Learning Together, Growing Together: Learn and Launch Supports Peer Learning for Social Enterprises in Health

This is the first in a series of guest blog posts by Dani DiPietro. Ms. DiPietro is a business development associate at ayzh, one of the health innovators selected for participation in the inaugural Learn and Launch initiative. Click here to read her second post.

ACCESS Health and the Center for Health Market Innovations organized a wonderful kickoff event for the Learn and Launch engagement in Mumbai, in early December. The event included several workshops by experts working together to support social enterprises like ayzh (pronounced “eyes”) as we address challenges related to organizational capacity and scaling.

Learn and Launch is a new peer learning initiative to address practical challenges that prevent innovative healthcare organizations from growing and reaching more people with quality care. ACCESS Health and the Center for Health Market Innovations brought together a select group of health innovators like ayzh to facilitate knowledge sharing and joint problem solving, and to help us work together to develop new approaches to address our operational challenges.

Each organization selected for the program is receiving a small grant of five thousand US dollars. The grant will allow us to pilot test new activities and to measure the impact of these activities before investing in them as an organization strategy. During the grant period, from December to March, we are drawing up a clear strategy that we would like to invest in and identifying the impact we would like to see. ACCESS Health will work closely with us to help us implement our plans and document our journeys. All of the organizations selected for Learn and Launch participated in a competitive application process.

The general goals of Learn and Launch are to facilitate interaction between peers, to generate learning for a broader program network, and to build knowledge that can be used by the global network of the Center for Health Market Innovations to improve healthcare for low income groups across the world.

ayzhayzh is a social enterprise that develops appropriate health and livelihood solutions designed to meet the unique needs of women and newborns in low resource settings. Since 2010, ayzh has been producing, selling, and distributing customizable Clean Birth Kits to health institutions and nongovernmental organizations in India and several countries in Africa.

Clean Birth Kits can play a critical role in preventing infection during or after childbirth. Infection is a leading cause of both maternal and newborn mortality. Our Clean Birth Kits align with global recommendations, empowering healthcare providers to provide a safe, hygienic birth environment, regardless of the facility conditions.

ayzh applied to take part in this opportunity hoping that it would provide an opportunity to brainstorm around questions we have been facing as we try to grow our social enterprise. How do we reach and market our health solutions to low resource areas, considering several challenges:

There may not be formal channels through which to advertise.

It takes a lot of time and resources to reach low resource areas, physically.

Education is required as a prerequisite to and critical part of creating demand for our product.

Furthermore, how can effective communications materials help address these issues? How do we plan advocacy efforts for markets that require education about the need for the product? How do we reduce the cost of acquiring new customers?

As a business development associate with a background in public health, I am thrilled to represent ayzh throughout this engagment. As a result of Learn and Launch, I aim to create a specific business development and marketing plan that addresses these questions.

For ayzh, the goal of the three month Learn and Launch engagement is to reach more mothers and newborns in need by exploring new sales channels and marketing strategies, particularly in low resource areas where demand generation activities may be required.

The kickoff event helped us take first steps toward this goal. Peer learning between ayzh, Swasth, iKure, Life Circle, and DoctHERS, plus sessions with the Emergency Management and Research Institute and the Reliance Foundation, inspired new ideas and opportunities for collaboration. For ayzh, these ideas included exploring primary healthcare chains and mobile clinics as a sales channel that allows us to reach women in low resource and hard to reach areas.

Workshops with experts in marketing and organizational capacity building helped break down seemingly daunting challenges into achievable tasks. For example, we were provided with and guided through research strategies that will help us to understand our users and beneficiaries better – to understand their emotional, rational, and social brain. This greater understanding will help us market our products more effectively.

On the final day of the kickoff, each organization synthesized the wealth of learnings into a detailed work plan. ayzh will be exploring primary healthcare providers as a new sales and outreach channel through a pilot program, with support from Swasth and iKure. We also plan to form a creative committee to work through the marketing springboard exercises and to create a new marketing strategy moving forward. We also want to come up with a strategy to collect and understand customer feedback. This work will be carried out over the next three months, aided by the grant from Learn and Launch. This strategic planning event enabled us to set a clear plan for the way forward. We feel a great sense of support from this network of mentors from ACCESS Health and the Center for Health Market Innovations, as well as our peers in the South Asia and Africa cohort, who will make this exploration possible.

Thanks to Results for Development, ACCESS Health, and the Center for Health Market Innovations for a fantastic and creative learning opportunity. We are looking forward to working together over the coming months!