BFP: What do you do?
SB: I am the Founder and a Director of ColaLife. ColaLife is working in developing countries to bring Coca-Cola, its bottlers and others together to open up Coca-Cola’s distribution channels to carry ‘social products’ such as oral rehydration salts and zinc supplements to save children’s lives.
We are currently working with SABMiller, UNICEF, local NGOs and others to undertake a trial of the ColaLife concept in Zambia which we hope to start before the end of 2011.
BFP: What is the best part about your job?
SB: I really enjoy building the cross-sector relationships necessary to make something like ColaLife happen. This involves being able to see the proposition from other people’s perspectives and building trusted relationships. This takes time and patience. I also enjoy the interaction with online supporters of ColaLife and reaping the benefits of that for the ColaLife cause. I currently work on a voluntary basis until we can get a funded pilot off the ground and my wife has also made that commitment. We’ve worked together for many years and I really enjoy working with her.
BFP: What has been your greatest challenge?
SB: Oh dear, there have been so many challenges along the way and we will face many more I am sure. It’s like an endurance race with no finish. You’ve just got to enjoy the race!
BFP: What has been the secret of your success?
SB: I’m not sure I’d say we’d been ‘a success’. We’ve had successes and some have been very big ones – for example engagement from Coca-Cola, UNICEF and SABMiller in the project – but we are yet to test out the concept on the ground. It’s the injustice of child mortality levels in developing countries that drives us and ultimately our success will be measured in terms of our impact on this.
BFP: If someone wants to do what you do, where should they start?
SB: You just have to decide on your big hairy vision and then you’ve just got to take the first step without worrying too much about what your second step is. You just need to start doing something towards your vision. But you need to start carefully because you will need to bring others along with you. You don’t want to give the impression that you can do it alone, because you probably can’t.
I started by setting up a Facebook Groupto share the ColaLife concept with others and engage them in making the concept better through challenge and contribution. The group also gave me the ‘power’ I needed to engage with the very powerful stakeholders that we require. When I set up the Facebook Group, I had no idea that it was going to change my life in the way it has. I certainly didn’t think I was going have to give up my job to focus full-time on ColaLife!
BFP: Finally, what do you hope to get out of being part of this community?
SB: Business Fights Poverty was set up in 2008 around the same time that I started ColaLife as a Facebook Group. Without it I am not sure how I would have maintained an awareness of ColaLife within the big business community. It has been superb. As well as the online community, the events have been really useful and I applaud Business Fights Poverty and the big businesses involved for making them completely open and free. I believe this has been a real benefit to all involved. The remaining development issues we face are not going to be solved by any one sector or another, they are going to be solved (I believe) through innovative collaborations across sectors. An essential platform for this is non-exclusive collaborative networks and this is what Business Fights Poverty has provided.