The following is a conversation between Frank Beadle de Palomo, President and CEO of mothers2mothers, and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving.
Denver: mothers2mothers, or m2m, is bolstering African health care systems while delivering empowerment opportunities for women. They employ, train and help to empower HIV-positive women as community health workers. Their work has saved hundreds of thousands of lives, created thousands of jobs, and given health and hope to some of the most marginalized communities across 10 African countries. And here to tell us more about their work and impact is Frank Beadle de Palomo, the President and CEO of mothers2mothers.
Welcome to The Business of Giving, Frank.
Frank: Thank you so much. It’s wonderful to be here.
Denver: m2m was founded in 2001. Share with listeners some of its history and of its mission.
Frank: Sure. mothers2mothers was born to end pediatric aids. In 2001, our founder Dr. Mitch Besser, an American obstetrician-gynecologist, had come back to South Africa. He had previously been an exchange student, wanted to come back with his family, and in the United States, by 2001, we had largely ended the chapter of mother-to-child transmission of HIV due to better testing of pregnant women and also antiretroviral therapy.
However, in Africa, although we had access to the drugs, we just didn’t have time. Individuals were not being tested. Individuals were not being initiated. And then of course, drugs weren’t being dispensed. And so he arrived in a situation in which about 40% of HIV-positive women were giving birth to HIV-positive children, an incredible incidence number.
And what Mitch found was he didn’t speak some of the local languages, but he understood and he knew that what these clients needed was time. They needed attention. And so he fell upon the idea… or he brought to life… the idea of bringing on a positive woman with HIV who’s been through the treatment piece to serve as a peer mentor to women facing challenges similar to hers.
And in this process, he brought basically the organization to life…and our mission, which is to ensure health and hope and thriving families and an end to pediatric aids… This simple act of empowering, training, professionalizing and employing an HIV-positive mother to serve as a frontline health worker– that we call Mentor Mothers to provide her life experience, to mentor, to support a woman with education, with initiation on the treatment, with retention and care, and support and adhering to treatment, we turned the picture around.
And so in our time, mothers2mothers has been able to, as you mentioned at the beginning, we’ve been able to scale to 10 countries. We operate in Sub-Saharan Africa, in countries that have high incidence and high prevalence of HIV. We have served over 14 & 1/2 million women and children in our 20 years. And that means that as an organization, we have really been at the forefront of ending this chapter of the AIDS epidemic, which is entirely preventable…which is making sure that babies are born HIV-free and that we have HIV-free generations.
Denver: Isn’t it amazing, Frank, how Mother Mentors is such an obvious idea after the fact? Because we look back and say, “Yeah.” But really half the outset, nobody had ever thought about it. So it is truly a brilliant idea.
Frank: It is. And I think, as many folks will say, basically simplicity is often where brilliant ideas really come to form. And this idea of, really not an army but an army, an empowered workforce of women driving change, driving transformation that they themselves have gone through and helping individuals to step into that transformation has been so empowering. We see it from our Mentor Mothers. Mentor Mothers grow into site coordinators, into district or regional managers. They move into the organization in all kinds of other ways. This is a transformed workforce of now over 11,500 women that we’ve employed and since our existence.
Denver: Share with us, maybe a story of one of those mother mentors in terms of the deep connection they have with the clients they serve, but also what this meant to her and her family to have this new opportunity in her life and livelihood.
Frank: I have a perfect example of someone.
Denver: I knew you would.
Frank: Who I just actually recently spent some time with. So, it’s kind of a step back again in terms of the role of the mentor mother. mothers2mothers for 20 years now has demonstrated the power of community-based female leaders. It’s grassroots. It’s local leadership that responds to the exact needs of the community because they’re from the community; they are of the community, and they know exactly what individuals need.
And by making sure that we employ them, and we elevate their status as health workers, these Mentor Mothers become role models and leaders. They are 24/7. They are role models in the clinic. They are role models in households when they’re providing services. They’re role models in their communities. I was with one of our Mentor Mothers as she needed to do a quick errand in a store called ShopRite, which would be like a Kroger’s or an Albertsons in the United States.
And we were walking across the field to get to the store. And literally out of nowhere, a client came running up and said, “Wait, wait, wait, wait. I want to introduce you to my husband.” And in that moment, she pulled her husband aside… who was a bit sheepish and kind of embarrassed. And she said, “This is my mentor mother. She is beautiful. She is healthy. And I’m going to be that way too.” And in that example, in that moment, you could feel that admiration, that role modeling, that connection. And In this, I’m thinking about that ripple effect that our Mentor Mothers create.
I’m going to tell you the story of Limpho Nteko. And Limpho is from Lesotho, a mountainous country that is actually wholly contained within the boundaries of South Africa. Limpho was just 21 years old when she discovered that she was HIV-positive. She was pregnant with her first child, and she really struggled to accept her diagnosis. She was not able to adhere to her treatment, and unfortunately she lost the baby at just three weeks of age.
A few years later in 2013, she was pregnant with her second child. And that’s where Limpho’s life changed. She met mothers2mothers in the clinic. The Mentor Mother supported her. They encouraged her to take her treatment regularly. They encouraged her to share her diagnosis with her family and loved ones so that she could get support.
This pregnancy could not have been more different than her first one, and she gave birth to a healthy HIV-free child. A year later, Limpho applied to be a Mentor Mother. So this is in 2014, and she was quickly promoted from a Mentor Mother to a site coordinator– where she oversaw other Mentor Mothers– to a regional manager. In this role as a regional manager, she managed 84 Mentor Mothers across 16 health facilities, helping thousands and thousands of women and families achieve health, hope and an HIV-free future.
And it only gets better. She has since transitioned to a role, a management role within our country program in Lesotho in monitoring and evaluation. So from a place of complete despair and darkness, she’s built a successful career in the public health sector, and we know that she will continue to grow and serve her community. She has gone on to have another child, and that child is also healthy and HIV-free.
Denver: What a great story! In addition to having a hand in helping to orchestrate this, I can hear in your voice, Frank, that you feel grateful to have a front row seat in watching this level of human connection between these women.
Frank: I am more than grateful to have a front row seat. To me, it feels, as someone who believes in a kind of servant leadership and comes from a tradition of community engagement, community involvement, being born Mexican, growing up in the Western United States, this in many ways, reminds me of so many of the struggles that we continue to see across the globe.
The United States has gone through it with Black Lives Matters; looking at what’s been happening to Asian communities, with Latino communities, and right here in Africa, we have a solution that is community-based, community-led, and it’s women-empowered.
“We currently see about 400,000 adolescent girls and young boys in our program. And unfortunately, many times they’re already pregnant or they’re HIV-positive. So we’ve turned our attention into not just supporting that population because it’s critical, but also supporting those adolescents and young adults– boys and girls, young men, young women that are not positive yet– to make sure that we are reinforcing activities such as sexual reproductive health, access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP), making sure that they have choices around either contraception or sexual debut or partners. And we’ve been making a difference, seeing a reduction in teenage pregnancy, seeing a reduction in HIV acquisition, and seeing a reduction in terms of numbers of partners.“
Denver: Yeah. You’ve also evolved and gone to a broader model. So beyond just the mothers2mothers and the HIV-free mission, you’re also looking at early childhood development, adolescent work, et cetera. Tell us about that.
Frank: Yes. Our model has evolved, and we’ve had to evolve in order to be responsive to the epidemic. Our first kind of nonlinear program was actually adding early childhood development. And the reason why we did this is… I’ve mentioned to you the numbers of women and children that we’ve seen in our 20 years. We knew that in an intense period of time, from the time a woman learns that she is pregnant and HIV-positive until that baby is about 18 months old, mothers2mothers provides an intense set of services to keep that client access in healthcare, retained in healthcare, and adhering to treatment.
And what’s so important about that is: we get to know that client. We get to know her in the facility, in her home. We get to know her family. We know where that child is, what that child is doing. And we realized that as an organization, so much energy and focus was going into making sure that moms stayed healthy and that these children survived. We needed to now turn our attention to thriving. And some of the data that came up early was that children born to HIV-exposed mothers often had a delay. They needed more stimulation. They needed better nutrition. They needed to be tracked in medical care.
So mothers2mothers took its secret sauce… took its outcome expertise, and we applied it into the space of early childhood development. And in doing so, we made sure that babies were being tested early on to make sure that they had not seroconverted. We made sure that mothers were able to exclusively breastfeed or exclusively formula feed, whichever was more advantageous for her. We made sure children had the best nutrition and that they were hitting all of their milestones…. to the point that we’re so proud to say that 97% of 12-month-old children in our program are hitting all of their developmental milestones.
That spurred a stem into the next piece, which was to also think about the prevention of mother to child transmission. PMTCT is a space that we work in. And that’s the space of making sure that HIV- positive women don’t have HIV-positive children. We want to be out of that space because it’s preventable. We want to turn our attention to even other ideas and different ideas.
And in order to do that, we had to pay attention to adolescents. And adolescents, it’s a tough population in any world, in any country. And I think the beauty that I always remind our team is that the beauty about adolescence… and no matter how difficult it is, if we’re standing here as adults, we made it through. And so our goal is to make sure that adolescents have the same support.
We currently see about 400,000 adolescent girls and young boys in our program. And unfortunately, many times they’re already pregnant, or they’re HIV-positive. So we’ve turned our attention into not just supporting that population because it’s critical, but also supporting those adolescents and young adults– boys and girls, young men, young women that are not positive yet– to make sure that we are reinforcing activities such as sexual reproductive health, access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP), making sure that they have choices around either contraception or sexual debut or partners. And we’ve been making a difference, seeing a reduction in teenage pregnancy, seeing a reduction in HIV acquisition, and seeing a reduction in terms of numbers of partners.
And by focusing in that space, it’s very different. We’ve had to hire younger peer mentors that are matched with a Mentor Mother, because if a Mentor Mother is 28 years old, she’s not so much of a peer to a 14-year-old, but an 18-year-old can be matched with a Mentor Mother who can provide that real focused education and support. And we’re excited because by putting our attention on this space that most folks don’t want to touch, we’re actually making sure that we are closing the loop, and we’re stopping the supply into our core program.
Denver: Oh, that’s great. Yeah. I mean, you want to have them born HIV-free, but then you want to keep them HIV-free. And I would imagine that there’s probably even a letdown on some of the mothers that you work with once they get back into their home again, and their kid has been born okay, and so on and so forth. So you’ve gone door-to-door now. I guess in 2014, you left the clinic exclusively and have really gotten out into the community.
Frank: We have. And initially, we didn’t think that we needed to do that. We were a very rare Non-Governmental Organization that actually worked really well in facilities with government providers. And there was a change in treatment in 2014 that looked at life-long treatment for women who are HIV-positive and pregnant. Instead of just starting them on treatment while they were pregnant and then taking them off, really the advantage of keeping them on lifelong treatment, suppressing their viral loads, and keeping them healthy became the movement.
But what we found was women weren’t feeling sick. They didn’t really quite understand that the virus in them was actually AIDS. They were being told it was HIV. They didn’t quite get it. And they were leaving the clinics with a month’s supply of antiretrovirals, and they were throwing them away because they didn’t understand it.
So, we started doing research. We started trying to figure out: How can we help? We went to government after government and said, “Help us match with those community providers that we can then team up with to make sure that we’re not losing women to care and that we’re keeping them initiated on treatment.”
And the governments themselves said, “You mothers2mothers, you are the community. We need you to step out of the clinics, get into the households and make sure that we retain them in care.” And so through that program, the idea that we go out house-to-house, door-to-door, make sure that individuals are accessed, that we follow up with them, that they are in clinics when they need to be, we’ve actually seen that our retention and care numbers are about eight times better than in places where mothers2mothers doesn’t exist.
In fact, there are some big metrics that we measure in HIV which are called the 95s. And these are some important numbers through human aides of making sure that people are, that they know that they’re positive. That those that are positive are initiated on the treatment. And those that are on treatment are virally suppressed. And let me tell you, that 95 is a percentage. mothers2mothers is really proud that we have exceeded those 95s every year for the past few years.
Denver: Fantastic. Tell us a little bit about the impact of COVID. I know your frontline staff were designated as essential workers, but I would imagine there had to be a lot of pivoting and innovation in terms of trying to address how you continue to serve the way you did, but now in perhaps a slightly different fashion. Tell us about that.
Frank: Yeah. Thank you. The pivoting was, in some ways, it felt like we were watching a tennis match. Every moment we were having to move our head and our focus to a different direction because in 10 countries, the epidemic was moving so quickly. The pandemic of COVID and remembering that not only are we fighting COVID, we’re fighting HIV. So we had two epidemics that we were battling at the same time.
One of the first things we had to do was we had to pay attention to what the needs were for our frontline staff. And as you said, our Mentor Mothers, our frontline staff were all designated as essential workers. And so they needed to be, and they were allowed to be in clinics to provide services. We could not be in communities. We couldn’t be in communities because of lockdowns. And here in Africa, the lockdowns were serious. There was no transport. There were curfews. You could not be outside. And so that meant that our Mentor Mothers could not take a vehicle. They could not be on a bicycle. They could not walk to get into the communities. So they had to be in facilities, which then cut off our community unless there was an emergency from community members actually making it to facilities.
So very quickly, early on in the epidemic in 2020, we realized that we needed to adapt even faster. First, we had to create access to PPE and make sure that we had masks, that we had gloves, that we had hand sanitizer for our staff. And when you have almost 2,000 frontline staff across 10 countries, that’s quite a supply chain, and we never had to deal with that. That wasn’t one of our program components. So we partnered, we shared, we figured out where supply shipments from moving across the continent, and we bore down on that space.
The second one was we had to make sure that we were engaging our clients that were locked at home and couldn’t get to clinics. And, also knowing that that meant that they might not be able to follow up on their prescription, their refills. They might not be able to follow up on a really important final test to make sure that their baby is HIV-negative. So mothers2mothers created an entirely new eServices platform, and eServices is electronic services in which we combine both phone and the WhatsApp based platform to be able to reach our clients 24/7, pushing very important information out to them, then being able to pull down information.
This was translated into 29 local languages. For a moment it was one of the biggest kinds of chat-bots on the continent because of the amount of information flowing on COVID and HIV in early childhood development and adolescence. And we trained each of our Mentor Mothers on how to use this, how to engage, how to enroll clients onto this app. And I’ll tell you, by the end of last year, we already had over 400,000 of our clients using this app on a regular basis. And that to me is what paying attention to both your clients and your frontline workers is all about.
Denver: You are a virtual mentor mother platform. I absolutely love it. And I guess if there’s a silver lining out of this, you’re going to probably be more effective because of having to do that going into the future, and this hybrid is just going to make it that much better.
Frank: It is. And what it does is it gives us another tool in our arsenal, in our toolbox. We know our program is such a deep touch program. We engage. We touch. We navigate. We partner. We visit. We educate. What this tool does, the Virtual Mentor Mother platform, allows us to think about some differentiated services, meaning some clients don’t need the deep, deep touch.
Some clients can actually do more with the virtual space, which then allows us to focus on those that are more at risk of defaulting on their treatment or falling out of care, and providing those that are okay and they can handle a lighter touch to actually get what they want and what they need, which means we can even see more clients.
And that’s part of what we’re thinking about is, this 1.3 million clients that we saw last year, that’s just the beginning. We have a goal over the next five years to see in that five years another 10 million clients, which is almost as many as we saw in our first 20 years.
“So it’s this really virtual circle of clients, becoming employees, being able to understand, walk the walk, talk the talk, and being able to really identify needs. Our frontline team has been responsible for almost all of our changes over the last 20 years in terms of new programs, new areas, new approaches, because they know what’s needed, and they listen really closely.”
Denver: Well, I think that’s happened with a lot of people because of COVID. Their whole idea of impact has changed and has become exponential because of what they had to do in order to address this pandemic.
mothers2mothers has scaled in several different ways. I mean, the number of people you’ll reach, we’ve talked about that. The countries that you operate in, you’re up to 10. The breadth of services that we touched upon a moment ago, and I know, Frank, and you know, Frank, scaling is hard. It is very, very hard. What have you found to be the keys to successfully doing it?
Frank: I would say there are three. One is having the right people in place. I mentioned earlier that one of the beauties of our model is that it’s peer-led, it’s community-based, it’s community leadership. We don’t hire women in Uganda to work in Angola. We hire Angolan women because they know their community, and they know what’s needed. So having the right people in the right place, and that’s tough. During COVID, during the two years of our lockdown, we hired over 800 staff and had to induct them, get them into the field, get them working. Unbelievable. Even in a normal time, that’s a lot. In this place, where we didn’t get to meet many of them, was quite amazing.
The second is having the right product for what the client’s needs are. And one of the beautiful pieces about our model again, is that it is peer-led. So our frontline staff, our Mentor Mothers… the high, high majority of them were former clients.
So it’s this really virtual circle of clients, becoming employees, being able to understand, walk the walk, talk the talk, and being able to really identify needs. Our frontline team has been responsible for almost all of our changes over the last 20 years in terms of new programs, new areas, new approaches, because they know what’s needed, and they listen really closely.
The third piece, I think that has been really critical for us in terms of how we have scaled, it’s to make sure that we know what we’re measuring and that what we are measuring is important to those that want the service– not just the clients, but the governments and donors. And mothers2mothers has been very clear that we are impact-driven. We’re an outcomes organization. We are not here about just feeling good. We’re here about transforming lives, making sure babies are born HIV-free, and mothers stay healthy. And we can prove it. We’ve got the numbers; we’ve got the data to back it up.
Denver: You sure do. Another thing you’ve done is that you’ve gone open source, and you’ve shared some of the things that you’ve done with others. And I would be curious, Frank, of the challenges of moving from a direct service organization solely, to one where you’re also a consulting organization offering technical assistance… they are two different enterprises. Tell us about that transition.
Frank: There is almost a schizophrenia designed into that approach where part of you is so wedded to driving high-quality, direct services, and at the same time, we’re trying to put ourselves either out of business in complete, kind of, client lines or program lines through our technical assistance.
We’ve done this because we know that we can’t be everywhere. We know that there are not enough resources to sustain HIV/AIDS as its own categorical siloed program. As much as we want to be here ‘til the end, and we are committed to being here to the end of this epidemic, we also knew that we had to scale even faster.
So in places like Kenya and South Africa, we created national programs. In Kenya, we transitioned our program sites and our Mentor Mothers to other implementers, other non-governmental organizations, other community-based organizations. We trained them. We provided them with all the tools. We engaged with them with government so that could happen.
In South Africa, our employees, our Mentor Mothers became South African government employees, which is fantastic.
Denver: That’s great. That really is.
Frank: It’s fantastic because they will have a whole employment line and a career path, and it embeds our program deeply within the government. We are now looking at kind of the next level of that technical assistance in Angola, in Mozambique, in Tanzania, where we are trying to identify exactly who will take on the project, who will take it over from us. Because as I said earlier, we’re so excited about the model and what we can do. We don’t want to just stay in this space. We want to continue to drive incredible health outcomes across other issues.
And as of late, we partnered with our Western Cape government here in South Africa where Cape Town sits. During COVID, we partnered with the Department of Health on a non-communicable disease program in which we trained a group of Mentor Mothers and a pilot to provide support for diabetes, type two, and hypertension. And we saw some incredible results in terms of lowering blood sugar levels, A1Cs, and also really fantastic information about blood pressure. And this is the kind of thing that mothers2mothers…we’re here for the long game, and we’re excited about it.
Denver: That is really an interesting evolution. A lot of times, people say: “Stick to your knitting.” And here, you’re growing. But again, I guess that the heart of what you’re doing is that knitting, that core thread that drives through all of it. So it isn’t as different as it would seem. Would that be right?
Frank: That’s very, that’s completely right. We have a peer-led model, it’s what we do really well. We know how to listen to clients, and we know how to create access, retention and adherence. You apply those three to almost any disease issue, you’re going to have success.
Denver: You got 90, 95% of the constant, and then you adapt for that other five or 10% having to do with that particular disease. m2m was recently named the Classy Social Innovation Award Winner, and I want to congratulate you on that. In addition to what you’ve already talked about, which I think a lot of it has to do with those frontline workers and listening really carefully, do you have any philosophy or approach or process or method that you try to employ inside the organization to really create a culture of innovation?
Frank: Yes. So innovation is definitely something that has sat within mothers2mothers in terms of our culture, in terms of even our initiation as an organization, what we learned and how we came to be. And we’re really proud to be a social innovation awardee of Classy and a Classy Award Winner. But it’s interesting. When we think about our organization, and we think about how we have both grown and pivoted, whether it’s been into early childhood development, into adolescent girls and young boys, those are really adjacencies.
The work that we have in our diabetes and hypertension is probably more of a leap, but very interestingly, it was during COVID that as an organization, we actually began to try to structure innovative thinking methodologies and embed them in the organization. And this has actually been something that… because we weren’t busy enough during COVID… and all working from home.
Denver: You had the time on your hands.
Frank: Yes. We decided that we would launch what we called the m2m Incubator. And what this is, it’s a space where creativity and innovation can emerge through collective efforts. So what we did is we began on the mindset. We started training folks. We started providing information on attitudes and processes. We then started to identify specific scientific and evidence-based innovative thinking approaches… left-brain and all kinds of different ways of thinking differently. How do you get to a solution? Or, how do you respond to a problem not just in a linear fashion? How do you leapfrog that? How do you go around it? How do you create different on-ramps and off-ramps? And what we did is we embedded this in departments by choosing champions. And these champions worked with a senior innovation scientist in the organization, and through this, an immense kind of a release of energy and thinking has really permeated through the organization.
We actually thrived during the lockdowns. I don’t want to go through it again, but we’ve thrived through that process. It’s where we came up with our eServices approach and this Virtual Mentor Mother Program. We have launched new clinical services during this time. We’ve actually also started to think differently about HIV comorbidities and understanding: how do we keep our clients even healthier so that HIV, not only is this something that we are keeping suppressed virally, but we’re literally putting it at the far, far end of their thinking of their health because we’re starting to deal with all the other things that are more risk..
And I really think that this has been not just something that we’ve driven from top-down, but it’s actually been a lateral process throughout the organization. It’s horizontal, and folks have been responding to it quite well.
Denver: Yeah. You know, it is interesting that any great leap forward sometimes is always preceded by a pause. And there was something about the pandemic that, not to say that we weren’t busy, but it did allow us to pause… being at home and get off that treadmill for a moment. And these new opportunities came. You know, when you mentioned boys a moment ago, this came to my mind, and that is the role of men in all of this, the challenges and opportunities they provide and what you’re doing as an organization to try to connect with them.
Frank: So men are really important. And especially because we are working in maternal child health, and it takes more than two to tango; it takes a male and a female, or at least in most of our spaces, it takes a pair to be able to create this child.
And as I mentioned earlier, we listen to our frontline staff. We listen to what their needs are. And there has been a drum beat over the last decade of: Where are the men? Male partners, husbands, young men. We need men in services. Unlike women, in terms of maternal child health… where there was an on-ramp into health facilities, there is not a similar on-ramp for men, especially in our countries here in Sub-Saharan Africa. Young boys don’t have to go for health certification before they play sports, or for other certain issues. We lose young men to the health system unless they’re really, really quite sick.
So mothers2mothers has taken a concerted effort to try to figure out: How do we apply our secret sauce of peer-led to men and engage men?
Well, first, we realized that when we went out into the community, our Mentor Mothers who are in households, we’re encountering them. Men were sometimes at home. Men were in the community. And as deep keepers, as very influential members of their families, we had to engage them. And what we found was that the men wanted their partners to get services. They wanted HIV to no longer be a scary threat. And so they welcomed us into the homes.
We also found in several countries that by hiring male mentors and employing them in the same way– making sure that we professionalize them, we educate them, and we employ them, and we placed them into clinics that they provide fantastic mentoring to other men because men have lots of questions about their bodies, about health issues, about what’s right. And by talking to another man, it makes it much easier.
The last thing is that we haven’t gotten it all right. We are not seeing the same numbers of men that we are seeing women, but at mothers2mothers, it’s not a question of if, it’s just a question of when. We will continue to try and try and try until we get it.
“We have listened, and we are definitely leading with our values, with that core of what the organization is about, and we’re really ensuring that folks understand that we’re not just evaluating and being evaluated on our outcomes. We’re evaluating on how much and how passionate people can connect themselves to what we’re doing as a mission.”
Denver: Yeah. It’s probably even more important with men sometimes than mothers because women seek information when it comes to health, and men avoid it. I say that firsthand. We just stick our head in the sand and hope for the best… or say, “not me” or whatever.
Hey, let me ask you about leadership, the nature of leadership. How are the expectations changing from the people who are in the organization with the expectations they have of you? And how have you adapted your style of leadership to this whole new world that we’re living in now?
Frank: This whole new world has definitely been incubating longer than just the COVID timeframe and the civil unrest that we’ve seen across the globe, and really an attention on diversity, equity and inclusion. The changes are very real, and in an organization like mothers2mothers, the expectation, for example, on myself and my senior team, it’s gone from us having to have answers and having to have ideas and strategy… It’s really changed into the vision and the values.
It’s a real focus on individuals wanting to understand what’s behind the thought. What’s behind the strategy? Is this a place where I want to be? Is this a place where I am wanting to focus and devote my time and energy? And one of the things that I will say that from the very moment I stepped into this organization that I have felt, it is not just palpable…. It is a real, real phenomenon in the organization. There is a compassion and a passion for the mission that drives and derives from the ground up, side-to-side, top-down. You will hear, at any given moment— head office staff, country program staff– asking about clients and frontline workers. You will hear frontline workers driving and focusing to go to the ends of the earth to make sure that they’re responsive to clients. And you will hear folks celebrate success and mourn failure. And in that mourning of failure, it’s about identifying what didn’t work. It’s about figuring out: How we can do it better. And there’s this constant drive for quality.
We have had to learn how to listen more. We have had to learn how to communicate differently, and I’ll tell you, I am not the best when it comes to social media, and there are other people who are really good at that. But we have to talk in all kinds of different formats and channels and audio pieces and video pieces and written pieces and face-to-face. And I think that’s what our team has told us directly that they want. We have listened and we are definitely leading with our values, with that core of what the organization is about, and we’re really ensuring that folks understand that we’re not just evaluating and being evaluated on our outcomes. We’re evaluating how much and how passionate people can connect themselves to what we’re doing as a mission.
Denver: Let me build on that, Frank, and close with this. And that is, what do you hope people will be saying about mothers2mothers five years from now that they’re not saying today?
Frank: I would say two really amazing things. The first is, “Wow. This organization, mothers2 mothers, which leads with a peer model of HIV-positive women helping to transform and change the lives of other HIV-positive women and their families… they were able to and were at the forefront of eliminating pediatric aids”. That that part of our epidemic is done, and that will be a huge, huge change.
The second piece is that mothers2mothers have shown that a peer-led model… not only does it provide results in terms of outputs of numbers reached, but it provides outcomes and impact in terms of quality and depth of transformation. I will be really excited to hear that folks want to know more about mothers2mothers based in South Africa, operating on the African continent that’s doing all these amazing things. And I hope that in five years we can check back in, and you can hold me to that.
Denver: I’ve already got a date down for 2027. For listeners who want to learn more about mothers2mothers or financially support this important work, tell us about your website and what they can expect to find there.
Frank: Sure. So our website is www.m2m.org. And there, you can see where we work, information about our programs. You can hear about our Mentor Mothers. You can actually listen and see videos, and you can make a donation. And we encourage you to go onto the website to either support us financially or to contact us and/or just sign up to our newsletter. There’s all kinds of ways that you can connect to us. And we look forward to that.
Denver: Fantastic. Well, thanks Frank, for being here today. It was an absolute pleasure to have you on the program.
Frank: Thank you. I really appreciate it. And thank you for this incredible work that you do.
Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving serves as a Strategic Advisor and Executive Coach to NGO and Nonprofit CEOs and Board Chairs. His Book, The Business of Giving: The Non-Profit Leaders Guide to Transform Leadership, Philanthropy, and Organizational Success in a Changed World, will be released in the spring of 2022.
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