How Coca-Cola’s example can help end poverty

Today Melinda Gates was a key presenter at the TEDxChange event, “The Future We Make” and spent much of her presentation talking about how the campaign to achieve the Millenium Development Goals can learn from Coca-Cola. She had travelled around the world looking at development needs and visiting some of the poorest and most needy areas of the world – and everywhere she found Coca-Cola.

How had Coca-Cola managed to reach these areas and establish sales? Melinda identified three key activities

  1. They ensured they had real time data and acted on it to adapt to local needs and what was happening on the ground. In contrast, too often development projects are only assessed at the end when it is too late to adjust course or even fine tune
  2. They used local entrepreneurial talent, getting enthusiastic local people to act as distributors for them. Exactly the same point was made by Mechai Viravaidya later on when he described a campaign to make condoms available everywhere in Thailand, which shows that the same approach is sometimes applied in the field of development, although there is work to do to make it the norm.
  3. They market Coke as an aspirational drink, whereas too often development goals and activities are presented in terms of things to be avoided or as necessities. This should be so easy to change, since people do aspire to be healthy, to be well-educated, to have jobs and to live in a safe, sustainable environment. We marketing people just have to do a better job of promoting the goals and putting them in terms that people are enthusiastic about.

I am not involved in marketing development activities but I am involved in the debate on climate change, through my work for the AIB (Association for International Broadcasting). The presentation made me realise how actions to limit climate change need to be marketed to those of us in developed countries in the same way – highlighting the ways we can create a healthy, sustainable, good environment for ourselves and more especially for our children and grandchildren, rather than thinking of the things we should give up.

Climate Change and Human Rights

This is a period when I am focusing a great deal on the interlinked subjects of Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) and climate change. The two are interlinked because climate change has a disproportionate effect on the poorest and those who have least resources to enable them to adapt (see a previous blog I wrote here) and so makes the achievement of the MDGs increasingly more difficult.

My previous post on this blog was about the MDGs arising out of my personal involvement with Save the Children but I am also heavily involved in climate change because of the professional work I am doing for the Association for International Broadcasting (AIB). They run annual awards for the best in international media. This year for the first time there is a People’s Choice award, which I am running, where online viewers will vote for their favourite programme. The subject is “Best Coverage of Climate Change” and the short list has entries from the BBC, CNN International, Phoenix Satellite TV, Sky, the UN and VRT.

If like me, you are interested in climate change, you can be one of the first to see the short listed entries, vote for your favourite and share your choice with your friends and colleagues by signing up here.

You can also read my latest blog on theaibs.tv site on the subject of climate change and human rights here

Millenium Development Goals: Involving Different Constituencies

I attended a dinner hosted by Save the Children Fund UK on Thursday to discuss the Millenium Development Goals ahead of the UN summit later this month. I should note that the dinner was offered by a supporter of SCF and so did not cost the charity.

Attendees included those involved with SCF, politicians & journalists and the discussion covered progress to date on the MDG and what needs to be done to achieve the goals by 2015. Ten years since they were adopted, there has been signficant progress on the goals, more than most people expected, but on current trends most of the goals will be missed. What can be done to increase the momentum?

Different speakers talked of the challenge of involving more people who had not been touched or empowered by the process to date:

  • business people investing in developing countries had an interest in educated, healthy workforces but did not relate to large government or inter-governmental programmes
  • women could be a huge force for driving some of the required changes, but were too often seen as victims of underdevelopment rather than resources for change
  • the faith communities, with their mixed record of sometimes providing enormous help but sometimes putting up barriers due to entrenched beliefs, had not been engaged enough in the underlining moral imperatives of the goals
  • the younger generation, often idealistic and passionate about creating a fairer world and more sustainable lifestyles, were another group who felt little involvement with inter-governmental initiatives

At the same time, there were currently few charismatic leaders on the world stage who could drive through further change at governmental levels and the current economic climate made it seem unlikely that developed countries would substantially raise their actual giving (as opposed to their commitments) over the next few years. While a number of governments in developing nations had become committed to the MDGs, none of them seemed to have the position and authority to act as role models who would galvanise their neighbours.

It struck me that the slowing impetus at the governmental level together with the untapped potential of different non-governmental constituencies (businesses, youth, women, faith) calls for the MDGs to be pursued in different ways. They need to be made relevant to these constituencies and resources directed to empowering them to make changes. It is not changing the goals, but marketing them differently.

I make no apology for using the term marketing, since it is vital that the messages are put in terms that will galvanise each group and that all the different talents contribute in their own way to the overall aims.