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on a positive impact

How Johnson & Johnson collaborates with local NGOs to achieve global sustainability. My personal experience in Nigeria

As countries gather to discuss global development during the 74th United Nations General Assembly, held September 17 – 31, 2019 in New York, I’d like to share my experiences about what it means to be a J&J Secondee with one of our partner organizations in Nigeria that is working tirelessly to support Reproductive, Maternal and Newborn health – a major component of Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being

The Millennium Development Goals, proof that we can collaborate

I’m a global optimist. As you might remember, in September 2000 the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); eight global goals to be achieved by 2015, agreed by all countries in the world and supported by leading development institutions. These ambitious targets ranged from halving extreme poverty rates to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education.

So, let me test your global optimism: were we able to half extreme poverty by 2015?(Please take a few seconds to reflect and place your bet)

We did not only hit the target, we did it five years ahead of schedule, ultimately crushing the goal and pulling more than 1 billion people out of extreme poverty. Although not all eight MDGs were completely achieved – and still many issues require urgent attention – the unprecedented political effort showed us that humanity is ready to tackle its most daunting challenges when it manages to collaborate and work towards a common goal. (MDGs final report)

Though we should be pleased by these results, we cannot be satisfied. A growing population is now pushing our planet to its limits, inequalities are no longer exclusive to developing countries and globalization makes isolated country initiatives ineffective. Global sustainability is, if not more than ever, key to human development.

The Sustainable Development Goals, the key to our future

After the MDGs period (2000-2015), the United Nations approved a new set of targets: 17 Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030) to underline the need for ALL countries to work on growing social inequalities and environmental protection. The last goal, “Partnerships for the Goals” sends out a clear message: private companies, agencies and every single citizen will hold a critical stake in the successful completion of these ambitious goals. Everyone, not just politicians and NGOs, needs to actively join the race for global sustainability.


Johnson & Johnson’s commitment to the sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

In 2016 J&J became one of the first major global companies to make a public commitment to the SDGs and started defining internal targets and milestones to help accelerate SDG 3(Good Health and Well-being), SDG 5 (Gender Equality) and SDG 17 (Partnership for the Goals).

Here is where I come into play. Since 2014, J&J’s Secondment Program offers employees the unique opportunity to support health workers on the front lines of delivering care, by sharing their business skills and knowledge with selected NGO partners during 4-6 month assignments. After a thorough nomination and selection process, I was selected to relocate to Nigeria to support White Ribbon Alliance, an NGO focused on citizen engagement to accelerate efforts around Reproductive, Maternal and Newborn health (RMNH) which is a major component of SDG 3.

Collaboration for safe motherhood. From “Corporate” know-how to non-profit action

Easily preventable maternal and newborn deaths are one of the biggest shames facing humanity. The World Bank estimated up to 300,000 maternal deaths in 2015 (over 800 per day – or one death every two minutes) many in Africa and Asia. Pregnancy in those regions can feel more like a life sentence than the blessing it is in Spain, where I grew up.

Since its foundation in 1999, White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) has amplified the voices of women and girls around the world and help to educate them about their rights to health. Their advocacy model brings citizens and governments together to find long-term solutions based on people’s self-identified needs.

White Ribbon Alliance joined the J&J Secondment Program this year and together with my colleague Jeremiah Kaplan, we were tasked to help the organization review its governance, fundraising strategy, program sustainability and overall performance. This exciting challenge is far from being a one-off collaboration; we are just the first wave of employees that will join White Ribbon Alliance in the years to come to help them grow their organization. 

At a global level, my colleague Jeremiah has reviewed their governance model across the 14 countries where they operate and their fundraising strategy. Please check out his profile for more info on his LION Secondment for J&J Executives.

“During my secondment with White Ribbon Alliance, I realized how important the SDGs are for providing focus and a framework aligning the NGO with global initiatives which help secure funding and support”Jeremiah Kaplan, LION Secondee 2019

At a country level, I relocated for six months to the National Alliance in Nigeria to help draft their next three-year strategic plan, strengthen local processes, review their social media impact and design a collaboration platform for all local NGO members to collaborate in a more efficient and cost-effective way.

“White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria has greatly benefited from this Secondment program. Ignacio’s different point of view has helped us become more innovative and tech-oriented, which will prove a key differentiator for us in the long term.Ignacio has also actively contributed to the recruitment and management of new members for the Quality of Care network, document control for easy and smooth transition, and time management to increase maternal, newborn and child survival at all levels.”Mr. Tonte Ibraye, White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria National Coordinator.

From a personal and professional perspective, I have thoroughly enjoyed relocating to Nigeria and meeting so many amazing people along the way. Working with such a passionate team of Nigerians has broadened my understanding of the country and Africa, its amazing culture and vast human potential. WRA’s 20-year approach of focusing on citizen-led advocacy and accountability has improved the life of many mothers and children across the globe and will, for sure, continue to positively contribute to achieving global sustainability.

This priceless experience has also positively impacted my leadership development and proved to me that cross-pollination of skills and ideas between corporate and non-profit sectors also is a mechanism to enhance global collaboration across all levels of society.

I encourage you to take another look at the UN’s Sustainable Goals and think on how you can, as an individual, help accelerate their progress. Whether you chose to reduce single-use plastic in your life, lower your carbon footprint, propose new collaborations at work or use your skills to help developing nations, every effort will help us win this race for humanity.

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