In 2006, Ray Chambers, currently UN Special Envoy for Malaria, founded the nonprofit organization Malaria No More with the hope of ending a disease that had scourged the planet since the times of King Tut. Given the advent of several promising technologies as well as the unsynchronized state of the anti-malaria movement at the time, Ray saw a tremendous opportunity to make massive progress in combating the disease once and for all.
But his question was, exactly what kind of progress could be made, and what end result could an emerging nonprofit drive toward?
As part of our continuing exploration of solutions built to match the scale of social problems, we recently spoke with former CEO and current vice-chairman of Malaria No More, Scott Case. In our conversation, Case emphasized that Malaria No More was very intentional about answering this “end result” question. The organization eventually settled on a very bold goal that they believed they had the greatest ability to achieve – ending deaths from malaria in Africa by 2015.
What influenced Malaria No More’s ambitious goal?
- The tools available to them:
- In the 1990s and early 2000s, technologies arrived that would greatly facilitate the effort to reduce the incidence of death from malaria. These included long-lasting insecticide treated bednets (LLINs) as well as improved drug therapies. With these tools at its disposal, Malaria No More was able to imagine an Africa without deaths from malaria – and set that as its goal.
- Their core competencies:
- Ray and his team were not scientists – they were businesspeople. Thus they realized that their expertise lay not in developing vaccines to eradicate the malaria parasite, but in mobilizing resources to leverage existing tools and technologies to reduce the parasite’s fatal effects. These core competencies, along with the tools mentioned above made the bold goal achievable.
- And last but not least, the conscious decision to stretch their limits:
- While “ending deaths from malaria in Africa” may seem less ambitious than eradicating the parasite from the planet completely, it is still an extremely ambitious goal and incredible milestone that set the strategic vision for the organization and led it to stretch its resources as far as possible. Using Billy Shore’s words from his post in March, the goal was “important enough to matter, but small enough to win”.
To date, Malaria No More has distributed 2.7 million bed nets since 2006. In no small part due to Malaria No More’s efforts, deaths from malaria decreased by 10% from 2008 to 2009. In the pursuit of its big, bold, (but achievable) goal, the organization and its partners across the malaria community are well on their way to creating truly transformational social change.