Today, I attended a lunchtime session about Public Private Partnerships in the interest of gathering some ideas and motivation for my work with Maatla*. Toward the end of the session, I glanced down at my lunch and realized I’d only taken a few bites. It was an engaging session that was more like a talk show with panelists in comfy chairs and a ‘host’ who was very well briefed, but it was more what the presenters were saying that prevented me from eating (a great diet strategy!).
The three speakers included one from Global Fund, one from Oil Search (Oil Company, Papua New Guinea) and Chevron (Energy Multinational HQ’d in America).
I know some in the sector are sometimes weary of the contributions of the private sector, but I can confidently say that I saw the corporate heart today. I will start by paraphrasing what I heard from the representative from Chevron:
You can’t just make your current work staff healthy – your company is in this country for the long term – you have to also think about your future work force (your employees’ kids and their kids’ kids) and your future opportunities in this community. You must go beyond your fence-line. Go beyond your current scale because you want a healthy country to operate in years from now.
Chevron was the first company in its industry to implement a global HIV and AIDS policy and program. Chevron makes huge contributions to the Global Fund ($30 million since 2008)Chevron, in addition to the good work and programmes that it has for its families, has introduced a new educational prevention and support campaign called “AIDS is going to lose” (http://www.chevron.com/weagree/?statement=aids – go to the site if you agree!). This is a great campaign, and note it’s not a partnership, it’s their initiative. A great and inspiring example!
Oil Search is also a great example of a corporation with strong employee and family health services, and their contribution to the session was also quite moving. The representative encouraged NGOs and Governments to come to the table with problems that the Private Sector has already demonstrated expertise in – to make that connection for them so they can contribute to a solution. I’d like to echo his closing thoughts because I think it is something we all need to acknowledge: We don’t have a business if we don’t have a healthy operating environment.
So, all this talk about healthy work environments and strengthening communities, got me thinking – to my colleagues and friends working in NGOs – how are your workplace health programs? How do we compare with our corporate colleagues in terms of care, health and affirmation of our employees? Are we going beyond our fence-lines? And how about those who are within our yards? Just a thought.
*Maatla is the Setswana word for Strength. Maatla is a Civil Society Strengthening project that WUSC is a part of in Botswana.
About the writer: Melissa Godwaldt works for WUSC in Botswana on the Maatla Project (Civil Society Strengthening in organizational development and technical programming for improved HIV outcomes). Melissa is presenting a poster at the conference on Thursday afternoon, where she will shares successes and lessons learned from a recent civil society strengthening project that WUSC managed in during 2013.
For more information about the conference visit: http://www.aids2014.org/.