One of our teams has developed a new app to help with income generation in rural India – by improving the health and wellbeing of the goats there. Dr Elisabeth Kamphuis, who specialises in animal welfare, came up with the idea.
Elisabeth explains, “By focusing on goats, I realised we could help address the needs of many smallholder farmers. By keeping their animals healthy, they are in turn able to take greater care of themselves and their families.”
So, why goats?
Elisabeth noted that the animals are a particularly useful source of income for single women who, when widowed or abandoned by their husbands, get very little support from the government. Goats offer them financial stability: the milk is a ready source of nutrition; they are relatively easy to breed; and goat rearing has few overheads, as the animals are able to sustain themselves on a variety of vegetation.
Elisabeth began by developing a training scheme to educate the women on goat welfare, but quickly realised that they needed a resource they could access at all times. So, she teamed up with six of her colleagues and started looking at the possibilities. They knew that the solution needed to be updatable, have audio capabilities so as not to rely on the written word, and not be cumbersome for people to carry.
From idea to app
They realised that an app was the answer, when they noticed that most people in these tribal communities had phones – even if they didn’t connect to the internet at all times. And for those without a phone, there would be a manual as well.
But developing the app, says Manuela Pastore, Global Head of Making More Health, the social entrepreneurial initiative behind the project, hasn’t been without its challenges.
“We knew we had to build relationships and collaborate with the people on the ground if we wanted this project to work – and that meant listening to build trust,” she explains. Talking to the women in the villages very quickly flagged up a number of issues. “Not all of these tribal women might be able to read and write. Plus, there were cultural differences, which meant we had to reconsider how people might react to our recommendations.”
Other considerations were a lack of a constant internet connection – so the app had to be available offline – and local influencer input. So, the team worked with the community, rather than for them, in order to bring all these factors into play; liaising with women, the local vets and NGOs to create a comprehensive app that delivered in all areas.
The bigger picture
The goat app, like all the Making More Health projects, is about making changes that are sustainable for the people they affect. “All our projects,” says Manuela, “have to bring solutions and linkages to healthcare, education, income generation and infrastructure for them to really become successful and sustainable.”
“We know our driver isn’t just human health or animal health, but everything from hygiene to women’s health, mental health, non-communicable diseases, and eye issues. Plus, we have to invest in income generation activities and identify diversified opportunities for the people so that they can earn money.”
That’s why her leadership weeks – which take 20 managers to rural India each year – are designed to push the attendees out of their comfort zone and ask the questions that in the business we do not ask.
The scheme is always oversubscribed. “Over the past ten years, we’ve involved roughly 6,000 people. Our ambition is to have 12,000 employees engaged by 2025,” explains Manuela.
And why is it so successful? “I think it's our holistic ecosystem approach that makes us different. It gives all these leaders the feeling that they are really appreciated, not just as experts, but also as human beings; it’s also about what people do on the ground for society.”
Opening it up to a wider audience
Now Making More Health is taking the next step and launching a co-creation platform. The idea being that social entrepreneurs and NGOs can upload proposals when they need help and Boehringer Ingelheim employees anywhere in the business can engage with them.
Manuela says, “I love this company. They gave me the possibility to develop Making More Health and spread my enthusiasm to so many other people. Now those people are becoming the changemakers of tomorrow.”
If you like the idea of joining the next generation of changemakers at Boehringer Ingelheim head over to the careers section to discover more about the current opportunities at the company.
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