LivingWell in Zambia, chapter 11: lasting impact
One of the biggest challenges for a PULSE participant is trying to make permanent changes in the organisation you’re supporting. What happens when you leave? Because we were told many PULSE assignments struggle to have longevity, this was something I was conscious of and considered during my work. To my surprise, eight weeks after returning home, I’ve managed to see two results which have given me faith that I had some lasting impact that I wanted to share.
Unexpectedly, probably one of my highlights of my PULSE experience came after two weeks back at work, sitting in my office in Montrose. I’m just finding my feet in a new role, and opened an email of month-end performance data from Live Well to see that for the first time in its two year history, the business met its revenue and units target in January (we had once previously met the units target, in October, due to my introducing institutional sales, but never the revenue target). My immediate feeling was that of pride. I was also really touched to still be included as part of the team.
So how did that happen? Since November, Zambia has had a cholera epidemic, particularly prevalent in some of the compounds which Live Well supports in Lusaka. Cholera is spread by water, so the demand for water purification treatment increased. Live Well supplies water treatments (a product called Chlorin), so sales by our CHEs surged. However, the main contributor to increased sales was shops across Lusaka buying huge quantities. If we hadn’t done the ground work since October to identify shop locations and build relationships with their owners, they wouldn’t have known we sold the product, and wouldn’t have contacted us. We were able to import significant quantities of water treatment and therefore still had supplies when other suppliers ran out. Given that vaccinations got into Zambia in January, the crisis has hopefully peaked, and so sales are expected to reduce. But we increased our network of shops and hopefully that can create some sustainable income growth from previous levels by them buying other products. Part of being a healthcare business is responding to need – and Live Well nailed it.
The second result was in the form of a major sales contract which Live Well managed to secure, selling a consignment of 24,000 reusable sanitary pads to an NGO in Zambia. As it is the world over, female hygiene is an issue in Zambia, where often girls can’t afford products and can often miss school as a result. The query came in back in November, and our procurement officer, Paul, hadn’t dealt with an order of this nature before and so was unsure how to proceed (what to charge, how to prepare the invoice etc.). Together we worked out the associated costs – the purchase price, the various customs fees, transport costs and added our margin.
I’d forgotten all about this piece of work, it just having being an hour or so – but last week, our Whatsapp group pinged with lots of photographs of boxes and Denny looking cheery. It wasn’t until January that the items arrived from Kenya, cleared Zambian customs, and could be delivered to the customer. The revenue equates to almost 6 times the sales revenue target for February (actually it almost covers the revenue target for Feb, Mar, Apr and May combined), which is huge! Furthermore, it means that 24,000 girls will have access to products which mean they won’t miss up to a week of school every month, allowing them access to thousands of hours of education they’d have otherwise missed, and allowing them to be clean and comfortable. That’s the magic of social enterprise; making money feels good.
Edit: 27-Feb-18. And the surprises keep coming. Live Well won an award for the best corporate partnership at the Bond Awards!