Karen Brady, a Global Part-time MBA student, recently launched Bump It Forward, a healthcare campaign that will donate the cost of a vaccine to countries in Africa who can’t afford basic PPE to keep the hospitals safe.
Karen began her MBA studies in January 2020 and attended her first workshops on campus before the Covid-19 pandemic erupted. Alongside her studies she works at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) as Director of Fundraising. Once she was back to working her day job, the Covid-19 crisis officially kicked off. Initial fears were that African countries would be worst hit, but the first wave of the pandemic did not have as devastating an effect as anticipated. Nonetheless PPE and other basic essentials were required in hospitals for front line staff, and LSTM’s fundraising efforts helped send over PPE to keep their colleagues safe.
It wasn’t until the second wave of the pandemic and new variants hit the globe that the problems escalated with health systems struggling to cope. The team in Liverpool were contacted directly by the director of LSTM’s partner entity in Malawi with a plea for support for more PPE and basic equipment. The situation there was serious with many healthcare workers sick or isolating and the hospital becoming overwhelmed with Covid patients.
Karen said: “We needed to do anything we could to help the situation, to get the hospitals working with enough staff to keep things above water and ultimately help save lives. Bump it forward came to fruition as a way to show solidarity with healthcare workers overseas, and in recognition of the privileged position we are in to receive the vaccine for free and so quickly. We worked out the average cost of the vaccine at around £25, so the idea was to donate the cost of the vaccine towards helping supply basic resources such as PPE and hand gel. This will keep those with less resources safe and protected as they may have to wait some time until the vaccine reaches them.”
When Karen started this job 5 years ago, her goal was to set up a strategic fundraising operation. The role needed to be more proactive and Karen was brought in to think differently about the way they fundraised. When she decided to study the MBA, her role had adapted further to include more responsibility, which led to her also becoming the chief operating officer for a project called HiVE.
The idea for HiVE came out of an internal discussion with colleagues based in Zimbabwe and Tanzania. They were expressing their frustration that there are so many talented African researchers whose career progression is held back as they don't receive the same levels of mentoring and support we take for granted in the UK. The idea of a skills development 'summer school' was discussed, but the need to bring people to Liverpool felt counter-intuitive. Thus the idea for online delivery was agreed and HiVE was born. Karen said, “I believed strongly this was a credible funding project but we needed to test it first. We received some grant funding to support an initial pilot and because it was sitting in the fundraising portfolio and needed us to connect with industry and alumni networks for mentors, I agreed to manage the project in collaboration with our Deputy Director.”
The split role was complimentary to the 'day job' but took on a whole new direction in terms of skills and knowledge of the innovation and entrepreneurship space. The team had a brilliant project partner - the African Health Innovation Centre, based in Accra, Ghana – that helped them get traction and access the right networks in-country too.
Karen believes that the Hive initiative could expand into a sustainable social enterprise. It was at this split point of her career that she decided to embark on an MBA. She was at a major crossroads with a lot of career-defining moments on the cards that the knowledge and skills you learn on an MBA would only aid her with.
The 125th anniversary for LSTM is coming up in 2023, which is a big milestone for the organisation. The work around this has dominated most of their time during 2020, and Karen worked with LSTM’s leadership team to create a vision building on the organisation’s global impact.