Public health practitioners have been championing locally designed and locally implemented public health interventions in a tale as old as time. Developing human-centered programs driven by the needs, preferences and motivators of the target population and the environment where they are living – in partnership with local stakeholders (policymakers, implementers, funders) — guarantees a deeper health, economic, and social impact than interventions designed without people with lived experience and local expertise.
The importance of such localized solutions was magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic where the key drivers and barriers to vaccination uptake were vastly different country-by-country and community-by-community, requiring a highly customized response, tailored to the unique institutional, social, political, health, and economic factors at hand.
But does this (continued) push toward public health localization put the value of a global enterprise strategy into question?
As multinational pharmaceutical companies have grown their footprints around the world, including in emerging and even lower-income markets (inspired by rapid economic growth and growing disease burden), decision-making authority and accountabilities for business and public health outcomes are beginning to shift from global HQ teams to regional and country teams for above-brand functions (e.g., policy, government affairs, CSR, global public health, etc.). This is, in part, because success is dependent on solutions that are designed with local market context in mind, but also due to the decentralization of decision-making (e.g., ability to influence policy change or public health funding decisions (e.g., among public health donors), and the importance of capturing and measuring real, on-the-ground experience to inform future strategic and investment decisions.
With all of this in mind, and as strong supporters of locally-led public health solutions, Rabin Martin still believes that the development of a global strategy is critical for global organizations. Based on our experience helping multinational enterprises develop global strategies to drive improved public health around the world, here is what we’ve learned:
1. A global strategy enables the full company to work towards a greater ambition (e.g., a target number of people reached, SDG goal or companywide ESG commitment) and provides a framework for measurement of total company impact.
Imagine the potential of mobilizing a full team around the same ambition, with clearly defined KPIs that everyone is working towards, despite where they are based or what function they represent. This means that all investments, programs, and decisions are driven by, and ladder up to, the same goals. This will enable inputs from across the business to be captured under one holistic measurement framework that measures the total impact a company is having in a specific area (as opposed to smaller, disparate
captures of impact that might not be fully aligned). This also allows for the total company impact to be communicated in a clear and compelling way.
2. A global strategy promotes cross-functional/cross-geography collaboration and can extend the reach of global expertise and resources, while still enabling local ownership or engagement.
The cross-functional nature of most global strategies requires strong governance for effective operationalization, but when managed correctly with clear roles, responsibilities, accountabilities – and full team buy-in from the start – it can help to maximize reach and impact. While the global function might be the lead facilitator of this effort, roles should be appropriately assigned to ensure local colleague input is reflected in the global strategic framework, and that local teams are engaged and have ownership over how the strategy materializes within their market.
3. A global strategy allows for consistency in external communications and the use of a unified company voice.
To break through the noise and strengthen relationships with and reputation among external stakeholders, it is important to elevate existing programming through a coherent and compelling story about impact and the company’s ongoing commitment. At the individual level, as colleagues around the world engage stakeholders in a 1:1 capacity, a global strategy (and its operationalization) will enable colleagues to elevate the same priorities, positions, and calls to action to advance agendas and forge partnerships in line with the company’s goals. Remember, it is important that from both an internal and external perspective, your company is seen as one company – not an organization operating in silos with inconsistencies in approach, tone, and priorities.
The right balance of global expertise, governance, resources (financial, human) and influence (e.g., on a global stage, within global dialogues) with local ownership, engagement and relevance will lead to success and impact in the public health space. Global strategies bring substantial value, but they must be reflective of local priorities and promote engagement of and ownership among local teams.