Networking for change: the story of a former ASN member and a leading social entrepreneur

Gustav Bard and Rustam Nabiev during one of their mentoring sessions
Source: Gustav Bard and Rustam Nabiev during one of their mentoring sessions

Rustam Nabiev, Ashoka Fellow and well-known leader in the Swedish and global public health sector, is the founder of Shifo – a foundation that enables frontline workers to easily track individual children’s health development, empowering families, health workers, and leaders to make the right decisions and create self-enhancing work processes within the health sector.  

Shifo solutions have grown their impact extensively over the past few years, currently operating in more than 1000 Health Service Delivery Points in seven different countries. 



Continued networks drive significant change

Since Rustam joined the Ashoka Fellowship back in 2016, the former Ashoka Support Network (ASN) member and co-founder of Adelis Equity Partners, Gustav Bard, connected with him through tailored mentoring sessions to further scale the impact of Shifo’s solutions.  

Rustam Shifo

To learn more about their mentoring sessions and this kind of collaboration, we spoke with Rustam and Gustav: 

Ashoka: What are some of the key lessons you've learned from your mentor/sparring partner, over the past few years? 

Rustam Nabiev: Through interactions with Gustav, I gained a better understanding, specifically in three key areas: 

  1. How to focus on the strengths of Shifo and keep refining the solutions, until we get repetitive and successful results. 

  2. How to work on improving Shifo, and how to build a sustainable institution. 

  3. How to work with the ecosystem of partners and gain the support needed to scale Shifo’s solutions. 

Gustav Bard: I started (and continued) working with Rustam because I instantly liked his personality, intellect and true ambition to build Shifo into a global organization within its field. Its mission is also close to my heart.

Rustam Shifo

Ashoka: What have these mentorship sessions contributed to you the most? And, what impact has it had on Shifo’s development?  

Rustam Nabiev: The mentorship sessions are a way to step outside of Shifo and look at it from different perspectives, to see where we are doing the right things, and, where we need to improve. Initially, we took sessions every quarter, but, gradually, it became once every 6 months. I believe the biggest impact was around the management of Shifo, and a better understanding of how to grow more leaders within the organization, who can take it forward.  

Rustam Shifo

Ashoka: What are your 3 key takeaways from your last mentoring session? And, what is the most important lesson you have learned from Gustav?  

Rustam Nabiev: 

  1. At every stage of Shifo’s development, there are new challenges that need to be overcome, to keep making progress. 

  1. At the current stage of Shifo’s development, it’s important to grow many more leaders from within the organization, who can take ownership for results and can build teams to achieve key results. 

  1. Building on strengths and developing new competencies or skills for extending Shifo’s solutions to new areas, especially innovative financing mechanisms 

The most important lesson is that I have to develop and evolve myself if I want to bring a change/improvement to Shifo as an organization.  

Rustam Shifo

Ashoka: Lastly, what are the skills that complement you from Gustav? 

Rustam Nabiev: It has been an amazing journey so far, and I am thankful to Gustav and the Ashoka Team for all those amazing discussions we had throughout the years. Gustav is an Investor and I am a Social Entrepreneur. That’s why we complement each other well when it comes to achieving a balance between Impact and Financial Sustainability.  

Ashoka: What is going to happen next? 

Gustav Bard: We will continue to meet on this bi-annual basis as long as Rustam finds it valuable.  

Rustam Nabiev

Ashoka Fellow since May 2016

 If you would like to find out more about Rustam’s work towards systems change within health care, visit his profile here and Shifo: www.shifo.org  


Ashoka Support Network is a global community composed of 350+ leaders worldwide in more than 40 countries. Joining the ASN means being part of Ashoka’s social change movement from day one.  

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