The following is a conversation between Daniela Terminel, CEO of Global Health Corps, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City.
Denver: If you were challenged to change the face of global health with a focus on health equity, where do you think you would begin? The best answer might be to build a community of diverse young leaders who are deeply committed to that goal. And that is precisely what Global Health Corps is doing. It’s a pleasure to have with us their CEO, Daniela Terminel. Good evening, Daniela, and welcome to The Business of Giving.
Daniela: Hello, Denver. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.
Denver: Global Health Corps is 10 years old already. Tell us the founding story of the organization.
Daniela: Absolutely. Global Health Corps started in 2009. It was based on two key ideas. One, that health is a human right; and two, that great ideas don’t change the world….great people do. It was founded by Barbara Bush, her sister, and a few other friends that were exposed to how people were dying of preventable diseases. They realized that they wanted to have an intervention. Leadership was a way to do it, to change systems and to make health accessible to all.
…people continue to die because they don’t have access to the medicines, or they don’t have access to the attention that they need. It’s not that we don’t know how to save. It’s just that we don’t have the access to it. It’s a system failure
Denver: Let me ask you this. What are the critical issues in the world today around the global health system that you and your fellows are looking to address?
Daniela: The world today has definitely come a long way in terms of improvements in health. We can see some rates of maternal mortality improve; under five mortality improved, but there are still big gaps. There again, people continue to die because they don’t have access to the medicines, or they don’t have access to the attention that they need. It’s not that we don’t know how to save. It’s just that we don’t have the access to it. It’s a system failure, and that’s what we’re doing. We’re working with young leaders, and we place them in organizations that are doing the on-the-ground work, helping them filling capacity gaps to allow them to be more effective. We have people with different backgrounds all the way from journalists to engineers to communications experts that are going be working in all kinds of issues related to health – from HIV to malnutrition to maternal health.
Denver: Glad to see that journalists are included in that.
Denver: Hopefully, radio show hosts too. Although I may be a little old.
These leaders that you speak about are called fellows, and the selection process to become a fellow is exceptionally competitive, and I mean incredibly competitive. Describe it for us, and what are you looking for in a candidate who has applied to become a fellow?
Daniela: Selecting the right people is core to our model. In order to do that, we look into two things. One, the hard skills that the host organization or the placement organization is requiring for the role that the fellow is going to be doing for one year. But also, what is the leadership potential? We invest in these leaders, in these fellows, because we want them to be here for the long run. So, we take a look at those two things: hard skills and the leadership potential. We do that through our process that takes a number of months, and we end up selecting about 2% or 3% of the people that applied. This year, we just had more than 5,000 people that applied. We sometimes hope we could do more and have more capacity to place these leaders that want to change the systems.
Denver: By comparison, getting into Harvard is a cakewalk.
We are very intentional in selecting people 30 and under, and the reason for that is because we believe that to change these systems, we need to be there for the long run. So, we need leaders that are going to be growing their leadership path for the next 10, 20, 30 years.
Denver: Is there any requirement or limitations around age?
Daniela: We are very intentional in selecting people 30 and under, and the reason for that is because we believe that to change these systems, we need to be there for the long run. So, we need leaders that are going to be growing their leadership path for the next 10, 20, 30 years.
Denver: You mentioned that these fellowships were for a year. Is this a paid year or a volunteer year of service?
Daniela: It is a paid fellowship, and we have a cost-shared model with our partners.
Denver: Your fellows work in teams. One national, and one international fellow. How did the idea of pairing them like this get started? And what have been the benefits of these kinds of collaborations?
Daniela: We truly believe that it’s not about just one way. We believe that cultural exchange… we believe that cross-cultural experience is key for what we want to do. Because health systems do not work everywhere. It’s not just that one has arrived at the truth on how to make it work. We need to learn from each other. So, that is very core to us. We do that co-fellows; so two people in the same organization. One, to increase this cross-cultural experience, learn how to understand the difference of others – how to leverage those differences in the day to day. Then also, because those people that are international are going to back to their countries, and they’re going to continue sharing their knowledge, their experiences, and being agents of change.
Denver: Speak to us about these organizations where the fellows are placed. How do you decide which ones to partner with? And give us a few examples of some.
Daniela: Absolutely. We do have organizations- -we have operations in five countries; in the US, in Rwanda, in Uganda, in Malawi, and in Zambia. We think that it’s important to change systems to also have organizations from different perspectives, different issues, and different sizes. We work with government, because it’s super important for us to make sure that the ministries of health and the governments are involved. We need that to drive the change. We also work with international NGOs, with grassroots organizations. We want to have diversity in terms of the partners that we work with.
We have also a very tough selection process because we need to make sure; one, that the experience for the fellows is going to be a good one. We know that they are going to be able to act They’re going to be empowered to have a good supervisor, etc., and that they are going to have the financial capability to also keep the commitment and keep the payment for the fellow. We work with them for a number of months as well, and once we determine what is the position that we’re going to be filling or looking for them, we do the placement.
Denver: Let’s talk a little bit about that experience. So, you got a fellow you pair with another fellow. They’re placed in that host organization. What happens then? What kind of training do they receive? And what are the kinds of work that they’ll be doing with that partner organization?
Daniela: This is awesome. This is something that I really love. Because it is set, two things in parallel. During the fellowship year, we, Global Health Corps (GHC), are going to be working with them on their leadership development. We bring them as a group together five times a year, and we provide training. We developed our own curriculum, and we’ve been developing it for the last almost 10 years– to work with them on authentic leadership, collective leadership, systems thinking, design thinking.
While that happens, they are going to be working with the placement organization. For example, we have these two co-fellows today…they were from the private sector. One was working at the Gap, the clothing company here in the US. Another one was working in a telco in Tanzania. They were working on supply chain, and their job was to make sure that people would have jeans or cellphones wherever they need it. Then they start working with the Ministry of Health on the supply chain, and their job was to make sure that they have medicines in the right clinics at the right moment. So, they were using their expertise on supply chains to make sure that these clinics wouldn’t run out of medicines; saving lives. That is what I really love about Global Health Corps; that is, how we bring nontraditional expertise to add to the health systems.
Leadership is our lever of change. We want to develop, and we create leaders that are empathetic, that are resilient, that are cross-cultural.
We’re preparing them to see the light at the end of the tunnel, knowing that you probably never will get there.
Denver: Very cool, but very transferable as well. No question about it.
You talked a little bit about leadership, Daniela, and I know that GHC places so much importance on leadership. You subscribe to these leadership practices, and you really want your fellows to cultivate those. Speak to us a little bit more about your thinking on leadership and these practices.
Daniela: Leadership is our lever of change. We want to develop, and we create leaders that are empathetic, that are resilient, that are cross-cultural. And we say we create leaders that lead with love, not with fear, which is how we think we can drive this change. We also think –that’s why we do authentic leadership and collective leadership. What we do and what the fellows do is difficult. It’s the unsexy middle, and it’s not developing these medicines and all the R&D and so on. It’s not direct service. It’s right in between; how do you connect the dots? That’s not easy.
We need to make sure that our leaders are going to take it; that they’re going to be able to face failure, to face fear, to face doubts, and are going to transform that into actions, and are going to be able to bring differences together and leverage those differences and those hard moments. It is almost like seeing…. We’re preparing them to see the light at the end of the tunnel, knowing that you probably never will get there. It will continue to go away in a way.
The fellowship is our entry to a lifetime journey with GHC. Our alumni is our core. It’s where our potential lies.
Denver: You’ve had about a thousand fellows who’ve come through this program, and you’re almost 10 years, do you track those fellows? Are many of them staying in the field of global health or perhaps social justice?
Daniela: Absolutely. The fellowship is our entry to a lifetime journey with GHC. Our alumni is our core. It’s where our potential lies. We are very tight. We’re the most diverse community in global health. We’re a very tight community. Just to give you an example. Thirty percent of our current alumni got their job thanks to another alumni. So, that tells you a little bit of how close we are. Of course, we have different initiatives from in-person soulmates to bring them together. We just launched our community portal to allow everyone to access everyone, made much easier through an online platform that allows to search very specific things or groups and have conversations.
We have incredibly high rates of satisfaction. Seventy percent of our partners are repeat. So, that also says a lot.
95% of our fellows stay on global health or social good, which is also a great indicator because at the end, what we believe in is that by having these leaders in the system, throughout the system, they are going to drive the change.
Denver: One year fellowship… you track your alumni. How do you measure your impact to these fellows either during that one year or beyond?
Daniela: During the year, they are filling a capacity gap in the organizations. So, they have KPIs. They have goals, and that’s very easy, very direct to measure. We also go back to our partners and ask how helpful the fellow was. We have incredibly high rates of satisfaction. Seventy percent of our partners are repeat. So, that also says a lot. 95% of our fellows stay on global health or social good, which is also a great indicator because at the end, what we believe in is that by having these leaders in the system, throughout the system, they are going to drive the change. We also know that our fellows or alumni, they have an accelerated growth path.
We did a study. When we compared our current alumni with a finalist; the people that were finalists in the process but didn’t make it to lead the fellowship. They are at least 15% ahead in the way. We have different ways of measuring impact, and we are now working with UCSF to continue to track how we can see the competencies that we develop in our leaders, how can we measure them in the long run?
Denver: Ongoing. No status quo. They just keep trying to improve. You’re a real incubator in every sense of the word.
Tell us a little bit about your funding model and some of your sources of support.
Daniela: We are very, very lucky to have a great pool of private donors that have been with us for a number of years. It is foundations, corporations, individuals– most of our funding. Again, part of the program is funded by our partners locally with the placements.
We develop leaders. So, we are very intentional in going inside and having those same characteristics and those same values that we want in our leaders to have ourselves. We are very intentional on development. We are very intentional on making our differences our strength.
Denver: You have a cautionary model, which is really cool.
Let me ask you a little bit about your workplace. I checked Glass Door. Your ratings are off the charts, one of the highest I’ve seen for any nonprofit organization. Tell us two or three distinctive characteristics of your corporate culture. What do you think makes it such a special place to work?
Daniela: I think that, of course, the purpose is huge. I think that it’s something that you’ve been talking with several nonprofits, and I’m sure that is key for pretty much everyone. I think that we are all about people. We develop leaders. So, we are very intentional in going inside and having those same characteristics and those same values that we want in our leaders to have ourselves. We are very intentional on development. We are very intentional on making our differences our strength. We are global. We have — the team is global. Plus, we have a global community. So, we are also very intentional in being thoughtful about how do we make the most out of our strengths, our differences.
We share, we believe in collaboration. We also believe in getting uncomfortable. To grow, we all need to grow individually, and then we need to push each other to grow. We need to be okay with that feeling of being or getting uncomfortable. So, I think it’s a combination of the purpose, but also being able to have impact. To know that you have an impact on what we are doing. That you participate in what we are doing. You make a difference and that you have a community. We always say that with our alumni and fellows, when they go back to their country, they want to drive change because they are not alone anymore. Now they have a group of like-minded people that they can rely on. We do the same thing internally. We rely on each other. We help each other. We push each other.
Denver: It’s always wonderful when an inside culture mirrors the external objectives of the organization, and that’s pretty much what you try to do.
I saw the other day… you announced your 10th class of fellows. Give us a little idea of what the profile of that class looks like.
Daniela: It was amazing. We are so excited to have our fellows on board. We just spent two weeks at Yale in our initial training, getting to know all of them. It’s an amazing group; 134 fellows from 21 countries. They speak 35 languages, which is crazy. The average age is almost 27. So, they are young. The majority are female.
Denver: It’s always a challenge coming in succeeding a founder or a co-founder, and particularly one who has been as well-known and respected as Barbara Bush. How do you look at that and determine how you can be most effective in your role as the new CEO?
Daniela: Great question. I get this pretty often. I think that… I’ve been working with entrepreneurs for a long time, and I’ve seen how entrepreneurs transitioning out and having a CEO come can be a very tricky position. What I’ve seen is that it depends on how you start the relationship. What are your founding values with the founder will make a difference. Barbara was extremely thoughtful, not only in the process of the transition, but way before. She started communicating to the different stakeholders the year before. So, when I came on board, I was not surprised. People were expecting, probably not me personally. But they were expecting someone. A lot of people tend to say it’s very hard to fill Barbara’s shoes. They’re very big shoes to fill and so on.
From day one, I said, totally right! That’s why I’m going to go barefoot. I think that it’s a matter of respect. I think that I totally respect and admire her and what she has built. She respects me, and we trust each other. We trust each other, but we know that we’re different. We embrace those differences. Going back to the values and the culture. We embrace those differences, and we know that will make us stronger, and now having her in a different role as chair of the board actually makes us stronger.
Denver: And you can bring something new to the organization that perhaps wasn’t there before.
Let me close with this Daniela. Share with us a story of a fellow, or maybe a pair of fellows, and the impact that they’ve been able to have through this work.
Daniela: I want to tell you a story of Christian. Christian wanted to be an architect. But in Rwanda, there were no architectural schools. So, he needed to go abroad to do it. He did that, and then he did a year fellowship with one of our partner organizations called MASS Design. What they do is that they will build clinics that based on the design will improve, for example, ventilation. That way, the patients that get in, won’t get infected by something else. They actually will get healthier.
The great thing about Christian is that once he had the opportunity to go outside and be an architect, then he came back and he realized that even by being an architect, which is something that you would not think will affect global health, it actually did. So, he was able to use his expertise in something that is saving lots of lives. Now, he actually heads the Africa Design Center in Rwanda, which is great for me because it means you can do both things. You can do whatever your passion is, and you can also be very active in solving global health issues.
Denver: Until I spoke to you, I never really appreciated the interdisciplinary nature of Global Health Corps.
Daniela Terminel, the CEO of Global Health Corps. I want to thank you so much for being here this evening. Tell us about that website of yours and what people will find on it.
Daniela: Thank you Denver. Of course, our website is www.ghcorps.org. You’re going to find fantastic stories about our fellows, our alums. You will be able also to apply when we open for next fellow class by the end of this calendar year. You are going to be able to access our “amplify channel” where you’re going to be able to also see more stories about our fellows.
Denver: Fantastic. Thanks, Daniela. It was great to have you on the program.
Daniela: Thank you, Denver. I had a lot of fun.
Denver: I’ll be back with more of The Business of Giving right after this.
The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at www.facebook.com/business of giving.