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Competing by Saving Lives: What's Next?

Two weeks ago in New York FSG launched its new research on creating shared value in global health, Competing by Saving Lives, in New York. The event brought together more than 100 representatives from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, and from key global health stakeholders. The attendees heard Prof. Michael Porter launch the findings of the report, and then engaged in a lively discussion that built on the key recommendations, including a panel with representatives from BD, Abbott, and Novartis, moderated by Jane Nelson of the Harvard Kennedy School.

The conversation focused on reactions the recommendations in the report, and in particular, on how they could be implemented or further extended. Several key themes were raised by multiple stakeholders:

  • The need for cross-sectoral partnerships to create the conditions for shared value creation, and to implement initiatives was cited by many. While participants recognized that these partnerships are not easy to structure or run, there was a strong recognition that companies rarely possess all the skills, expertise and credibility needed to succeed by working in isolation.

  • Measurement was also widely noted as a key factor in a variety of contexts. Participants identified the need for careful market analysis, for metrics to enable organizational learning and improvement, and for evidence to build buy-in and support with key internal and external stakeholders.

  • Participants pointed out that thoughtful and well planned communication – both internal and external – is essential as companies transition to a shared value approach.

  • A key challenge was identified around aligning incentives and timelines. While it is not true to say that shared value necessarily requires long-term thinking, building new markets and strengthening health systems often takes time. It can be difficult for companies to align expectations on time horizons, both within companies and in the context of partnerships with others.

  • Finally, there was discussion about the implications shared value on different aspects of corporate operations. Several participants raised questions about the implications of shared value for R&D – particularly with reference to product development partnerships. Others also reflected on the intersection of shared value with philanthropy (which undoubtedly has an important role to play, as we begin to set out in the paper).

For the full event overview, please visit the event page. All of these insights, along with others, represent fascinating questions for further analysis and discussion – and will in all likelihood be featured on this blog at some point in future. Watch this space!