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Leadership and responsibility through international partnerships

The Tropical Health Education Trust’s 25th celebrations at the University of Edinburgh this month saw an innovative pairing of the Global Health Academy and the Business School at a public event where issues of corporate social responsibility and the provision of healthcare in resource limited settings were on the agenda.

Celebrating 25 years of the Tropical Health Education Trust

Partnering with leading corporates such as Johnson and Johnson, the Business School’s MBA programme invited students to interrogate ways of addressing the many challenges of strategic leadership in a rapidly changing world, and why and how businesses should support the ethos and message of organisations such as THET in this increasingly complex and competitive environment. The GHA and the Business School both aim in different ways to tackle inequalities between the developed and developing world by fostering a research-driven community within the University and its global network of partnerships. The health partnership approach pioneered by THET provides a basis for effective collaboration between health institutions in high income settings and low income countries with the intent of sharing knowledge and information to train health workers, improve health services and build capacity.

Re-imagining partnerships was the message of the day and was demonstrated in the collaboration between Tropical Health Education Trust (THET), the Business School and the Global Health Academy (GHA).

In her welcome, Dr Liz Grant, Director of the Global Health Academy, emphasised the value of working together in strategic partnerships to face the multiple and interlinked challenges in the world: where the answers to many of the problems are already in the world, and can be found in unexpected places or surprising relationships.

Our task is to empower those at the cutting edges of society, often the most vulnerable or those whose voice is least heard to share their knowledge and to work across systems to think differently about solving issues

Dr Liz GrantDirector, Global Health Academy and Assistant Principal, Global Health

Where are you trying to go and how can we help?

Sir Eldryd Parry, KCMG OBEFounder, THET

The founder of THET, Sir Eldryd Parry, KCMG OBE, in his keynote speech on the founding and work of THET, highlighted the need for an approach that is responsive and not prescriptive; that asks the simplest of questions, “Where are you trying to go and how can we help?”

He described the confident and authentic record Scots have in Africa where “great and simple people who worked and did things, the unusual and the ordinary” and “With a commitment to a far horizon we must be ready to keep right on to the end of the road as Livingstone was.” Keenly aware of his audience, Sir Eldryd spoke of the importance of blending professional excellence with compassion and scholarship with love.

The Professorial Director of MBA programmes at the Business School, Malcolm Kirkup, emphasised the importance of the role of business and future business leaders in participating in the debate and driving social change. He described a VUCA world; volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, in which it is imperative that “Wicked issues” are addressed by tomorrow’s corporate leaders in dynamic partnerships.

We develop effective and responsible leaders by inspiring minds in dialogue with the world around us

Professor Malcolm KirkupProfessorial Director of MBA programmes at the Business School

As part of that preparation for innovative and entrepreneurial leadership 7 groups of MBA students were tasked to give a 15 minute presentation on the business case for Corporate Social Responsibility partnerships. Each team made compelling cases for corporate engagement and partnerships with organisations like THET who are working in resource limited settings. The panel of judges (Sir Eldryd Parry, Viki Tayler, Ian Johnson, Malcolm Kirkup and Liz Grant) were persuaded by an objective, evidence based pitch which explored the benefits of CSR as an important focus for business and included the full range of stakeholders from the community to employees to shareholders. The call for a sustainable and strategic approach was convincingly summed up in the team’s conclusions;

  • Corporates need to integrate community investment considerations into decision-making and business practices
  • CSR projects should focus on enabling communities to help themselves
  • Educating is much more important than giving and projects must be sustainable with long-term goals

The opportunity to make their case to the global leadership team at Johnson and Johnson in January and a case of wine went to the victors; Paul Hancock, UK, Andrew Fraser, Australia, Erin Bembe, USA, Ivan Lopez, Colombia, and Bin Sun, China.

Commenting on the presentations, Sir Eldryd was enthusiastic in his response, “I’m enormously encouraged to see people from today’s world who are poised to do something in tomorrow’s world.”

The second part of the day focussed on the current project “Integrate” funded by DFID through THET and awarded to the University of Edinburgh working in partnership with Africa Palliative Care Association and Makerere University Palliative Care Unit. Viki Tayler, Senior Partnerships Manager at THET, described the vision of the Health Partnership Scheme: a vision for “collaborations aiming to deliver education, training and support to health workers where it is most needed, whilst developing skills, leadership and resourcefulness of all.”

Dr Liz Grant provided an overview of the THET funded Integrate project which sets out to strengthen and integrate palliative care in 12 hospitals in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia. She presented a picture of Palliative Care in a word-map; from patients, those receiving care, to the people, those who plan, deliver, oversee and participate in care. The word-map displayed all the critical features from Programmes to Plans, Policies, Pathways, Protocols, Purposeful Prescribing, Performance, Partnerships, Procurement and Pastoral care. Mary Robertson, the Integrate Mentor programme manager, honed in on the feature of “Partnership” giving some personal accounts of the extraordinary value of the mentoring relationship from the point of view of both UK based mentors and their mentees in the 12 African project hospitals.

Ian Walker, Corporate Citizenship Director, Johnson and Johnson, a graduate of the University of Edinburgh Business School spoke very directly to all the MBA students in the audience “You must enter into your CSR relationships without conditions.” And he counselled that on graduating with an MBA certificate in their pocket the students must never forget this day.