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on a positive impact

“What is a J&J Secondment and how does it work?”

My answers to your most frequently asked questions about my role as J&J Secondee with the Aga Khan Foundation
ByAlice Cortivo, 2018 J&J Secondee

I get a lot of questions whenever I mention that I am working for an international NGO but am still an employee of Johnson & Johnson.

“How could this unusual combination be possible?” “How does it work?” “How does every party involved benefit from it?”

Through the Johnson & Johnson Secondment Program, I have the opportunity to temporarily leave my job as Senior Legal Counsel with Janssen Italy and travel to Portugal for a six-month assignment with the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF). In this new role I am building internal capacity and providing advocacy, marketing, and communications support for AKF’s early childhood development and social and economic inclusion interventions on a national scale, to foster knowledge sharing, engage new stakeholders, and strengthen collaborations with the private sector and local authorities. Given the purpose of the Secondment Program is to apply my expertise and resolve to make a positive and dramatic impact on society, I’d say this is a perfect fit.


As you may imagine, when I arrived in Lisbon this past March, my suitcase was full of expectations and excitement! With open arms, AKF and its staff welcomed me to the organization. After a first round of induction meetings, together, we developed a workplan matching AKF’s long-term needs with my skillset. In just the last two months, I have gained new insight into how AKF works to improve quality of life, namely through early childhood development programs, and I am honored to have the privilege to support two of those projects — Childminders and Gerar.te — in delivering wrap-around impact on families, children, health workers and caregivers.

I could write so much more about this life-changing experience. But for now, I wanted to share a little more information about these two projects and provide some answers to questions I most often receive about my Secondment. Here are some of them below:

Can you tell us more about the Gerar.te Project?
Of course! The Gerar.te project is a pilot parenting program focused on pregnancy and the transition to parenthood promoting “good starts” and early development opportunities for children. It has been designed and developed by AKF in partnership with public and nonprofit organizations that work in vulnerable territories in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area. The program promotes a holistic and innovative approach, providing wrap-around support including psycho-social counseling, education, and primary care from midwives, nurses, and psychologists. As you may know, the health of a child in the first 1,000 days (starting during its mother’s pregnancy through to age 2) impacts their wellbeing for the rest of their life. So empowering caregivers on how to provide optimal care during this time is of utmost importance.  

What is the goal of the Childminders Project?
Here in Portugal, as in many other countries in Europe, the education of children from 0 to 6 years is a choice left to the parents. In many instances children often remain at home with grandparents, neighbors, or informal caregivers with few opportunities to develop their social and learning skills to their full potential. The Childminders Project is focused on addressing that need by developing a social entrepreneurship business model to stimulate, together with public and private local institutions, the creation of a sustainable social association that would provide a wide range of integrated services, including but not limited to: drop-in childminding, inter-generational educational activities in partnership with kindergartens, health centers, schools and libraries, and counseling services and spaces. This program can deliver important, much-needed early childhood development services, but also enhance the social and economic inclusion of men and women who could provide these services but are otherwise unemployed or who already provide these services but are excluded from any legal framework. Innovative approaches like this one are critical to rethinking how we increase access to quality care for beneficiaries and empower existing caregivers to deliver skilled services. Particularly in communities with scarce resources, learning how to make the greatest impact with available resources is critical to building strong health systems that meet everyone’s needs.

How are you supporting these projects as a Johnson & Johnson Secondee?

I am reviewing and setting up the marketing plan for the Gerar.te project, and helping develop the business model for the Childminders program. I am also working with the AKF Partnerships and Communications department to disseminate AKF materials further; by connecting with local authorities (for example, municipalities and parishes), public institutes like the High Commission for Migration, and civil society organizations, we hope to strengthen collaboration and scale knowledge to reach more people and better address community needs. For example, we are exploring a potential partnership with public and private hospitals in Lisbon for the project to train the pediatric units’ health care providers and nurses.

These partnerships have the potential to make both projects more sustainable, thereby creating a widespread impact among participating families and rippling across their entire communities. I am honored to be able to provide my expertise and contribute to building the capacity of child caregivers to help children grow and thrive into a healthy adulthood — the impact of which will be felt across the entire country’s health system. I can’t wait to see how the four remaining months go with the AKF Portugal team and to bring back my lessons learned to Janssen Italy!

About the Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact Secondment Program

Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact invests in people on the front lines of care as they change the trajectory of health for the world’s most vulnerable people, their families, and their communities. We are inspired to help create a world where people, no matter their circumstances, have access to quality health care. The Secondment Program is a long-term collaboration between Johnson & Johnson, our employees, and our NGO partners to invest in and build the skills of people on the front lines of care in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Through full-time field assignments of up to six months, our employees transfer their knowledge, expertise, and passion to our partners at the heart of delivering care, uniquely give back to society, and change the trajectory of human health. Learn more here.

AKDN & Lucas Cuervo Moura