PRONTO Team Strives to Save Millions of Babies and their Mothers: An Example of Scaling Innovation in Health Care

Author: Reiner Lomb, Published: February 12, 2016

PRONTO International in Bihar, India – with a team of excited and passionate nurse midwives dedicated to saving lives at birth.

This is about how a passionate group of doctors, midwives and nurses are transforming themselves so they can transform the world. They are the founders of PRONTO International, a nonprofit that invented an effective, simulation-based solution for training medical staff to save the lives of mothers and babies during birth emergencies. PRONTO’s training approach is unique in that they have created a highly-realistic simulation that can be adapted to local circumstances, so clinicians are trained in the actual settings where these emergencies take place.

PRONTO is regarded as among the best in the world for training medical teams in resource starved environments, which has helped them to gain partnerships with prominent organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and CARE India. However, despite having trained almost three thousand nurses, midwives and doctors across the globe, PRONTO is painfully aware that they have only scratched the surface of the problem. The most recent statistics show that an average of 830 women still die every day due to complications during childbirth. In 2014, 4.5 million babies died before the age of one.

It’s especially tragic when someone’s mother or child dies even though solutions exist. The consequences of PRONTO’s Simulation Training not reaching obstetrics teams around the world can be counted in millions of lives lost. We at Blue Earth Network also have families, and deeply care about this issue. That’s why we seek to support inventors, such as the PRONTO team, to develop, refine and scale sustainable business models for global impact.

The question is: How can PRONTO, a tiny organization, thoughtfully and purposefully scale their life-saving approach to take on the gigantic, unmet need of mothers and their babies worldwide who are at risk? When Susanna Cohen, one of the founders of PRONTO, attended a course on transformative innovation led by Udaiyan (U.J.) Jatar, she stumbled upon an approach that she thought might help overcome this challenge. Susanna and her co-founder, Dilys Walker, epitomize the kind of innovators we love at Blue Earth. They are genuinely passionate about their mission and confident in their work, with the leadership skills to seek out people with diverse skills in order to achieve their mission.

Given the compatible missions and complementary skills of both organizations, it seemed like a natural fit for PRONTO International to start working with our team
at Blue Earth to help them overcome the challenge of a tiny organization with a great idea taking on such a complex, large-scale problem.

Research shows that the vast majority of innovations fail, regardless of funding or type of organization. Here are three of the major factors common to globally scalable organizations: 1) start with the end in mind, 2) understand the intangibles of human behavior, and 3) take a “whole systems” view.

1. Start with the end in mind
If you take a journey around the Earth with a faulty compass that is “off” by just one degree, you will find yourself hundreds of miles off course. PRONTO calibrated their compass, and instead of planning for what they should do over the next one to five years, worked backwards from the impact PRONTO wanted to create by 2050. While this was overwhelming at first for their small team, it put sharp focus on the challenges and requirements for creating and validating a scalable brand and business model.

2. Understand the intangibles of human behavior
The most persistent barriers to innovation are invariably the emotional and subtle drivers of human behavior. Inventors that have significant impact have a common ability to overcome these intangible barriers. Apple designed products that are so intuitive that people of all skill levels believe they can use them. Similarly, PRONTO team’s understanding of the emotional barriers of doctors, nurses, and midwives, such as feelings of doubt or embarrassment has informed the training approach so these health care professionals can build the confidence that enables them to overcome those barriers. For example, PRONTO has built in more opportunities for participants to receive and give feedback as a way to monitor their level of confidence at each stage of the training.

3. Take a “whole systems” view
PRONTO’s world is extremely complex. Even though they are a relatively small organization, they are aiming to improve maternal and neonatal health in countries across the globe, including India (Bihar), Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. The health systems in each of these countries are also very complex and unique, with their own priorities, policies, languages, cultures, organizational structures and decision processes. Short term pressures and complexity invariably prevent us from seeing “the forest for the trees” (the whole system), leading us to focus first on the immediate issues and opportunities. Stepping back and looking at the whole system allowed PRONTO to understand where they have the biggest leverage points to scale their training so that it can reach obstetrics teams in countries around the world. One result of taking a systems view was PRONTO’s decision to put more emphasis on developing stronger local partnerships, such as with CARE India.

We know from experience that this type of shift in thinking, as exemplified by PRONTO International, can be accomplished by others with similar challenges in scaling innovation in any field. The seven disciplines of the Blue Earth model were derived through the experience of Udaiyan Jatar at Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble, and through his research of world-changing leaders and entrepreneurs, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Steve Jobs, and others. These seven unconventional disciplines are decoded from studying how people with virtually no money, or sector expertise, created large scale change and innovation to achieve global impact.

To learn more about Blue Earth’s seven disciplines of transformational innovation, watch this popular TEDx talk by Udaiyan Jatar.

For more information about the work of PRONTO International go to:
www.prontointernational.org

Posted in: Innovation, Leadership