Ashoka Vice-President of Global Marketing Beverly Schwartz has contributed a chapter to a new book on the role of community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations in public health.

Igniting the Power of Community: The Role of CBOs and NGOs in Global Public Health, edited by Paul Gaist, discusses the pursuit and potential of community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations to transform global public health. At a time of unprecedented challenge – economic crises, social inequalities, environmental stressors, emerging health threats – these organizations are driving change, often being the first to call attention to the issues and increasingly forging significant and sustainable solutions.

Beverly's chapter, The Freedom to Innovate: The Contributions of Social Entrepreneurs to the Field of Global Public Health, demonstrates why understanding the roles of the diverse organizations of this sector is vital to anyone concerned with improving health and public health today. This forward-thinking book explains how citizen sector organizations work, their immediate and long-term impact on public health, and the key players and business dynamics involve.

Below is an excerpt, republished with permission:

The What Ifs
We all know the steps - see a public health problem; understand the research, the audience segments, and the multifaceted sides of the issue; determine who is affected, as well as why, how, where, and when; who or what is involved in perpetuating the problem; who or what is the "obvious" solution. Then ask yourself, what if?

What if it is not like that at all? What if it became obvious to you that starting at the ground level, where current conventional "wisdom" congregates, was not acceptable? What if you raised yourself to the 50,000-foot level to get a better grasp of the totality of the situation?

You would quickly see that things look very different when you look back at the ground from that perch. From that height, you might get a better look at the unrelated but possibly contributing issues hovering around the edges.  And you may notice how unrelated issues or problems now seem to intersect and form a perfectly reasonable piece of the puzzle. Or maybe you see a little simple speck of something way down there that no one else has bothered to see before.

Just when you intuitively feel your own sense of "reasonable height" (the nexus point between comfort and anxiety, between exhilaration and fear), you draw a line between where the solution lies now and where you would like it to be. Would the height of your line correlate to your level of entrepreneurial spirit and mind? What if it did? How high are you willing to leap? And what if you could move your line forever and change the fate of suffering people everywhere?

The plethora and degree of critical global health issues in today's world demands a new level of creativity for understanding yesterday's problems, finding innovative and sustainable solutions for today's crisis, and anticipating tomorrow's urgencies. It is with this challenge in mind that this chapter is dedicated to all readers who give themselves permission to imagine themselves as having the power to innovate, experiment, and take risks in order to alleviate global health problems.

Excerpt from “The Freedom to Innovate: The Contributions of Social Entrepreneurs to the Field of Global Public Health”, by Beverly Schwartz, M.S. in P.A. Gaist (ed.), Igniting the Power of Community: The Role of CBOs and NGOs in Global Public Health, ISBN: 978-0-387-98156-7 © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010 (

This article was originally published on 26 May 2010
Related TopicsHealth & Fitness Health care Medical research Social Entrepreneurship

More For You