An Interview with Kate Roberts: The Maverick Collective

The article below was originally posted on The Source Summit’s website. Click here to read the original piece.

What is Maverick Collective ethos for the uninitiated? 

Maverick Collective is a bold program that is redefining what it means to be a philanthropist. Our members embrace risk head-on, demand measurable results, and put the full extent of their true net worth to work. We know that solving big problems requires more than money: it demands leaders who are willing to listen with empathy, to fail and learn fast and lend their talents and voice to generate impact.

Why Maverick Collective, what does it mean?

In 2015, the UN member states all agreed to a global set of goals called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals call for new sources of funding, ideas and approaches to tackle extreme poverty and disadvantage. We see Maverick Collective as a response to the SDGs. Our mission is to build a community of strategic philanthropists and informed advocates who use their intellectual and financial resources to create change for women and girls. Ultimately, we are a philanthropic and advocacy initiative to end extreme poverty in our lifetime by investing in girls and women.

How did you come up with the idea and what was your main inspiration behind an initiative to support only women?

In 2007, I was humbled to be nominated as a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum. I saw “The Girl Effect” video which put the needs of girls and women on the agenda in the international development community and galvanized donors around the need to invest in girls and women. However, the funding did not match the rhetoric and according to the United Nations, a paltry two cents of every development dollar went to programs exclusive to girls and women. This meant precious resources and talent were being left on the table by not engaging women philanthropists.

How were you connected with Co-Founder of  Maverick Collection, Crown Princess Metter-Marit of Norway? 

In 2012, Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway and I visited India as part of our work advocating for girls and women. It was there that we reconnected, having known each other from various global health gatherings. We realized that we both shared frustrations with the amount of talk and lack of action we saw. We decided we had to do something, so together, Her Royal Highness and I set about devising a new approach to ending extreme poverty in our lifetime by focusing on girls and women.

How did the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation become involved with your work?

PSI at that point had been working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for 15 years. Through my work as a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum, I had many discussions regarding the challenges faced by women and girls. This led to a discussion with Bill Gates who suggested further conversations with Melinda Gates as he indicated that we shared a common vision and goals in this area. Indeed, Melinda Gates is one of the strongest advocates on Family Planning in the Global health arena.

Both HRH Mette-Marit and I later met with Melinda Gates and from that discussion, Maverick Collective began to emerge. We were thrilled as Melinda Gates inspires both of us. We see her as a great example of a woman using her voice and resources to put family planning on the global agenda. She resonated with our emerging new model of philanthropy to truly amplify impact and create new champions for girls and women. We were honored when Melinda Gates joined our nascent effort as Co-chair, and together, we created Maverick Collective.

Your work sees you help initiatives across the globe. How do you go about selecting the regions and communities that you work with?

Population Services International (PSI) is a global health NGO with operations in 65 countries around the world. PSI has multiple program areas in the health sectors and this has allowed Maverick Collective to focus on five key areas: sexual and reproductive health, water sanitation and hygiene, social enterprise, digital technology, and chronic health care. We then seek to align with members’ interests and skills. Other key factors include acute needs of women and girls; favorable policy environment; potential for leverage and scale; and opportunities for sustainability. PSI’s experts engage and solicit input from Maverick Collective members throughout the design phase of their chosen project.

Maverick Collective’s membership is all female. Aside from the obvious emphasis on women’s rights and health, what connects Maverick Collective members and supporters?

A key part of the Maverick Collective model is giving members the opportunity to be involved with their project and, where desired, lend their skills, expertise, voice, and influence. We work closely with members in the early stages of the partnership to understand how best to leverage their unique talents and time commitment to create the greatest possible impact for girls and women – whether in generating ideas to enhance the project, serving as a champion and advocate for an issue, or activating their network to inspire others to invest.

We provide members with a unique experience tailored to their interests, skills, and desired time commitment across three core areas: impact, education, and advocacy. Members work with their dedicated Partner Liaison, within the Maverick Collective team, to develop an annual learning, advocacy, and communications plan, and have the opportunity to engage with their project on-the-ground through field visits and regular interaction with PSI’s experts and country team.

Our target is for members to become informed champions for girls and women through technical learning opportunities, workshops, conferences, speaking engagements, and working groups and retreats with other members. We also provide annual media and messaging training and opportunities to author opinion pieces and other publications that raise awareness of Maverick Collective’s approach to philanthropy, the member’s chosen health area, and other key issues facing girls and women in the developing world.

As Maverick Collective is an initiative of PSI and sits within the overall framework of the organization. Therefore, it does not have a legal board, however, the strategic direction of the program is set by HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit, Melinda Gates and Kate Roberts, with input and approval from the founding members.

Do you work with men and do you receive male support?

At this point, Maverick Collective does not have any male members, however, PSI, the mother organization of Maverick Collective has multiple ways to engage men in our work. We believe that seeing influential men advocating on behalf of women and girls is a powerful statement.

Many of the Maverick Collective programs engage and involve men and boys, like Ana Morales’ work in El Salvador with adolescent reproductive and sexual health, as they are integral to many of the obstacles faced by women and girls.

Do you see what you are doing as instrumental in improving women’s situations across the world; do you work with other organizations that are doing similar things to you? 

Our work at PSI is driven by passion and hard facts. We know we are bringing about positive change for women and girls through our programs because we place great emphasis on measuring our work and using data to direct our efforts. So far, Maverick Collective projects have reached 800,000 women across 15 pilot programs.

Ana Morales’ work in El Salvador is improving the lives of adolescent women and youth in delaying their second pregnancy while promoting new masculinities and healthy gender norms to reduce teenage pregnancies in vulnerable communities.

Lindsay Abram’s mental health project in the Dominican Republic is integrating crucial mental health awareness and care into the primary health care system to increase access and quality of these services. The project is also reinvigorating a Ministry of Health campaign to reduce stigma and discrimination around mental health.

Future projects for Maverick Collective? 

Maverick Collective is developing out new pilot programs within the five program areas in which we work. Some of the exciting new pilot programs that we are seeking support range from maternal and child health and finding innovative new ways to prevent Zika; to introducing new technologies to engage mothers and daughters in preventing and treating cervical cancer; to building teen-friendly clinics in Nicaragua that are open after school, have teen-friendly staff, and are confidential spaces to help reduce unintended teen pregnancies.

In addition, Maverick Collective has formed a track for next-generation philanthropists, called MaverickNext, which is a two-year curated fellowship for young philanthropists to join impact circles to revolutionize access to reproductive healthcare for girls and young women.

Note on PSI:

Maverick Collective is an initiative of Population Services International (PSI), a leading global health organization that makes it easier for people in the developing world to lead healthier lives and plan the families they desire. PSI’s programmatic and country experts design and implement Maverick Collective’s pilot projects.

About Kate Roberts

PSI brings an extensive network across 65 countries, technical expertise across a variety of health areas, and a 43-year history. Because nearly all of PSI’s 9,000 employees are local country nationals, health solutions are culturally sensitive, address specific needs on the ground, and are developed with local partners to ensure sustainable, long-term impact. PSI’s existing partners include the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and a number of Fortune 500 corporations.

Kate is the Co-Founder of Maverick Collective and Senior Vice President of Corporate Partnerships and Philanthropy at PSI. She has designed and led several highly successful public health initiatives, including YouthAIDS and Five & Alive, to increase public awareness around HIV and prevent the spread of the disease among young people. Before PSI, Kate co-founded and served as managing director of the promotion agency “141” in Eastern Europe, part of the Bates, Saatchi & Saatchi advertising network. In 2007, Kate was honored as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, where she serves on the Global Health Advisory Board and is the founding curator of WEF Global Shapers. She was also featured as a CNN Hero and received the Jack Valenti AIDS outstanding achievement award. In 2009, Vogue named her as one of its 100 women. Kate is an adjunct professor on social entrepreneurship at The George Washington University and an invited speaker at Aspen Ideas Festival, Davos, Wharton Business School, Columbia University, and Harvard Business School.

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