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Viewers from around the world tuned in on July 7 for Solve’s second installment of our interactive Solving from Anywhere webinar series. The engaging conversation tackled the role of moral leadership in addressing current global crises and other present-day challenges and featured Alex Amouyel, Executive Director, MIT Solve in conversation with panelists Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO, Acumen; Sindhuja Jeyabal, Co-Founder and CTO, Solver Dost Education; and Anna Bertmar Khan, Acting Director, Programs, Solve Member Dubai Cares.
To hear the full conversation, watch the webinar recording.
Pivoting our leadership models
Over the past several months, the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn have pushed social impact innovators to explore creative new pathways to move forward on issues ranging from early childhood education to healthcare and economic prosperity.
Novogratz contended that moral leadership in today’s world requires a pivot in perspective—and a fundamental shift in how we envision the future.
“Our leadership models have to be such that we are solving our biggest problems globally and also rooting ourselves locally, so that we can deliver in a more effective way,” she said. “This will go not only for finding vaccines and then distributing them equitably, but also as we solve problems of the climate and redesign for a world that must put our shared humanity and the sustainability of the earth at the center of our systems—not just profit.”
For Solver team, the pandemic has spotlighted the need to address newfound pressures on families in addition to strengthening parent-child relationships. A tech-driven support program providing educational resources and guidance to parents at home with young children across India, Dost has lived the changes Novogratz outlined.
“We realized that, while we do early learning and parent-child engagement, we should focus on addressing stress for families and really building resilience,” said Jeyabal. “So, combining mental health and connecting parents to resources, along with providing them the tools they can engage children with, has been our way of doing this.”
As a digital service, Dost Education—which has already reached 45,000 families in the past two and a half years alone—can continue its work, even if countries enact quarantines or go on lockdown. Jeyabal added that Dost is also working to connect working parents to employment and livelihood resources as well as mental health resources.
This kind of shift in approach requires what Novogratz called the “moral imagination”: a way of thinking that calls for people to “rejuvenate, rethink and renew all of our institutions,” from the private sector to government to nonprofits. Novogratz said she’s begun to see “extraordinary things” happen as social entrepreneurs find ways to make this pivot, and she highlighted the work of Acumen fellow Sara Saeed Khurram in particular.
Khurram, the cofounder and CEO of the women-led telehealth network Sehat Kahani, designed an app to provide online medical consultations that connect home-based female doctors with patients in Pakistan who are unable to access them in person. When Covid-19 threw Pakistan into lockdown, Sehat Kahani made the app free, which skyrocketed its use from 50 consultations a day to over 1,000.
Provoking the system
Khan, looking ahead, added that the moral future of education and sustainability must go hand-in-hand: “The future of learning, the future of education, the future of reskilling, giving kids that are today 5 [years old] both the moral fiber but also the skills to enter the fourth industrial revolution without destroying the planet while doing it? That’s not going to be possible with little, tiny efforts…so, we do still need to look for leadership in the state structure, in the governments of this world that ultimately sit on these delivery systems for education.”
In the end, she concluded, people can find moral leadership by questioning the current state of our institutions.
“I think our role as foundations and social entrepreneurs and startups is to provide thought leadership, to test stuff, to showcase how you can do things differently,” Khan said. “Provoke the system to think about the future and not remain stuck in the past.”
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Solve intern Aidan McGovern contributed to this article.
Alex Amouyel, Sindhuja Jeyabal, Anna Bertmar Khan, and Jacqueline Novogratz speak during the Solving from Anywhere webinar “Moral Leadership to Solve World Challenges” on July 7, 2020.