By Audette Exel, Founder and Chair, The ISIS Foundation and Susan Biggs, CEO, The ISIS Foundation
ISIS Foundation CEO Susan Biggs and Chair Audette Exel reflect at the end of another busy year on the great strides made by the ISIS team in nearly 16 years and look to a future of even stronger international cooperation between people of all walks of life to support those in need.
As we come to the end of 2013, we look back on where we have come from, at the same time as we plan the road ahead.
The ISIS journey began with conversations between friends about how to bridge the divide between the business and development worlds to support some of the most remote, disadvantaged communities on the planet.
In 1997 a handful of us set up a corporate finance business in Bermuda at the same time as establishing the ISIS Foundation. In 2007 we restructured our operations and Audette moved the business and responsibility for managing the ISIS Foundation to Australia. The ISIS business, ISIS (Asia Pacific) Pty Ltd, works every day in the international financial market to generate revenue from its corporate finance and placement work to fund the administration costs of the ISIS Foundation.
Our dream to use our business skills to fund and support our own development organisation finally came to fruition. Our business has generated more than AUD$7 million for The ISIS Foundation since that time, and the work of our amazing foundation teams in the USA, Australia, Bermuda, Uganda and Nepal now touches more than 30,000 people in need a year.
In Uganda, our infant, child and maternal health programmes continue to grow each year. In Nepal, ISIS manages a wide range of development programmes, including high-altitude health and education, helping to bring more girls into mainstream life through better access to schools, the care of children rescued from child traffickers and healthcare support for thousands of people at mobile health clinics.
Every day, the ISIS team understands more about the complexity of service delivery to vulnerable people. We are inspired by what can be achieved working hand-in-hand with communities and local partner organisations. And we take great heart from the speed at which the idea of “social business” has galloped into mainstream thinking.
After nearly 16 years of pioneering social business to support deep, grassroots development work, the ISIS team is now thinking hard about the best way to share our lessons with a wider audience, including other Australian and international non-government organisations and businesses. We have made many mistakes along the way and we hope to share these, and our successes, with others following a similar path.
Service Excellence, Research and Knowledge Sharing are our three ISIS pillars. In the next few years, you will hear more from us on Research and Knowledge Sharing as we leverage the impact from our Service Excellence pillar.
Our fantastic research team, headed by senior anthropologist Dr Kimber Haddix-MacKay, is focused both on ensuring that our work is evidenced-based and that we monitor and learn from our interventions. Our breakthroughs, small and large, have been shared through public talks and discussion papers. Earlier this year, we had an overwhelming response to a TEDx talk by Kimber on Nepali marriage systems.
The world’s economists are saying we face financial headwinds in the near future. Another monetary crisis will put the squeeze on funding for research and development and make it even harder for non-profits to attract donations.
This is where research and knowledge sharing come into their own. There is no need to reinvent any wheels — when development organisations collaborate, we will all benefit from each other’s work. Right now, ISIS helps improve the lives of 30,000 people each year. Knowledge sharing means our team can support hundreds of thousands of people in need by providing resources, training and toolkits that can be used by other organisations around the world.
ISIS will accelerate our knowledge-sharing programme over the next three years. We are excited about distilling our knowledge into a library of guides, training models and toolkits based on the hard work of many people over many years.
The more we share, the more people we can help. A simple concept in a complex world.
As always, we end the year with a tribute and the deepest respect for our teams on the ground and the communities where we work. And we thank all our wonderful financial partners, donors and social media friends for your loyalty and generosity. You give us the strength, courage and belief that, together, business and community can build a better world. As ISIS flourishes, we look forward to welcoming more partners into the ISIS family. There is much work to do. In the meantime, happy holidays to all those taking holidays and a very happy New Year to everyone!