Welcome to the July 2018 issue of the Global Washington newsletter.
IN THIS ISSUE
- Letter from our Executive Director
- Issue Brief: The Life-Changing Impact of Improved Physical Mobility
- Organization Profile: World Bicycle Relief
- Changemaker: Heidi Peterson, Executive Director, Mobility Outreach International
- Welcome New Members
- GlobalWA Member Events
- Career Center
- GlobalWA Events
- Professional Development
Letter from our Executive Director
In this month’s newsletter, we are exploring the concept of Mobility, specifically an individual’s ability to physically move from place to place to accomplish a meaningful task.
I have been thinking a lot about mobility lately. In a few days, I’ll be cycling the STP, a supported “fun” ride from Seattle to Portland. During my training, I’ve realized what a powerful, useful, and liberating mode of transportation a bicycle can be. In addition, I have a new appreciation for Global Washington member World Bicycle Relief, which enables hundreds of thousands of people in developing countries to overcome educational, health, and economic barriers through the power of bicycles.
My goal to do the STP ride comes after a 12-month recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon, and while my injury does not compare to a permanent disability, I now have deeper empathy for those with lifelong physical impairments. Organizations like Mobility Outreach International, another GlobalWA member, are specifically focused on this issue and help to restore mobility, hope, and quality of life for people in developing countries who have lost a limb or have a deformity that affects their movement.
Improved mobility not only promotes greater independence, it also ensures that every person has an opportunity to put her talents and abilities to good use. With increased physical mobility comes higher school attendance, greater range and efficiency for community health workers in places where distance is a barrier, improved social integration for those with a physical disability, and increased incomes for individuals and their families.
Learn more about why mobility matters in this month’s newsletter. And, in case you missed it, Early-Bird registration is now open for our 10th Annual Global Washington Conference on December 6th. Hope to see you there!
The Life-Changing Impact of Improved Physical Mobility
Most of the time, able-bodied adults can take for granted their ability to physically move from place to place to accomplish their goals. Whether walking to the corner store, bike-commuting, or hopping in the car to run an errand across town, our mobility is an often-overlooked aspect of our independence and a critical component of our ability to meet our own needs and support our families and communities.
When circumstances arise that affect mobility, whether as a result of physical injury or deformity of the limbs, or simply the result of living in remote rural areas, it can take a lifelong toll on individuals’ health, education, and long-term earning potential.
Organizations like World Bicycle Relief use the power of bicycles to bridge the gap where distance is a barrier to economic and social development. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, walking is the primary mode of transportation for more than 600 million people. For women and girls, riding a bicycle can be a safer and faster way to cover long distances to go to the marketplace or to school. And it’s also a useful tool for transporting cargo (food, medicines, water, and more) in a fraction of the time it would take to carry on foot.
In addition to alleviating challenges of mobility arising from distance, effective interventions can also help overcome some of the toughest mobility challenges that may arise from birth defects, accidents, war and conflict, and environmental hazards.
Organizations like Mobility Outreach International, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month, perform surgeries and provide prosthetics and orthotics to thousands of people around the world – people like Figgy, a basketball-loving teenager in Haiti who lost his leg in the country’s catastrophic 2010 earthquake.
December 2016 marked a decade since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a groundbreaking convention that set the stage for greater inclusion of the more than 1 billion people worldwide with physical disabilities. In an article for Devex, the heads of seven civil society organizations, including Mercy Corps CEO, Neal Keny-Guyer, and World Vision President, Richard Stearns, announced a Global Call to Action for the international community to work toward greater disability inclusion, including in their own humanitarian work. In fact, they argued that not including members of this community amounts to a tremendous waste of opportunity and talent.
Ensuring that everyone has the ability to fulfill his or her potential is both the right thing to do and a smart way for societies to ensure they benefit from the skills and contributions of every individual.
The following Global Washington members are ensuring that mobility challenges do not prevent people from reaching their goals:
Mobility Outreach International
Mobility Outreach International (MOi) enables mobility in under-resourced areas of the world. MOi provides non-surgical treatment to children with clubfoot, and prosthetic; and orthotic services, physical rehabilitation, advocacy, and orthopedic surgical outreach to adults and children. mobilityoi.org
PeaceTrees Vietnam is a humanitarian organization dedicated to healing communities affected by war. Working alongside the Vietnamese people, Peacetrees Vietnam accomplishes this through landmine removal and education, survivor assistance and citizen diplomacy. The organization funds initial medical treatment for landmine survivors, as well as long-term support through prosthetics, wheelchairs and ramps. It also offers nutritional, economic and educational support for the families of victims, including helping rural families purchase livestock for food and income. peacetreesvietnam.org
The Rose International Fund for Children
The Rose International Fund for Children helps ‘differently-abled’ and disadvantaged children and adults in Nepal and other developing countries. trifc.org
SIGN Fracture Care International
SIGN Fracture Care International’s mission is to give the injured poor in developing countries access to effective orthopaedic care by providing surgeons in low resource hospitals with relevant orthopaedic education and implants. signfracturecare.org
World Bicycle Relief
World Bicycle Relief mobilizes people through The Power of Bicycles. The organization is committed to helping people conquer the challenge of distance, achieve independence, and thrive. For many people in rural regions of developing countries, poverty is a daily reality. In areas where walking is the only mode of transport, a Buffalo Bicycle offers the real and immediate benefit of reliable access to essential goods and services. World Bicycle Relief’s innovative model, combining philanthropic distributions with social enterprise sales, is the backbone on which it delivers greater efficiencies of scale, distributes more bicycles per donation, and generates deeper impact where the organization works. worldbicyclerelief.org
World Bicycle Relief
By Allegra Abramo
For girls in rural Zambia, getting to school often involves walking at least an hour each way. Community health workers in Kenya must walk 40 to 60 minutes just to reach their health facilities, and even longer to visit clients in their homes. In Zimbabwe, employees of one company face an average 3.5-hour walk to work.
In these and other rural regions across the world, access to education, health care, and economic opportunity is severely constrained by a lack of reliable, efficient transportation. More than 600 million people walk as their primary mode of transportation in sub-Saharan Africa alone.
Since 2005, World Bicycle Relief (WBR) has shown that the humble bicycle can be an accessible, affordable tool for tackling the barriers of distance and supporting sustainable development.
A vision of bicycles as a tool to improve people’s lives spurred F.K. Day and Leah Missbach Day to found World Bicycle Relief after witnessing the devastation of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. With support from SRAM Corporation, the bicycle component manufacturer that Day co-founded, and from the broader bicycle industry, they distributed more than 24,000 bikes in Sri Lanka. As the country worked to rebuild, the bicycles helped people reconnect to schools, clinics, and the marketplace.
Seeing the difference bicycles made in Sri Lanka, the Days were compelled to explore whether they could have a similar impact in parts of Africa and other developing nations. Since then, WBR has partnered with NGOs, development agencies, governments, and private industry to provide nearly 400,000 bicycles in 19 countries across Africa, South East Asia, and South America.
But they’re not just any bicycle, and certainly not what WBR calls the “bicycle-shaped objects” typically marketed in developing countries, which often lack basic components such as a functional braking system.
Day wanted to “take the product development knowledge and capability that had been utilized at the top of the economic pyramid and apply it to the bottom of the economic pyramid,” says Dave Neiswander, CEO of WBR. “And this had never been done before.”
Drawing on Day’s 25 years of product development expertise, combined with intensive input from end users and test riders in the field, the team designed a bike that would withstand challenging terrain and be repairable with readily available parts, all while still being affordable. They dubbed their creation the Buffalo Bicycle. In 2008, Buffalo Bicycles Ltd. incorporated as a for-profit subsidiary of WBR that sells the $150 bikes to non-governmental organizations, companies and individuals. Proceeds from those social enterprise sales help fund WBR’s philanthropic programs and provide valuable data that helps WBR develop economies of scale and other efficiencies.
WBR didn’t set out with a grand plan to develop this social enterprise model, Neiswander says. It was a response to demand on the ground.
As WBR began distributing higher-quality bicycles via its first USAID-funded health program in Zambia, which trained community health workers to combat the AIDS epidemic, “people started knocking on our door wanting those improved bicycles to help their program,” Neiswander says, “and we didn’t have a mechanism to make that work.”
They had to face down a perception that low-income people wouldn’t be able to afford high-quality Buffalo Bicycles, which cost about twice the cheapest ones available. “And what we have found,” Neiswander says, “is that actually, those at the bottom of the economic pyramid have to make their money go further, and so quality is really important to them.” Dairy farmers in Zambia, for example, have been willing to take out small loans to buy the bicycles, with payments subtracted from their earnings over several months.
To date, about half of its bikes have been distributed through such social enterprise sales, and the other half through donors and partnerships.
As this hybrid model has allowed WBR to continue growing, the organization has also maintained a relentless focus on return on impact. Evaluations of its projects demonstrate significant improvements on children’s school performance, health care workers’ outreach to patients, and farmers’ ability to get goods to market.
In Kenya, for example, WBR partnered with PATH to provide 1,100 bicycles to community health volunteers working to ensure rural tuberculosis patients received treatment. With the bicycles, the average number of total health visits per month jumped from 89 to 1,523, and workers were better able to track TB patients who had stopped taking their medication. The volunteers, who were mostly women, also gained ownership of the bicycles through two-year work-to-own contracts, giving them a tool to more efficiently complete their own household tasks.
For its signature Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Program (BEEP), WBR is now undertaking its first randomized control study, the gold standard of evaluation. Since 2009, BEEP has seen positive results from distributing over 140,000 bicycles, 70 percent of them to girls. The new study, led by Innovations for Poverty Action, includes 100 rural schools in Zambia, where long walks to the classroom deter regular attendance and can also pose a safety risk to girls. The final results, due early next year, will examine the effect on girls’ attendance and grade progression, but also on their empowerment and bargaining power in their household.
Those bikes are the most valuable asset in the girls’ households, explains Ruth-Anne Renaud, WBR’s director of global marketing, who met some of the girls on a recent visit to Zambia. “And that has been entrusted to a 12- to 15-year-old girl,” she says. “With the support of the local Bicycle Supervisory Committee, she is able to negotiate with her father or male figures in the household to ensure that she is the primary user of the bicycle, and that she is getting to school on a regular basis.”
The girls, Renaud says, are also able to convince their parents that they can complete some of their chores in the morning, peddle to school on time, and then ride home quickly at the end of the day to finish their chores. “So she’s getting a bit more independence,” Renaud says, “she’s getting a bit more autonomy, she’s getting to have a bit more control over the management of her day and her responsibilities.”
In this way, the mobility afforded by Buffalo Bicycles contributes to a number of the United Nation’s 17 sustainable development goals, including quality education, gender equality, good health and well-being, and zero hunger. In recognition of the bicycle’s role in achieving broader development aims, the United Nations declared the first World Bicycle Day on June 3. Neiswander spoke at the inaugural event in New York.
Reflecting on the future of global development, Neiswander sees opportunities in expanded partnerships with USAID and large foundations, as well as with businesses that are interested in impact- and data-driven models. Corporate leaders, he says, are increasingly tuned in to the ways social responsibility resonates with their mission, their employees, and sometimes even with their business strategies.
Neiswander also notes that protracted disasters, such as the flooding in Bangladesh, present a particular challenge. “They are open-ended investments, and how do you manage that?” he asks. The appropriate response, he suggests, is creating a system of development where each country is on a journey to become self-reliant.
Jeff Bezos, in asking for suggestions on his philanthropic giving via a 2017 tweet, said he was seeking to help people “at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact.” When it comes to mobility in developing regions of the world, Neiswander says, World Bicycle Relief’s unique model of philanthropy, combined with compelling social enterprise, is at that intersection.
Heidi Peterson, Executive Director, Mobility Outreach International
By Allegra Abramo
When Heidi Peterson was working in India, she met a woman who had experienced two miscarriages and, as a result, had been ostracized by others in her village who believed she was cursed.
Then the woman became a community health advocate through a joint CARE/PATH program supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to distribute safe birthing kits. She told Peterson that her experiences had allowed her to connect with other village women and develop new friendships. “‘I can help women feel empowered,’” she told Peterson. “‘It’s allowed me to feel as if my life makes a difference, and I’m no longer excluded from our village.’”
Seeing that kind of resilience and ability to overcome adversity is what keeps Peterson going.
“A lot of people, when they think about global poverty, they feel hopeless, as though the challenges are so insurmountable, and that poverty is inevitable and it cannot be changed,” she says. “When you see examples of small changes that allow people to become independent and in aggregate improve the community for the long term that inspires me, that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.”
Today, Peterson is the executive director of Mobility Outreach International, which restores mobility to children and adults affected by limb loss and deformity in under-resourced areas around the globe. Founded in 1989 by a Seattle orthopedist who provided artificial limbs and braces to Vietnamese land mine victims, MOi now also provides non-surgical clubfoot treatment, orthopedic surgery, and training to improve the local availability and repair of prosthetics and orthotics. MOi has served over 30,000 people in Vietnam, Bangladesh, Haiti, Sierra Leone, and recently launched programs in Senegal.
Peterson joined MOi just over a year ago after more than 15 years as a development professional with organizations that include CARE USA and India, Room to Read, PATH and JDRF.
Peterson’s passion for helping others grew out of her early-life experiences. Raised by a single mother in Idaho from the age of 8, she came to understand the important role others had played in her upbringing. “I realized it was really a community of people that helped my family succeed and helped me access education,” she says.
Growing up in a “broken family” in a conservative community, Peterson also became attuned to social stigma. “I was very sensitive to who was struggling in my society and how I could help make a difference to people around me.”
A year in Ecuador during college helped solidify her determination to focus her life’s work in philanthropy and social justice. She recalls witnessing a teenager who was missing both legs rushing between cars on a skateboard he propelled with his bare knuckles, begging for spare change. That and other experiences in Ecuador opened her eyes to how a lack of resources affects people’s long-term prospects for self-sufficiency.
At first Peterson thought that perhaps she could one day earn enough money to be a philanthropist. “And I realized that, even if I were to work in a field that would just allow me to contribute financially, my talents were better placed getting directly involved in the work.”
One of the central passions of Peterson’s work has been helping marginalized girls and women. “The pathway to success is much harder for them, and they are often the ones that are left behind,” she says.
While mobility challenges affect everyone, they can have additional indirect effects on women, Peterson explains. In places where MOi works, women typically have the responsibility to care for a child, spouse or other family member with impaired mobility. “So when you have one person out of work due to mobility issues, you really have two people that can’t produce at same level in the economy,” Peterson says. Helping the people in a woman’s household be as independent as possible “allows her to rise to her greatest potential.”
But Peterson aims to do more than help one person at a time. Ensuring that people will have better access to mobility devices and treatment across the local health system after MOi’s work on the ground has ended undergirds her work.
Sometimes that means diving into the minutiae of things like the supply of certain plastics. In Senegal, MOi has worked to increase the availability of polypropylene, which is used in making prosthetics. Polypropylene “sounds really boring,” Peterson says, but it’s essential for fashioning comfortable sockets where the residual limb rests. Without it, prosthetic legs won’t fit well and will just end up in the closet, with people reverting to using crutches, she says. MOi also trains people to make and repair prosthetics and orthotics and helps establish small repair centers that entrepreneurs eventually own and operate as their own private businesses.
“It’s improving the supply chain and local industry so things can be made at the local level with reduced reliance on global imports,” Peterson say, “as opposed to hoping and praying on foreign philanthropy to solve the problem. We have to invest in sustainability.”
Identifying and tackling challenges on the fly is part of what Peterson loves about international development work, and it also inspires her love of outdoor adventures, including cycling, sailing, and hiking. An avid sailboat racer, Peterson was the only female on a 10-person crew racing on the San Francisco Bay. In the often wet and cold position of bowman, Peterson was responsible for making all head sail changes. “You have to be able to make difficult decisions very quickly and precisely in knowing your team’s collective ability to meet the challenge,” she says. “To be able to exercise that role with proficiency was a real personal achievement.”
Summers spent helping out on the Nebraska farm of her Swedish-Danish grandfather helped instill a grit she has carried into her career. Life is tough, Peterson learned, and complaining isn’t an option.
“I have always believed in the underdog,” Peterson says, “and I for some reason am inspired to take on large challenges and solve them. For me that’s like mental Olympics.”
One big challenge Peterson sees facing international development nonprofits, particularly smaller ones, is the fragmentation of the funding market. Large foundations tend to want to streamline the number of nonprofits that receive their support, yet the nonprofit landscape continues to become more crowded. Additionally, people receive their news and information across many channels, which makes packaging your messages and getting them to the right people more complex and costly, she explains. But that also offers an opportunity, she adds, because you can tailor your message and advertising to the people who care the most about your mission and focus your efforts to develop relationships with those donors.
The recent tax law changes could also pose a new challenge to fundraising, Peterson says. The law nearly doubled the size of estates exemption from taxes, to $11 million, which means there is less incentive to give an end-of-life gift, she worries.
Peterson believes smart partnerships between nonprofits and social impact ventures will be the key to survival and growth. Both small and large NGOs can accomplish more when they co-deliver programs and tap into a greater array of talent. She gives the example of CARE USA, which increased its operations from 70 to 90 countries in the span of about seven years, while its operating budget remained approximately the same. They were able to do that largely through partnerships, she says.
“That’s a real shining light in philanthropy and nonprofit work,” Peterson says. “Rather than duplicating efforts and stepping on each other’s toes, there is a sense of greater collaboration.” The organizations that seek out and embrace that, she says, will be the ones to survive.
Among international non-profits, Mobility Outreach International is unquestionably a survivor. This month marks the organization’s 30-year anniversary.
Welcome New Members
Please welcome our newest Global Washington members. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with their work and consider opportunities for support and collaboration!
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
KIND protects unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children by providing pro bono legal representation in immigration court; family reunification and sexual and gender-based services in Central America that respond to the root causes of child migration; and conducting advocacy in the U.S. and the region for laws, policies, and practices to protect children who migrate alone. supportkind.org
The Spring Development Initiative (TSDI)
The Spring Development Initiative (TSDI) is a Redmond-based global non-profit that supports local leaders for positive social change. TSDI is committed to empowering young leaders who are working towards increased citizen participation in governance, as well as improved health, economic and educational attainment in their communities. The non-profit provides training and development, mentoring and collaboration, and access to scholarships and investments. https://www.sid-initiative.org/
July 14: Sahar // Sahar Education presents: A Night at the Museum
July 16: Clark Nuber PS // The Basics for Not-For-Profit Organizations
July 20: Upaya Social Ventures // Upaya 2018 Breakfast Briefing at GlobalWA
Senior Associate, Social Performance Measurement Upaya Social Ventures
Administrative Assistant Mobility Outreach International
Development Assistant Landesa
Children’s Coordinating Attorney Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
Check out the GlobalWA Job Board for the latest openings.
Global Leadership Forum: Gain practical strategies to advance your organization. Learn alongside a trusted community of leaders of global NGOs and nonprofits, foundations and related organizations.
Accelerating Social Transformation (UW School of Business): Increase your social impact and enhance your professional career. The city of Seattle serves as the laboratory for this unique and immersive three-and-a-half day course, curated by Akhtar Badshah, Global Washington’s president and board chair.