Philanthropy Friday: My Day with PSI

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. You can view past posts from the series here.

I’m sitting in my hotel room in Washington DC as I write this post, and my brain is fried. Fried in a good way because I got to geek out on development all day long with people who are passionate about global health.

I had a very full, wonderful day with PSI at their headquarters. As I explained last week, I won a trip to the nation’s capital in order to learn more about PSI’s work in global health.


This photo was taken at the end of my day spent with PSI. I’m not sure how I was still standing!

PSI’s mission is to make it “easier for people in the developing world to lead healthier lives and plan the families they desire by marketing affordable products and services.” They strive for pragmatism and have a strong focus on research and measurement.

Though PSI is well known in the development world, they are not an NGO that has a lot of name recognition with the general population. With a heavy focus on family planning, they have programs targeting malaria, child survival, HIV, reproductive health and non-communicable disease. They are probably most known for their work in contraception. Condoms, in particular. One of the presentations I experienced, called “Making Condoms Cool”, included a presentation of some of the condoms and marketing materials used to get high risk youth and adults to use contraception.

condoms psi

Condoms, coasters and literature about using contraception from PSI.

But PSI is much more than condoms and contraception. I also heard of how they are empowering youth to host radio shows that allow them to talk about sex while getting a public health message out in the discussion. They are working with health care workers to be more youth-friendly in order to help address their needs and not be judgmental of their actions. Social marketing campaigns are encouraging mothers in Pakistan to breast feed in the first hour to get the health benefits of colostrum.

Throughout the day, I received a pretty good overview of the state of global health and development in general. There was a lot of talk about the need for partnerships moving forward. To tackle the world’s problems and to get the funding to do so is going to require those in the private and public sector to work together.

I also had the opportunity to visit the USAID office for a presentation on PSI’s family planning programs in Madagascar (funded by USAID). There was talk about social franchising which works by “creating a network of health care providers that are contractually obligated to deliver specified services in accordance with franchise standards under a common brand.” This innovative approach helps address health problems more holistically and less vertically.

I had to go through two security checks and be escorted up to the USAID office.

I had to go through two security checks and be escorted up to the USAID office.

I had also had the opportunity to have a coffee with PSI’s President & CEO, Karl Hofmann. It was great to be able to just sit and have a discussion about development, PSI and life in general. My day ended with some potty talk around how PSI was addressing sanitation in Bihar, India.

Overall, I was impressed by PSI’s approach to global health using a marketing perspective. They are big on research, finding the right markets and measuring results. There was a lot of talk about keeping Sara healthy. Sara being the person they serve.

I learned a lot in my full day with PSI, and I hope this won’t be my last time visiting with them. As they told me from the beginning, their story is fascinating, but it’s a long and complicated one to tell.

What did you know about PSI before reading about them here? What do you want to know more about?

Dorm Life, a Presentation and a Haiku

20140609-211117-76277453.jpgI am sitting in a dorm room at Worcester State University as I write this. It’s weird to be in a dorm room. Let’s just say it’s been a while since I’ve slept in a room with nothing more than a small bed, a desk and cinderblock walls. I suspect I wouldn’t do well in prison. And then there’s the whole showering in the shared bathroom down the hall. (Don’t worry, I brought flip flops.)

But it’s better than driving another three hours back up to Maine after teaching for three hours about marketing substance abuse treatment, prevention and recovery programs. And right before dinner too.

I’m at the New England Institute for Addiction Studies (NEIAS) Summer School. I’ve taught at two other NEIAS “schools” and have always enjoyed the diverse group of addiction professionals that they attract from all around New England.

If you are interested, you can take a look at my presentation slides. While my focus was on the substance abuse treatment, prevention and recovery, the basic marketing principles apply for anyone with a business.

As I was making the drive down to Massachusetts, I was thinking about how I’ve completely overcommitted myself over the past couple of weeks, both personally and professionally. Lately, I feel like I’m never even close to getting caught up. While I know I will get everything done that needs to get done to the best of my ability, I also know that I should probably slow things down a bit too.
So I wrote a haiku.
I’ve been writing haiku lately when I need to get some random thoughts and emotions out of my brain. I find it’s a quick way for me to dump any negativity or to just entertain myself with a laugh. It’s a neat brain exercise too because you have to come up with three lines with specific syllables (5-7-5). While I can’t publish what I’m writing most about right now, I can share with you the one I wrote in the car.
Not enough time in the day
Got to slow down now

Can you relate? Bonus points if you comment with a haiku!

Oh, and I’ve got another trip planned for next week too that I’m super excited about. I’ll give you more details in this week’s Philanthropy Friday!

Women Entrepreneurs: Read This Book!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary book to aid in the writing of this post. All opinions expressed, of course, are my own.


When I was recently asked by Crystal Ponti of Blue Lobster Book Co. (and managing editor of The Mother of All Meltdowns!) to review a new book on women entrepreneurs, I happily agreed. I’m not big on book reviews but, as an entrepreneur, the subject piqued my interest.

It will be three years ago this month that I stepped into my supervisor’s office and told her I’d be leaving my comfortable job at her nonprofit to pursue bigger things. I was starting another jennifer writing lab. It was a risk, for sure, but I knew I needed more of a creative outlet. I knew there was something more I had to offer to this world. My supervisor, who was also the executive director of the organization and a mentor to me, knew my decision was coming. She was smart like that, knowing where I was going before I knew. She supported my decision and asked me to put together a proposal so I could continue to work with the nonprofit on a consulting basis. They remain my biggest client today.

I have to admit that I didn’t have the highest expectations of the book I was to receive. I’ve read many books on business, entrepreneurship and leadership. While I can often find good nuggets of advice from these books, I rarely find one that speaks directly to me and my situation as an entrepreneur. After reading Jenn Aubert’s book Women Entrepreneur Revolution: Ready! Set! Launch!, I realize why this is the case. The books I have read in the past didn’t talk specifically about women entrepreneurs. In fact, most all of the books I’ve read have been authored by men. Does this make a difference? Hell, yes, it does.

In Women Entrepreneur Revolution: Ready! Set! Launch!, Jenn explores the mindset, motivation and behaviors of successful female entrepreneurs and the role models in their lives who have influenced them. She breaks the book down into three parts that include the importance of role models, modeling success and stepping up once you arrive. The stories and advice of over 100 women entrepreneurs are shared throughout the nine easy to read chapters.

I found myself taking notes as I read the book. I thought I would use these notes for this review, but there are simply too many to mention! I will say that the difference between men’s and women’s definition of success stuck out for me quite a bit. Jenn noted that the traditional “trifecta of success” for men is often money, status and power, while women define success by the meaning in the work we do. She also talks about the importance of community and finding your tribe, practicing self-care, and the myth of a finding balance. Of the utmost importance is to be clear about your mission and figure out what your “why” is.

If you are a female entrepreneur or just a woman who is thinking of taking the plunge into entrepreneurship, I highly recommend this book. Just one day after reading it, I faced what would have otherwise been an overwhelming to-do list with a different mindset. I prioritized, cut out time wasters and made time to take a break and walk my dog. I was more productive than ever and didn’t worry about the things I was not doing. While I’ve tried these tactics before, the advice of the women in the book was in the back of my brain. I recalled their experiences and understood their challenges. I’m not alone in this crazy world of entrepreneurship. Knowing this, as a woman in particular, can get you pretty darn far.

You can purchase the book, Women Entrepreneur Revolution: Ready! Set! Launch!, on Amazon.

Are you an entrepreneur? What advice would you give to women entrepreneurs just starting out?

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