The Power of Collaboration: A Unique Partnership to Improve Maternal Health

The Power of Collaboration: A Unique Partnership to Improve Maternal Health

By: Jamie Van Leeuwen: CEO, Global Livingston Institute; and Chris Watney: People & Possibilities, LLC

Hey there goldbug friends and colleagues!  We are your maternal health guest bloggers this round!  While neither of us has the expertise that Bentley brings to this topic area, we love working with her, Katherine, and the entire goldbug team to improve the lives of new moms and their families. We have both spent the majority of our careers navigating the public and private sectors to advance the health and wellness of the communities where we live and work, with a particular eye toward equity.  Having done this for over two decades, we know the initiatives that have the most impact and are the most sustainable are those that truly embrace the spirit of collaboration.  We know the value public-private partnerships can have in leveraging resources--both financial and the expertise and access that each sector can uniquely bring to the table. Transformation does not happen in isolation and the partnerships you build make a difference.

In the same sense that goldbug could not operate successfully without suppliers and wholesalers around the globe, successful interventions, and solutions in the area of maternal health cannot stand alone in the nonprofit community.  While nonprofits play a critical role, the real magic happens when corporate partners that share the same values roll up their sleeves and work together. This doesn’t just mean bringing financial resources to the table.  Do not get us wrong-- those resources matter, as we are not going to be able to respond to issues like maternal health without investment. However, the real change happens when corporations build relationships with nonprofits because there is a lot more these partnerships can bring to the table.

Awareness.  Corporations like goldbug and its retail partners have the capacity to inform and educate people around the globe on issues related to maternal health through their extensive networks.  A tweet from a respected company like Walmart or Target can have a reach that extends far beyond the capacity of a nonprofit.

Branding and Marketing.  Trusted corporations including Carter’s and Fruit of the Loom know how to brand and market a product better than anyone on the planet.  If you can brand a product, you can also help brand an issue like maternal health that can inspire people to invest in a cause the same way they invest in a material good.

Talent. In a world of limited resources, there are skills and talents and untapped resources that corporations would be willing to share if asked to contribute.  Volunteers, advisors, and board members are gems inside many corporations who are truly committed to doing good but don’t always know where to start or direct their talent.

All too often as we think about an issue like maternal health, we look to a nonprofit or a government agency as the solution.  And while both have critical support and infrastructure they can bring to the table, when they combine forces and tap into the resources available in the private sector, there is a multiplier effect in our ability to improve the quality of life for moms and kids while at the same time reducing infant mortality.

We recognize that collaboration is complicated.  While most organizations say they collaborate, true collaboration takes work.  It means reaching out beyond the scope of the organization you represent with a willingness to share ideas and resources to advance a common good.  Collaboration means a willingness to meet halfway and take the time to learn the things you do not yet know. You might not always agree with partners and your mission and values may not be perfectly aligned.  True collaboration is muddy and requires a commitment to really dig in and find a way forward; but when done well, true collaboration can be transformative.

As we look ahead to the work we are doing at goldbug as it relates to maternal health, we are learning that partnerships like the one we are growing with the Denver Health Doula Program come in many shapes and sizes.  Collaboration in this instance includes the role that Bentley plays in supporting their data analysis, the role the advisory board plays in connecting this project with other key partners in the community, and the role that goldbug’s resources play in providing doulas with support they need to birthing persons and babies.  As we look to our work in both rural and urban communities in Colorado and beyond, we know that there is great power in collaboration. By thinking big and thinking differently, we can make positive changes for moms and their babies in ways that have never been tried before.  We welcome your feedback and appreciate all that goldbug does for moms and babies around the globe!