and working in the context. HE was officially registered in Uganda at the beginning of 2017 so we’re a very new company and we learned many lessons from Mango Tree’s years of experience. By partnering with a peer organization, we were able to look at ourselves more critically, and that critical vision is key to improving any organisation.
The main objective of the learning exchange was to adopt and adapt Mango Tree’s methodology for our own needs. By allowing more than one member of our team to take place in the user-centred methodologies of Mango Tree, we can now use this user-centred approach in an upcoming meeting with technical partners and users to improve one of our key tools: a tablet filled with educational materials and tools to refer patients to nearby public health services. The immediate benefit to our work is that it allows us to respond to the requests of partners to change some of the materials we’re currently using. In the future, these skills and tools will allow us to be flexible and adjust materials to whatever the needs of our entrepreneurs and partners are in that moment.
This learning exchange with CHMI enabled HE to become a more solid and well-connected organisation. The experience gave us not only a great new technical partner, but also the ability to change rapidly to meet the demand of both the governmental and non-governmental partners, but most of all the user! We will continue to be an organisation that is eager to learn, especially from the experience of others around us.