Ghanaian social entrepreneurs Gregory Rockson, Bright Simons and Selorm Branttie, are set to receive the prestigious Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship for their work to end counterfeit pharmaceuticals and goods by leveraging emerging technologies.
Rockson launched mPharma (an electronic prescription drug software solution), and Simons and Branttie founded mPedigree (a text message food & goods authentication system) to help doctors and consumers avoid purchasing counterfeit goods in real time, not when they’ve entered diabetic shock or see crops fail.
Counterfeit drugs kill an estimated one million people every year. mPharma is working to fix the broken prescription drug supply chain in Africa, where pharmacies struggle to keep life-saving medicines in stock, by buying drugs on behalf of pharmacies and selling them on consignment.
Kicking off next week’s 16th Annual Skoll World Forum, the Skoll Foundation announced the five winners of the 2019 Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship.
“These brave entrepreneurs are on the frontlines of solving the world’s most pressing problems,” said Jeff Skoll, Founder and Chairman of the Skoll Foundation. “Each social entrepreneur may have a distinct approach, but they all share a relentless pursuit of impact and the desire to create a more just world.”
The Skoll Awards distinguish transformative leaders whose organizations disrupt the status quo, drive sustainable large-scale change, and are poised to create even greater impact.
“These leaders have demonstrated how to spark transformative change to improve health, protect vulnerable individuals, and provide new opportunities for young people,” said Richard Fahey, Interim President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation. “We are thrilled to welcome these passionate problem solvers into the Skoll community.”
Awardee organizations receive $1.5 million in core support investments to scale their work and increase their impact. The social entrepreneurs also gain leverage through their long-term participation in a global community of visionary leaders and innovators dedicated to solving some of the biggest global challenges of our time.
Each of the 2019 Awardees leads an organization that shows great promise of outsized impact:
Crisis Text Line: Nancy Lublin
24/7 mental health support service that reaches underserved demographics and leverages its data to catalyze a more effective, cohesive mental health system.
Crisis Text Line is rapid-response crisis counseling that leverages big data and the dominant communication medium of today—text messaging. Crisis Text Line reaches underserved demographics; it skews young, rural, and low-income. People in crisis text 741741 and a trained Crisis Counselor responds within minutes, 24/7, to help assess risk, deescalate the situation, and craft a plan for continued safety.
Crisis Text Line supports people in imminent danger and uses its real-time data to continuously improve their intervention services. It hosts the largest public dataset on mental health. In addition, they share aggregated and anonymized data via CrisisTrends.org with the goal of strengthening the broader mental health system. Partners—ranging from police departments to state departments of health, and community colleges to the Boys and Girls Club of America—use this data to improve essential services and shape policy. Crisis Text Line’s innovation makes crisis counseling more accessible and efficient while working to catalyze an effective, cohesive mental health support system.
Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator: Nicola Galombik and Maryana Iskander
Confronts South Africa’s youth unemployment crisis—among the world’s highest—with its innovative job training methodology, business partnerships, and opportunity matching.
Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator builds scalable solutions for the youth labor market across the formal and informal economy in South Africa. Its matching tools and real-world training methodology help employers quickly and reliably gauge work-readiness and increase retention. Its high-tech “pathwaying platform” connects job seekers with opportunities developed through partnerships with businesses—whether behind a counter at Nando’s or at a desk at Deloitte.
Both the public and private sectors see Harambee as leading experts in the dynamics of the South African labor market. The Gauteng Province—including Johannesburg and Pretoria—has institutionalized the work of Harambee, relying on its platform and labor market solutions to address the youth unemployment crisis. Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator’s innovations, now expanded into Rwanda, remove cost barriers for employers to hire unemployed youth and unlock demand for this otherwise excluded demographic. Governments have begun to see the value of youth-focused solutions, while businesses have begun to see value in a population that had long been invisible to them.
mPedigree: Bright Simons And Selorm Branttie
Fights drug and agricultural seed counterfeiting with a product identification marker that consumers use to determine authenticity immediately with a mobile phone.
mPedigree’s core innovation is a unique product identification marker that consumers use to determine authenticity. They simply scratch off the label and evaluate a code within seconds using a mobile phone camera or text message. A rich overlay of software tools and sensor technologies create full supply chain traceability and visibility, risk management, and predictive analytics. Empowered consumers in Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East know immediately if they have counterfeit goods—not after they’ve entered diabetic shock or have seen crops fail. Regulators have embraced the technology and industry sees that product integrity and supply chain analytics correlate with strong sales. While graft and corruption wane, consumer confidence in the marketplace grows.
Both government and industry actors have great incentive to stamp out counterfeiting—mPedigree has formed partnerships in both the public and private sectors. Nigeria now requires labeling on all anti-malarial and antibiotic medicines. Kenya requires labeling on all seed packages for smallholder farmers. The metadata from those millions of authentications help corporations spot counterfeiting trends and supply chain dysfunction. Beyond mobile technology, mPedigree deploys sensors and machine learning to predict counterfeiting before it occurs and measures its environmental impact. mPedigree’s work is unified by a simple grand vision: a marketplace powered by verification and trust.
mPharma: Gregory Rockson
Fixes the broken drug supply chain in Africa to make medicine accessible and affordable by eliminating the inefficiencies and price fluctuations that keep drugs from sick people.
mPharma makes medicine accessible and affordable. Its innovation is to take ownership of the supply chain, eliminate inefficiencies, and introduce price controls. mPharma buys drugs on behalf of pharmacies which then sell them to patients—saving pharmacies the up-front cost, alleviating supply constraints, and introducing an efficiency checkpoint. Its ability to track and aggregate demand and its purchasing power result in lower drug prices.
mPharma has formed partnerships with major drug manufacturers—including Novartis, Bayer, and Pfizer—and now manages a network of providers throughout Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Many pharmacies in its network, such as the Red Cross in Zimbabwe, have managed to eliminate stockouts. mPharma also works with clinics to conduct community health screenings and to sign patients up for its innovative drug financing—an interest-free micropayment plan. mPharma cleans up the pipeline of drug procurement to deliver affordable drugs to sick people.
Thorn: Julie Cordua
Thorn defends children from sexual abuse by analyzing publicly available classified and forum data with smart algorithms to help law enforcement find child victims.
Thorn builds technology to defend children from sexual abuse. Thorn’s Spotlight tool combines massive amounts of publicly available data with smart algorithms to help law enforcement identify an average of eight child sex trafficking victims every day. Thorn works to speed the identification of children featured in sexually abusive material. Thorn also leverages its growing dataset to deliver deterrence campaigns designed to reach potential consumers of abusive content.
Law enforcement in every U.S. state and in over 30 countries now uses these tools, facilitating interagency and cross-border collaboration that speeds investigations. Thorn is building a future in which abusers can no longer act with impunity, where the problem of child sexual abuse is brought into the light, and the networks that support it disintegrate.
About the Skoll Foundation
The Skoll Foundation drives large-scale change by investing in, connecting, and celebrating social entrepreneurs and the innovators who help them solve the world’s most pressing problems. Founded by Jeff Skoll, the Foundation’s signature program is the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. Today, the Foundation’s portfolio includes 111 organizations and 135 social entrepreneurs around the world. Learn more at skoll.org