Blended Finance “Plus”: Enhancing Support with Blended Knowledge

This blog post was written by Joy Marini, Global Director, Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact. Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact’s mission is to support and champion people on the frontlines at the heart of delivering care. They are a 2018 Global Health Council member.

Global development experts have long recognized that governments alone don’t have the resources to solve the most pressing challenges of our time. Finding new funding mechanisms to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and now the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) remains, rightly so, an urgent priority.

Funding models like the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, the Advance Market Commitments to fund vaccines for pneumococcal pneumonia and diarrhea, and the Pledge Guarantee for Health immediately come to mind as extraordinary global development financing success stories that effectively harnessed the power of public and private sectors. These models have been recognized for achieving what many believed was impossible – they provided financial resources and facilitated the flow of products and services to improve health for millions of the world’s poor.

While the pursuit for new, more effective blended finance models continues, we must also recognize that funding is but one piece of a big puzzle.

Former United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, eloquently articulated the value of partners coming together to advance progress toward the SDGs. He said, “One of the main lessons I have learned during my five years as Secretary-General is that broad partnerships are the key to solving broad challenges. When governments, the United Nations, businesses, philanthropies and civil society work hand-in-hand, we can achieve great things.”

Partnerships have been the cornerstone of our philanthropic work at Johnson & Johnson (J&J). They are, and always have been, about much more than financial resources. In addition to bringing funding partners to the table, we’ve found that integrating the knowledge and expertise of all members of a partnership has been the key to programmatic success. There’s a reason that integrating knowledge is valuable. It not only capitalizes on the strengths of every partner, sparking creativity and innovation, but it also spurs new ‘outside the box’ thinking and solutions.

Blended knowledge brings together three components:

  • Knowledge sharing, which has exploded with technological innovations and advancements that make it easier and cheaper to find and share information;
  • Knowledge internalization, which means understanding, learning and then applying new information; and finally,
  • Creation and innovation, which happens when members of a partnership have come together, shared and learned, and then approached challenges in novel ways to implement impactful solutions.

There are two J&J partnerships which stand out for their ability to bring diverse partners to the table with the right blend of knowledge, resources and ability to make and sustain real impact.

The Survive and Thrive Global Development Alliance with USAID started in 2012, and brought together the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American College of Nurse Midwives, Laerdal Global Health, Save the Children, Latter Day Saints, MCSP, and J&J to train health professionals, strengthen health systems and advocate for policy improvements. To date, the Alliance has trained more than 350,000 health providers in more than 80 countries, improving the quality of facility-based maternal, newborn and child health services – and saving countless lives.

The other partnership is Born On Time. Joining together with Global Affairs Canada, World Vision Canada, Save the Children Canada, Plan International and Johnson & Johnson, Born On Time is a first-of-its-kind partnership focused solely on prevention of preterm birth, which is now the leading cause of death in children under the age of five. Each partner is represented on the Partnership Advisory Council (PAC), which serves as the governing body for the initiative.  Partners share best practices across technical areas, implementation science, monitoring and evaluation, and advocacy.  And only because of the strengths and knowledge of the partners at the table will we achieve what we hope to achieve: improving health service delivery, increase demand for health services and strengthen data collection to prevent babies from being born too soon.

Much has been said and will continue to be explored around leveraging new blending financing to solve enduring global development challenge. Equally important is blended knowledge – which captures the breadth of perspectives to create innovative and integrated thinking.  This dual path is the future to answering solve today’s “unsolvable” challenges.  An all-partner, all-inclusive agenda will lead to true, sustainable impact.

The good news is that the talent, expertise and passion are, in many cases, already at the table. The question remains, are all partners being used as effectively as they could be?

Learn more about Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact.