Andrea McCormick, Chief Operating Officer of ISIS (Asia Pacific) Pty Limited recently returned from Kiwoko Hospital in Uganda with a renewed appreciation of the power and impact of the ISIS ‘business for purpose’ model.
BY ANDREA MCCORMICK, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER OF ISIS (ASIA PACIFIC) PTY LIMITED
A hospital in rural Uganda was the last place I thought my career as a lawyer and accountant would take me. But for the past 4.5 years I have had the great privilege of using my skills in my role as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of ISIS (Asia Pacific). As COO, I am responsible for the practical day-to-day running of the ISIS (AP) private placement and corporate finance advisory business.
ISIS (AP) is an integral part of the ISIS Group. The business operates like any other financial services firm, but the key difference is that we donate the profits of the business to the ISIS Foundation to cover all of the administration and infrastructure costs of running development projects in Nepal and Uganda.
Although I had seen the videos and read the stories of ISIS’ work in Uganda, I was blown away by my visit to Kiwoko Hospital. As soon as you arrive, it is obvious that the hospital is a very special place. In general, I imagine hospitals as fairly depressing places, but Kiwoko felt different. Despite all the challenges and difficulties faced by the people working there every day; it really felt like a place of hope.
I was lucky enough to see many wonderful projects while I was there: I had a full hospital tour with a particular focus on the maternity ward and neonatal intensive care unit. Seeing the premature babies and their mums being so excellently cared for was very moving.
However, one of the main highlights of the trip for me was spending a day in the community with the Community Based Healthcare Team. The new red van had just been purchased and was already put to good use – taking maternity nurses into the community to run clinics for mums and bubs and transporting the drama group to different villages to perform.
The concept of the drama workshops had not fully resonated with me until I saw them in action. 6-8 women come to local outdoor meeting places and dress up, sing and dance to communicate important health messages. These include how to disinfect water, how to recognise warning signs if you are pregnant and different men’s health issues. Rather than handing out pamphlets with lots of words, these messages are delivered in the lyrics of songs and dancing which is highly effective. In the session we attended in one village, about 60 men, women and children were watching and apparently there would be close to 100 people in the audience before the performance was over.
The work ISIS is doing is really effecting long-term positive change. This trip reconfirmed my belief that even though the problems out there are huge, we can all make a positive difference if we want to, and “business for purpose” is just one way to effect change.
There are so many ways to slice and dice this pie and the ISIS Group are certainly not the only business looking for ways to have greater social impact. But, there is still room for plenty more socially conscious businesses to work in creative ways towards supporting people living in poverty – either domestically or internationally. One of the greatest things Kiwoko taught me was the importance of community. We should all be reaching out to help each other more.
Everyone has different skills to bring to the table. I am a lawyer/accountant by trade, who knows very little about development work, but being able to use my skill set to work for a “business for purpose” means that I can work in a way that aligns my skills and what I enjoy doing, with my desire to effect social change.
Seeing the work on the ground first hand, has not only given me a much better understanding of our projects, but it has also given me even more drive to make the ISIS business, not only more profitable, but more sustainable, so that the ISIS Group is able to carry on this work long into the future.