Experiential Philanthropy is Having Big Impact


By Karl Hofmann, President & CEO, PSI

In global health, “catalytic” is the go-to phrase. 

Whether talking about the success of our work (“catalytic impact”) or the funding that gets us there (“catalytic philanthropy”), we aim to convey the exponential effect of strategic investments in catalyzing great ideas.  

PSI’s experiential philanthropy program, Maverick Collective, has shown the catalytic impact on women and girls when donors choose to go beyond philanthropy-as-usual. Created in 2013 by PSI with Melinda French Gates and HRH The Crown Princess of Norway, Maverick Collective is a community of women philanthropists blending real-dollar investments in global health innovation with hands-on learning through engagement in the PSI projects they fund.  Through Maverick’s experiential philanthropy approach, Members provide flexible, risk-tolerant investments demonstrating how you give is just as important as how much. And when paired with the ingenuity and expertise of PSI’s teams, we can achieve incredible impact.  

Here’s how that works: 

  • Maverick Collective funding makes up a discrete but mighty portion of PSI’s annual budget.   
  • Members invest seed capital for PSI projects that are under resourced by government and foundation funders.   
  • These valuable investments have allowed PSI to test promising but unproven solutions in global health, build core capabilities, conduct user-centered design and advocate for policy change to reduce barriers to healthcare access for women and girls. 

As the Maverick Collective impact video shows, this funding model has an outsized impact on women and girls, and on PSI.  

In the past eight years Maverick Collective helped PSI to:  

  1. Mobilize $100 million in new funding for adolescent sexual and reproductive health  
  2. Reach 6.7 million people in 30 countries with cutting edge global health programs 
  3. Train 24,000 healthcare workers in 13 countries to provide quality healthcare 
  4. Shift national guidelines and policies in 5 countries for better healthcare access 

Here are a few stories to bring light to the catalytic power behind these numbers. 

Unlocking big bets to reduce unintended pregnancies   

In 2014, with $1 million in funding from a Maverick Collective Founding Member, PSI Tanzania worked with adolescent girls to co-create a program to reduce unintended pregnancy among Tanzania’s youth. The investment allowed for a new way of working for PSI– through human-centered design with girls at the fore. 

The pilot’s success positioned PSI to win several large investments for our flagship Adolescents 360 (A360) program; over the last five years, A360 has secured funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Global Affairs Canada and the Ethiopian Government to scale girl-centered programs across Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Kenya. In 2019, the BMGF named Ethiopia’s A360 Smart Start program as a Goalkeepers Accelerator.  In total, the original seed investment led to nearly $100M raised in new funding and over 500,000 girls who have chosen modern contraception through A360. 

Scaling cutting-edge digital health services 

Through the support of several Maverick Collective members, PSI is leading the way in digital healthcare innovations to bring care closer to those who need it most.  PSI leverages the smartphone revolution to change the way we engage with consumers, and meet global health needs with greater convenience, cost-effectiveness and scale.  

This is possible through PSI’s Connecting with Sara (CwS) platform, named for our archetypal user, which tracks and engages with women through their mobile phones using calls, texts, and social media. With her consent, the platform tracks her throughout her continuum of care— not just when she visits the clinic — sending referrals and using client satisfaction surveys. A Maverick Collective investment to optimize PSI’s technology architecture led to critical infrastructure improvements and new digital tools that support PSI programs in 17 countries, reaching millions of women and girls with accessible, discreet, and convenient health products and services. 

Improving quality and access to client-centered healthcare  

Seed funding from Maverick Collective was deployed for a pilot project to train community health workers in Kilifi Country, Kenya to provide men and women with greater awareness of and voluntary access to their choice of contraception. 

Health workers counseled women like 30-year-old Riziki Karisa (known affectionately as Mama Riziki) who was already the mother of 10 children.  For years, Mama Riziki asked her husband if she could use contraception, permission she believed she needed based on the cultural norms of her community. With additional training and tools, community health workers visited the couple and were able to offer discreet and culturally appropriate counseling in their home.  As a result, Mama Riziki’s husband gained a better understanding of the benefits of contraception and together, they made a choice for her to receive an IUD at a local clinic.  

Bringing health information and services directly to consumers is a quiet revolution that is disrupting healthcare systems worldwide. New technology and elevated training for community health workers providing care— previously provided only by medical professionals in facilities—make it safer and more affordable for patients to choose tools, like contraception, and plan for the lives they want to live. 

Shifting and influencing national policy  

In 2016, a founding Maverick Collective investment aimed to reduce the high rates of maternal and neonatal mortality in Uganda. 

Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), or excessive bleeding after childbirth, is the leading cause of maternal mortality in Uganda. To decrease the risk of PPH and ensure a safe delivery, most expecting Ugandan mothers use Maama Kits, which include every World Health Organization (WHO) recommended tool a mother needs for a safe delivery—sterilized and neatly packed to the size of a sleeping bag—for safe birth wherever she may be. However, before the Maverick investment, essential life-saving commodities: chlorhexidine to sterilize the baby’s umbilical stump, and misoprostol, which the mother can take herself to prevent or treat heavy bleeding, were not included in the kits. 

As a result of the successful pilot program, changes to government guidelines in Uganda now advise and approve the inclusion of life-saving drugs, chlorhexidine, and misoprostol, in Maama Kits. 

The world’s challenges need more philanthropists like our Maverick Collective Members.  

Philanthropists bold enough to trust those closest to the problems to design effective programs. Donors who understand that championing a nonprofit’s financial health and growth, through unrestricted grants and supporting overhead costs, allows for the organization to deliver with excellence and maintain due diligence. Solving the world’s greatest challenges, like access to quality healthcare and gender equity, require long-term investments that go far beyond money and include trust, empathy, patience, humility, curiosity and above all, joy. Of all the successes we celebrate with Maverick Collective, this is what I believe is most powerful and yes – catalytic.  

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