Our world today is reaching a new level of interconnection never before seen. By 2020, more than two trillion devices will be connected to the Internet. Communication is mobile, connected, interactive, and immediate.

Yet in the philanthropic space, all too often we approach issues individually, focusing only on our specific solution to social problems. In many cases, the isolated impact of individual organizations can’t scale to accomplish the broad spanning social innovation we aim to achieve.

By combining the collective impact of government organizations, nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, and businesses, we can produce a much more effective model for social innovation. While much has been discussed about collective impact, in reality, more needs to be done by organizations to actively adopt this model.

In the case of the pharmaceutical drug market in Africa, government regulation on its own could not fully reduce the prevalence of counterfeit medicine in clinics. Let’s take a look at how aligning shared interests across sectors can create greater value than a single organization could achieve on its own. 

The issue
Counterfeit medicine is a significant problem in developing countries, with counterfeit Malaria medicine alone estimated to cost African nations at least $12 billion annually in lost economic output. It’s also incredibly damaging to the health of developing communities. Roughly 200,000 of the one million malaria deaths each year worldwide are caused by counterfeit anti-malarial drugs.

The primary inhibitors to effective anti-counterfeit solutions are the cost and complexity of addressing counterfeit pharmaceuticals throughout pharmaceutical supply chains and national healthcare systems. Costs span a web of industries including supply-chain security, enforcement, prosecution, public education, and technology expenses. 

However, the complexity of this system proved to be an opportunity for collaboration. Bright Simons, founder of the mPedigree Network, recognized that pharmaceutical companies, government organizations, telecommunications firms, and technology corporations have aligned interests in preventing drug counterfeiting.

Designing the service
Simons believed that a simple, mobile-based service that allowed patients to test the authenticity of their medicine could have massive impact in Africa. Mobile phone penetration is extremely high in Africa, and since more than 75 percent of the population in Nigeria has access to a mobile phone, a mobile-based system provided the right delivery mechanism for the service.

To bring this idea to life, Simons connected with HP to design and build the mPedigree service, bringing our technology expertise and experience in minimizing counterfeit products within our own supply chain. Matching the technology platform to regional infrastructure, HP created a cloud-based system that tracks pharmaceutical supply chain data on the back end, while leveraging the high mobile penetration in region for the consumer interface. By sending a free text message with the scratch-off code on the medicine packaging, patients receive an instant response as to whether their anti-Malaria tablets or syrup bottles are genuine.

Fast, secure, and easily accessible in remote areas, the system addressed the main barriers to counterfeit monitoring. However, the service also called for unparalleled integration across corporations, governments, and service providers.

Uncovering aligned interests
To ensure collaboration, the solution incentivized participation across sectors in a couple of ways. The negative impacts of counterfeiting, such as reduced sales of legitimate drugs and loss of tax revenue, created a clear motivation for pharmaceutical corporations and governments to address the issue.

Local telecommunications companies also gained increased usage of and demand for telecommunications services, providing them with an incentive to participate in the program. HP saw increased opportunity to expand its partner network within the region. By identifying these collective interests, the mPedigree Network was able to secure support from the key constituents it needed to drive impactful change.

Societal issues are complex and often require a complex solution to prove successful.  However the benefit, in many cases such as this one, is well worth the effort.

HP details more examples of cross-sector collaborations in its recently published Global Citizenship report.

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