Be Fearless Spotlight: A Bold Investment Strategy Allows For Fearless Risk-Taking at FHI 360

This Spotlight is a part of a special blog series curated by the Case Foundation featuring Be Fearless stories from the field. Follow along with us as we meet people and learn about organizations that are taking risks, being bold and failing forward in their efforts to create transformative change in the social sector. This Spotlight is authored by Patrick C. Fine, Chief Executive Officer of FHI 360.

Every day, bold actions—large and small—inspire and shape the future. Girls in northern Nigeria defy threats from violent extremists to go to school; transgender women in Cambodia stand together against intolerance and discrimination that fuel HIV; and young refugees struggle to build new lives in foreign lands. FHI 360—a nonprofit human development organization dedicated to improving lives by advancing integrated, locally driven solutions—takes its inspiration from such daily acts of bravery and strives to be bold and Be Fearless in addressing problems around the globe.

We learn from the examples we see of people facing unimaginable hardship and with courage, initiative and determination overcome the challenges in their path and create new opportunities for themselves and their communities. Their stories inspire us to tackle the toughest problems and to be bold in the solutions we try. The issues facing our global community can’t wait, and they aren’t getting easier. We need to leverage all possible solutions, however unconventional, to meet these challenges.

The FHI Foundation—the foundation arm which exclusively supports the vision, spirit and mission of FHI 360 through strategic investments—was built on a unique impact investment model that has enabled FHI 360 to expand beyond its early focus as a small family planning organization and become a global force in human development. Once an organization with an annual operating budget of less than $3 million, FHI 360 now has expanded into more than 70 countries and all U.S. states and territories, with more than $600 million in revenue, a $150 million Foundation endowment and more than 4,000 staff around the world.

This approach—a foundation incubating projects at a non-profit organization—allows us to experiment early and often, allowing for a more creative approach to address some of the world’s most complex human development challenges. Moreover, it has enhanced FHI 360’s stability, resiliency and relevance by placing it on the cutting edge of development trends and critical issues faced by underserved populations around the world.

For example, in 2001, the FHI Foundation invested US$1 million to demonstrate the viability of antiretroviral therapy (ART) programs in resource-constrained settings in Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda, providing critical evidence that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) needed to expand ART delivery to countries devastated by the epidemic. By 2006, FHI (now FHI 360) was implementing comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment programs in 40 countries. As of September 30, 2015, U.S. government funding through multiple partners and organizations was supporting life-saving ART for 9.5 million people.

Today, FHI 360 continues to stimulate new ideas and incentivize innovations. With its Catalyst Fund, the FHI Foundation provides annual grants totaling $500,000 to FHI 360 staff to develop approaches, tools or products that address human development challenges. The Catalyst Fund competition brings together FHI 360 staff from different regions, sectors and specialties, many of whom may not traditionally work together, to allow for a space for staff to reach beyond their bubble and develop forward-thinking approaches to promote the health and well-being of individuals and communities. Funded initiatives are delivering innovations such as the use of drone delivery to increase access to medical supplies in rural Kenya, the development of a mobile-based test-prep app to help students prepare for exams in Myanmar, and a web-based application to help monitor child learning and health progress in classrooms globally.

While some organizations allow risk to become paralyzing, even in the face of an immediate crisis, the FHI Foundation/FHI 360 relationship proves what can be accomplished when urgency drives the quest for solutions and when financial stability allows for the freedom to make bold moves with high stakes, even when the outcome is uncertain. A mixture of private and public funds, a strategic investment model and a commitment to tackle the world’s most challenging problems head on, ensure FHI 360’s continued success and the continued benefits to those we serve around the world.

We believe that the time for bold action is at hand. Yet, we will only succeed if we work together and if we push ourselves to ask the uncomfortable questions, to learn from failure and to dare to challenge the status quo. We must be willing to see and do things differently, to develop new skill sets, devise new structures and conceive new partnerships. We must anticipate, adapt and enthusiastically embrace change to maximize our impact in the world.

Feeling inspired? If you’re ready to begin your own Be Fearless journey start by downloading the Case Foundation’s free Be Fearless Action Guide and Case Studies.

Be Fearless Spotlight: Mama Hope

This Spotlight is a part of a special blog series by the Case Foundation featuring Be Fearless stories from the field. Follow along with us as we meet people and learn about organizations that are taking risks, being bold and failing forward in their efforts to create transformative change in the social sector. This Spotlight is authored by Katrina Boratko, Communications Manager at Mama Hope.

Mama Hope was built from love. In 2006, our founder Nyla suddenly lost the person closest to her in the world—her mother Stephanie. While she was ill, Stephanie and Nyla made plans to travel to Kenya and meet a young man she had helped sponsor through school and corresponded with since he was a boy. Unfortunately, Stephanie was never able to make that trip; but in a twist of fate Nyla was posted in a United Nations placement near to his village soon after her mother’s death. When she arrived, Nyla was greeted by the whole community singing Amazing Grace and holding a service for her mother. As it turns out, Stephanie had done more than just sponsor one boy. She had been holding small fundraisers in the living rooms of her Marin, CA, friend’s homes to help support a women’s business group in the community. Nyla learned that the humble investment she made from afar had truly transformed the lives of the women, their families and the whole community.

When the money Stephanie raised was put into the right hands, a small investment made a huge impact, the likes of which Nyla hadn’t seen working at government organizations and multinational NGOs. That day she learned the first rule of Mama Hope: the communities we work with know what they need and our biggest job is to listen. Nyla decided to take her love for her mother and build an organization that listens—Mama Hope. Love is the common connection that runs through everything we do; from our partnerships to our Global Advocates to our Stop the Pity campaign. To us, to Be Fearless is to choose love over fear, disconnection, apathy and hate.

Working from a place of love comes with its own unique set of risks. Every day we make huge bets on the power of connection and the value of human capital. We believe that every human has the capacity to become a global leader, regardless of his or her birth—and we treat everyone in our sphere according to that belief. When Mama Hope connects with a community leader, our first questions are: “What is your vision?” and “How can we support you in achieving your goals?” We then align our team and resources. We have built a relationship of mutual trust and true respect with all of our partners, and we credit this relationship for all of our successes.

In 2011, we experimented with a new approach to scale the reach and impact of the program—we introduced a Global Advocate Program (GAP). The GAP is a rigorous nine-month training program for social entrepreneurs. Our Advocates each commit to raising at least $20,000 for a sustainable project initiated by one of our partner communities, and they travel to the field to live and work directly with our partners to help bring the projects to life. We take a risk with every Advocate we train—investing money, training and staff time into an individual with the expectation that they will rise to the fundraising challenge and open their hearts to our partners. This risk has reaped massive rewards: since 2011, we’ve worked with 64 Advocates who have raised over $1.3M to fund over 60 projects that, working in tandem with local experts, employing local builders and using local resources, have improved the health, education, food, water security and livelihoods of over 150,000 people in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana and Guatemala.

We are not building projects that will only help people get from one day the next, but that will help our partner communities thrive for generations. And beyond the impact numbers above, there is a much deeper ripple effect in communities that grounds our work and was brought to life in a fabulous chalkboard drawing by a staff member in our Queen Elizabeth Academy (QEA) partnership in Mlali, Tanzania.

MamaHope Inline photo

“Our benefits aren’t easily seen right now, like they would be if someone came and said “here, take these clothes” or “take this money”, and you took them. We don’t give things out like this because our primary focus is giving education to these children. Later, they will be employed and they will return that benefit here, just like Kilines (the founder & director of QEA) did. She wanted to help her own community. The benefits of her education have returned home, and many people have felt them. And when these children study with the education that they get here, later when they find work they will also return that benefit home. One might start a health center, another might start some kind of industry and employ many people, another might start something else. You can’t do this without education. This school is producing something with benefits that will last from generation to generation.”

Mama Hope’s goal is to eliminate global poverty through inclusive entrepreneurship and by creating a global network of organizations bound by collaboration. We think that many organizations and companies are too restricted by their silos: nonprofit, for-profit, brands, media, grassroots, multi-national and community-based. We believe that we will see true change in this world when we all reach beyond our bubbles and work together across cultures, borders, profit margins and mission statements. We believe that when we focus on what makes us similar over what makes us different and hold each other’s dignity in the highest regard, we can shake off the ropes of competition and ego that hold us back. We believe in the power of an individual to change the world, and we believe every person can—and must—in order for us to rebuild a thriving planet. We believe that all of this is only possible if we are fearless with our love.

Feeling inspired? If you’re ready to begin your own Be Fearless journey start by downloading our free Be Fearless Action Guide and Case Studies.