In 2012, Kate Roberts and Her Royal Highness, The Crown Princess of Norway devised a plan to end poverty by focusing on women and girls. Soon after, Melinda Gates — one of the strongest advocates for family planning in the global health arena — joined as co-chair and together they formed Maverick Collective. Roberts shares how the all-female initiative is making an impact and what’s coming next.
What is Maverick Collective ethos for the uninitiated?
Maverick Collective is a bold new programme that is redefining what it means to be a philanthropist. Our members embrace risk head-on, demand measurable results, and put the full extent of their true net worth to work. We know that solving big problems requires more than money: it demands leaders who are willing to listen with empathy, to fail and learn fast, and lend their talents and voice to generate impact.
Why Maverick Collective, what does it mean?
In 2015, the UN member states all agreed to a global set of goals called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals call for new sources of funding, ideas and approaches to tackle extreme poverty and disadvantage. We see Maverick Collective as a response to the SDGs. Our mission is to build a community of strategic philanthropists and informed advocates who use their intellectual and financial resources to create change for women and girls. Ultimately, we are a philanthropic and advocacy initiative to end extreme poverty in our lifetime by investing in girls and women.
How did you come up with the idea and what was your main inspiration behind an initiative to support only women?
In 2007, I was humbled to be nominated as a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum. I saw “The Girl Effect” video which put the needs of girls and women on the agenda in the international development community and galvanized donors around the need to invest in girls and women. However, the funding did not match the rhetoric and according to the United Nations, a paltry two cents of every development dollar went to programs exclusive to girls and women. This meant precious resources and talent were being left on the table by not engaging women philanthropists.
Your work sees you help initiatives across the globe. How do you go about selecting the regions and communities that you work with?
Maverick Collective is an initiative of Population Services International (PSI), a global health NGO with operations in 55 countries around the world. PSI has multiple program areas and this has allowed Maverick Collective to focus on: reproductive health, non-communicable diseases, water sanitation and hygiene, gender based violence, HIV and AIDS, and maternal and child health. We then seek to align with members’ interests and skills. Other key factors include: acute needs of women and girls; favorable policy environment; potential for leverage and scale; and opportunities for sustainability. PSI’s experts engage and solicit input from Maverick Collective members throughout the design phase of their chosen project.
The members of Maverick Collective are all female. Aside from the obvious emphasis on women’s rights and health, what connects Maverick Collective members?
A key part of the Maverick Collective model is giving members the opportunity to be involved with their project and lend their skills, expertise, voice, and influence. We work closely with members in the early stages of the partnership to understand how best to leverage their unique talents and time commitment to create the greatest possible impact for girls and women – whether in generating ideas to enhance the project, serving as a champion and advocate for an issue, or activating their network to inspire others to invest.
We provide members with a unique experience tailored to their interests, skills, and desired time commitment across three core areas: impact, education, and advocacy. Members work with their dedicated Partner Liaison, within the Maverick Collective team, to develop an annual learning plan, and have the opportunity to engage with their project on the ground through field visits and regular interaction with PSI’s experts and country teams.
Our target is for members to become informed champions for girls and women through technical learning opportunities, workshops, conferences, speaking engagements, and working groups and retreats with other members. We also provide media and messaging training and opportunities to author opinion pieces and other publications that raise awareness of Maverick Collective’s approach to philanthropy, the member’s chosen health area, and other key issues facing girls and women in the developing world.
Do you see what you are doing as instrumental in improving women’s situations across the world; do you work with other organizations that are doing similar things to you?
Our work at PSI is driven by passion and hard facts. We know we are bringing about positive change for women and girls on our programs because we place great emphasis on measuring our work and using the data to direct our efforts. So far, Maverick Collective projects have reached 1m women across 25 pilot programs.
Indrani Goradia’s work in India on reducing gender-based violence has attracted additional funding from USAID to make it the largest GBV program in India.
Pam Scotts work in Tanzania, looking at creating affordable and scalable models that breakdown the barriers teenage girls face in accessing contraceptives, attracted additional support to scale-up and work across East Africa.
Kathy Viza’s cervical cancer project in India, is pioneering simple techniques to detect and treat cervical cancer. Her work has been taken-up by the Uttar-Pradesh Ministry of Health and is now being rolled-out across the state by the government department to a client base of 28 million women.
Future projects for Maverick Collective?
Maverick Collective is developing new pilot programs within the six program areas in which we work. Some of the exciting new pilot programs that we are seeking support range from innovative responses to the sanitation crisis in India; to introducing new technologies to engage mothers and daughters in preventing and treating cervical cancer; to working with men in South Africa to increase the uptake of PREP (PRe-Exposure Prophylaxis; a drug taken to prevent HIV transmission). Personally, the PREP program for me is highly exciting as I think it will be a game-changer in the fight against HIV.
In addition, Maverick Collective is forming new tracks for next generation philanthropists. Maverick Next has dedicated resources and support for next generation philanthropists to excel in their areas of interest and investment.
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