Social innovation for Pepal

Scaling up and achieving sustainability of high-quality HIV prevention and treatment services in Myanmar.


Helping local NGO's to find new sustainable sources of income.

Pepal is an international non-governmental organization which supports other local NGO’s in Myanmar, Tanzania & Uganda. They design and deliver on-site leadership trainings for the executives of NGO’s and multinationals. 

In these programs, leaders from businesses, NGO’s and the government come together to apply their leadership skills in an unfamiliar context, to sharpen their people skills and to develop new ideas to solve the social issues at stake.

In 2016 & 2017 Board of Innovation assisted Pepal in the facilitation of such a collaboration between Johnson & Johnson and three NGO’s that work around HIV & reproductive health in Myanmar. 

The NGO’s, in this case, were Alliance Myanmar, Ratana Metta Organization and Phoenix. The goal of this program was to help a variety of local NGO’s in Myanmar to become financially sustainable as most NGO’s in Myanmar rely on only one source of income, generally donor funding. However, the misinterpretation of GDP calculations has switched the country’s position from low to low-to-medium income, which could result in organizations losing their donor funding. Our challenge was to find new sources of income to allow them to keep on providing their services.

We recognise the current burden on patients with HIV. They have to go back and forth between the GP and the lab to give blood and get their test results – patients have to miss work and spend hours in Yangon traffic. We want to introduce a one stop shop for patients, where they can get all the services they need at the same time, in the same place. Jet Riparip, Regional Representative Asia, International HIV/AIDS Alliance


Setting up a Shark Tank and Design Sprints.

Executives and managers from both Johnson & Johnson and the local NGO’s were brought together to create alignment on the vision and sustainability of each of the NGO’s. 

While Pepal had one person full time on site to assist the local NGO’s, Vincent Pirenne & Anneleen Vanhoudt from Board of Innovation traveled to Myanmar together with a Johnson & Johnson team of corporates for a one week sprint every 6 months.

By using a variety of ideation methods we were able to collectively discover new business opportunities. We did a variety of eye-opening field observations in community centers and clinics to get a thorough understanding of the state of affairs. At the end of each week, the new business ideas were presented to the executive committee of the NGO’s in order to get funding or approval for execution. 


Variety of concepts for social change.

1. Technology and one-stop-shop, Yangon

The first team focused on improving how the Alliance’s services are delivered to their 3,000+ HIV patients in Yangon and extending quality health service provision to poor patients. The team has been developing the business plan for a one-stop-shop in Yangon that will offer services that are currently spread across town under one roof. This will save time and money for patients who often have to travel several times a month for hours across Yangon to get the services they need. It will also reduce the cost for service providers.

Currently, the one-stop-shop is being set up by Ratana Metta Organisation with local funds and the new clinic/lab will open in July 2018, employing 8-12 staff with a laboratory, reception, and pharmacy, as well as 3-5, visiting general practitioners

2Educate the younger generation on sexual health & birth spacing, Mon State 

The second team traveled to Mon State, a more rural area of Southern Myanmar, to see how they could help improve youth’s knowledge about sexual and reproductive health, with emergency contraception being the most popular form of contraception. The team developed a game to reach 10,000 vulnerable young women with safe sexual and reproductive health services in Mawlamyine, the capital of Mon State. In a country where one in ten maternal deaths are due to unsafe abortions, it is critical to ensure that sexual and reproductive health is on the agenda for all.

Currently, Phoenix has integrated the sexual and reproductive health Pagoda Festival Game into its core activities.

3. Social enterprises for social change, Mandalay 

The third team traveled to Mandalay, the old capital of Myanmar and the second largest city in the country and focused on helping community-based organizations to become sustainable. CBO’s play an integral role in the Myanmar health sector, particularly in providing outreach services to vulnerable populations. Funding is being cut for CBO’s and this will leave a critical gap in the system. The team explored ways to bring social enterprise models to CBO’s, to offer them alternative sources of funding. They have developed a plan to leverage opportunities within Myanmar for social enterprise expertise to be shared with CBO’s in Mandalay.

Currently, we are running a successful pilot with our Mandalay based CBO Spectrum. Spectrum’s profits from its social enterprise are growing each month and the CBO is once again supporting clients living with HIV.


To be continued.

Other ideas we once raised, such as the Hepatitis C pilot and rolling out Connect4Life in Yangon to reduce travel time for HIV clients, have not ultimately been taken forward. 

However, enthusiasm remains high and seeds have been sown for a new way of thinking. And most importantly, along the way, we have learned much. 

We never expected we could imagine situations like an HIV clinic with at least 100 patients each day, an average of four minutes per patient, many of whom cannot pay or have little money to travel to the lab for blood collection or lab tests and be truly able to anticipate on these challenges.

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