How to Set up Global Partnerships for Impact and Success

Interview with Anne Gadegaard, Soraya Ramoul and Mia Bülow-Olsen at Novo Nordisk

Katie Hyson, Director of Thought Leadership at Business Fights Poverty caught up with the team from Novo Nordisk to talk about their new partnership, which aims to help ensure access to diabetes medicines and healthcare, is accessible to all.

Katie Hyson, Director of Thought Leadership at Business Fights Poverty caught up with the team from Novo Nordisk to talk about their new partnership, which aims to help ensure access to diabetes medicines and healthcare, is accessible to all.

Here, Anne Gadegaard, Associate Director Corporate Sustainability, Soraya Ramoul, Director Global Access to Care and Mia Bülow-Olsen, Global Access to Care Lead at Novo Nordisk share their thoughts:

BFP: Tell us about Novo Nordisk

Novo Nordisk team: Novo Nordisk is a global healthcare company and a specialist in diabetes. We are the world’s largest producer of insulin, including: human, modern and new-generation insulin. In our department, our current focus is on creating the critical access to diabetes care for our global population.

This is where the important question around access to insulin and other chronic disease medicines for people affected by humanitarian crisis arises. Though we already have a commitment to offer low-cost human insulin to humanitarian organisations and low-income countries, we know that medicine alone does not solve the lack of access to care.

Partnerships with humanitarian actors are a vitally important way of reaching displaced people and those otherwise affected by crisis. In the Global Access to Care team we are responsible for Novo Nordisk’s partnerships within this field. Our aim is to enable more people from the base of the pyramid and those affected by crisis to access our medicines and support, whoever they are, wherever they are. This is one of the ways in which Novo Nordisk works towards impacting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) positively.

BFP: Business and NGOs have been partnering for decades, what is new and innovative about the partnership between Novo Nordisk, the International committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Danish Red Cross.

Novo Nordisk team: First of all, we come to this partnership with the insight that most multi-stakeholder partnerships fail. We appreciate this, but also know, as laid out so clearly in the SDG #17, that partnerships and new ways of working together are essential if we are to deliver lasting societal impact at scale.

The partnership announced recently with the Danish Red Cross and the ICRC is based on this insight – we are going to measure and monitor the quality of the partnership as well as the societal impact. Shared value specialists: FSG have helped us to deeply understand the steps required to create a successful partnership and have also helped up in facilitating discussions.

The partnership itself has three legs:

  1. A commercial leg: we offer human insulin at a favourable price point to the Red Cross /Red Crescent operations globally. This is important because we need this relationship to be lasting and scalable, rather than reliant on a donation or hand out.
  2. A philanthropic donation: From Novo Nordisk to the Danish Red Cross and ICRC towards their health programmes, including their efforts to improve prevention and control of NCDs (non-communicable diseases).
  3. The field projects: We have committed to collaborate together in order to find new ways to provide chronic health care in humanitarian crisis settings.

BFP: Tell us more about the field project element within the partnership?

Novo Nordisk team: The third leg of the partnership  – The field projects – we are very excited about and we have worked hard to ensure we give this collaboration the maximum chance of success, for example:

  • We have committed to dedicating the time it takes to do this right  – so that there isn’t unnecessary pressure to force results before the understanding and mapping of the unmet needs is made
  • We have some of the world’s experts working on the project, including academics from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • We have, together with FSG, developed a scorecard and will be tracking KPIs for the partnership itself, not just the outputs.

We have no expectations around what the interventions will look like and we are still defining where the initial situational analysis will take place. Our point of departure is that there is a big issue that needs addressing: the lack of NCD prevention and control for those affected by humanitarian crisis, which, only together can we begin to find solutions to.

BFP: How will you reach scale?

Novo Nordisk team: We recognise that complex social problems do not have linear solutions.

We need many stakeholders to each bring their own expertise to create solutions and to work in a matrixed, joined up way. For this partnership, we have taken an ecosystem approach.

We acknowledge that partnerships are really difficult in practice and they often do not reach the objectives they initially set out. We have purposely set this partnership up without knowing what the answers are and have created as much capacity as possible within the partnership to enable it to explore and find real, lasting solutions.

We hope that others will be inspired by this partnership, that it might encourage other replicable models; that it might create other new partnerships that focus on chronic care in areas of humanitarian crisis and that we might learn more about how to make partnerships successful.

BFP: In your experience, what is the most critical reason why partnerships succeed or fail?

Novo Nordisk team: Trust, relationships and accountability. Not only is trust critical, but also taking time to nurture relationships and build trust is so often overlooked. The personal relationships between individuals within the partnership as well as at the organisational level will mean the difference between success and failure.

In our experience, trust can help keep things going when there is uncertainty, failure or where the extra mile in commitment is needed.

A trusting partnership is one where there is: equality in the relationships, investment in listening and understanding, accountability for the input and then each partner needs to be recognised for their contribution towards the solutions.

BFP: How did this partnership come about?

Novo Nordisk team: We have been working on the development of this partnership for more than three years. Senior leaders from Novo Nordisk, ICRC and the Danish Red Cross had a chance meeting of minds – an understanding that all three organisations share the same concern about a societal problem, which is how to provide care for those with chronic health conditions who have limited access to health care systems.

We have been working on it ever since!

BFP: What would be your call to action for anyone reading this interview?

Novo Nordisk team: Finding solutions to complex social problems is vitally important but incredibly difficult. Things don’t always work out, failure does happen – these we can all learn from. Our ask is for you to be open about and share the failures as well as the successes. Because only by sharing, can we try new things, learn from our mistakes and then find new solutions.

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