Sabine Wilgenbus has been part of the team behind Making More Health for many years. During the development of Making More Health’s most recent milestone, the engagement platform MMH Connect, she played a significant role. We talked with Sabine to hear firsthand about the perks and benefits of MMH Connect and why she is so excited about the platform and the new possibilities it unleashes.
Our colleague Sabine Wilgenbus has been part of the team behind Making More Health for many years. During the development of Making More Health’s most recent milestone, the engagement platform MMH Connect, she played a significant role. We talked with Sabine to hear firsthand about the perks and benefits of MMH Connect and why she is so excited about the platform and the new possibilities it unleashes.
(1.) SABINE, YOU HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN MAKING MORE HEALTH (MMH) SINCE THE VERY BEGINNING. FEW PEOPLE HAVE MORE KNOWLEDGE OF THE PROJECT THAN YOU – BEFORE WE JUMP RIGHT INTO MMH CONNECT, CAN YOU DESCRIBE TO US IN A FEW WORDS WHAT THE OVERALL INITIATIVE MMH IS ABOUT?
MMH is a global social entrepreneurial initiative in partnership between Boehringer Ingelheim and Ashoka. In 2010, on the occasion of Boehringer Ingelheim’s 125th anniversary, MMH was launched with a commitment to creating a healthier world for individuals, animals, and communities. Thanks to the company's strong support for MMH, we were in quite a unique position back then, and enjoyed a few liberties. For example, we did not have to comply with the usual approval processes in full. I think you can say that MMH was instead treated as a startup within a global organization, which helped us move quickly in the beginning. We focused on creating a worldwide network of social entrepreneurs during the first few years, primarily solving specific health issues. MMH has come a long way since those early days.
Inspired by our engagement with social entrepreneurs, we have started to embed social entrepreneurial thinking within the organization. Today, more than 6,000 of our colleagues have been actively engaged in MMH programs that have made a positive cultural impact and empowered changemakers within and outside our company. I believe it’s fair to say that with the support of our colleagues from many different countries and our external partners – like NGOs, universities, and communities – Making More Health has contributed to and will continue to contribute to a healthier world.
(2.) MAKING MORE HEALTH IS NOW EVOLVING A STEP FURTHER WITH MMH CONNECT. CAN YOU TELL US WHAT MMH CONNECT ACTUALLY IS?
MMH Connect is a digital matching platform to foster global co-creation projects between corporate volunteers and social entrepreneurs, and to spark social intrapreneurship. The motivation to create MMH Connect was driven by the strong demand among our colleagues worldwide to engage with social entrepreneurial projects via MMH. After ten years of rising popularity, the original infrastructure did not allow for further growth, and we understood that MMH had to be elevated to a new level.
(3.) THIS IS VERY INTERESTING. WHAT ARE THE ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS OF MMH CONNECT AND HOW DOES IT UNLEASH THE FULL POTENTIAL OF MAKING MORE HEALTH?
We asked ourselves how MMH can be even more impactful and give more colleagues the chance to become part of it, and how we can create a global, sustainable ecosystem between us and external partners such as NGOs, partnering companies, universities, governments, and local communities. The answer was an easy, accessible, and scalable web-based engagement platform where colleagues can directly identify social entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial projects and engage with them. At the same time, the external social entrepreneurs and NGOs on the other side of the equation can pitch their projects and request specific support.
(4.) SABINE, THIS SOUNDS AMAZING. CAN YOU EXPLAIN TO US HOW BOEHRINGER INGELHEIM EMPLOYEES CAN ENGAGE WITH MMH CONNECT AND CONTRIBUTE TO ITS MISSION TO MAKE THE WORLD HEALTHIER?
If you are looking for the most direct way of engagement, it is just a few clicks away: Visit the website www.mmhconnect.org, register, browse through the list of projects and pick the one that appeals to you most. The project owner will get in touch with you directly soon after to discuss the next steps on your way to your corporate volunteer engagement.
Very soon, there will be an excellent opportunity to learn more about what MMH stands for and why a global pharmaceutical corporation such as Boehringer Ingelheim is running this initiative and why co-creation is bringing value to individuals, society, and corporations. MMHTogether, our MMH convention, will take place from November 11 to 12. This is where MMH Connect will be officially introduced. We will give everybody the chance to dive deep into the projects and gain a complete picture of the whole network and its journey over the past ten years of collaboration. By then, there will already be quite a few calls to action and projects listed on MMH Connect.
(5.) MORE THAN 6,000 BOEHRINGER INGELHEIM EMPLOYEES HAVE BEEN ENGAGED WITH MAKING MORE HEALTH SINCE ITS INTRODUCTION – WHAT DO YOU THINK DROVE THEM TO CONTRIBUTE AND DECIDE TO BECOME A CORPORATE VOLUNTEER?
I think most people are caring from the bottom of their hearts, and we all know caring is sharing. People want to see purpose in what they do – and there are many opportunities, often in our immediate environment, to change the status quo for the better.
I have actually had this experience myself: In 2019, I was about to travel to Nairobi. Back then, we were collaborating with a local partner in Kenya, Francis Gikufu from the NGO Mukuru Angaza. Francis lives in one of the biggest slums in Kenya, Mukuru. Francis and I connected before the trip to discuss the program, and he also talked to me about the challenges young girls in his neighborhood face when trying to meet the most basic standards for menstrual hygiene. I was shocked to hear that due to the lack of sanitary products, the girls in Mukuru stick whatever they can find in their panties – leaves, sand, simple sheets – but that most of the girls do not even have panties! To keep a long story short. I asked him how I could help, and we agreed to organize a donation of panties for the girls in Mukuru. In the last few days before I left for Kenya, I launched “over 100 girls”, a donation campaign for underpants within the company. My office looked like a laundry room, but it didn’t matter: Our colleagues contributed 2,000 panties and tons of sanitary articles to the cause. I then contacted Golda Sowada from the Kenyan NGO Golden Girl Foundation, who runs coaching sessions for the use of menstruation cups, and she agreed to travel to Nairobi to train the girls and distribute the donations to them. It all happened eventually, and even the local media joined the session. It was definitely one of the most emotionally rewarding experiences of my life. Not only that, but the project gave me the chance to change my mindset and tap into my entrepreneurial skills.
The trigger points for the many colleagues who have supported social causes via MMH may very well be different for everyone: It could be compassion or seeing a real need to contribute because of their own situation or personal experience, or the desire to create an out-of-the-ordinary experience and gain new skills. Most probably, it is a combination of these motives. However, it is challenging to start from nothing in most cases, even if you are dedicated to contributing and passionate about making an impact. I think MMH Connect can be a strong trigger point, sparking engagement by providing a guiding framework and an accessible and easy-to-use tool that allow people to get involved.
(6.) IS THAT ALSO WHAT DRIVES YOU? CAN YOU TELL US HOW YOU INTERPRET YOUR ROLE IN THE MAKING MORE HEALTH PROJECT?
I see myself as a match-maker in offering opportunities to engage and showcase individual projects' outcomes or success. This alone is a win-win. Best-practice examples are multipliers to encourage others to join. Unlike profit-making businesses, it is pretty standard and welcome to share or multiply concepts and help develop ideas. When I join workshops as a speaker, people expect me to be an expert. What I tell them from the beginning is that I am not the expert on the project they’re developing. All I can offer is support, my experience, and a network. My main recommendations are: Focus on problem-solving instead of a preconceived technical solution, always keep your target group front and center in your mind, and don’t overthink on budget but always keep it simple, as the target group usually has limited means.
(7.) SINCE ITS LAUNCH, MAKING MORE HEALTH HAS FOSTERED AND SUPPORTED HUNDREDS OF SOCIAL PROJECTS – CAN YOU BRIEFLY RECALL FOR US ONE THAT HAS A SPECIAL PLACE IN YOUR MEMORY?
Each measure arising from a social project needs to confront the problem it wants to tackle and its consequences – and trust me, there are many issues out there. In most parts of the western world, we live in a safe, buoyant environment, yet even here we can find problems. Wherever you offer your contribution, you need to dive into the problem and confront it, and this is where the emotionally touching part enters the frame.
I remember one of the first cooking with friends projects, where we offered refugees the chance to host cooking classes for Boehringer Ingelheim employees. One of the attendants really entertained the whole crowd with his performance, and everybody gathered around the cooking station to be part of it. He did a fantastic job –Boehringer Ingelheim ultimately hired him as a cook. That was touching.
(8.) CAN YOU DESCRIBE IN A FEW WORDS WHAT THE PROCESS OF STARTING A TYPICAL MMH PROJECT LOOK LIKE?
Most projects have the same starting point, and it is pretty basic: There is a problem and it needs a solution – preferably a cheap and straightforward one. A social entrepreneur or intrapreneur with a changemaker attitude steps up, identifies the problem, and outlines a concrete approach to solve it. Then it is about bringing the right people together and fostering and supporting them until they bring the solution to life. From there, everything else evolves.
(9.) I THINK WE ALL ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO MMH CONNECT. WHAT IS THE MOST EXCITING ASPECT OF MMH CONNECT TO YOU?
There are many benefits and perks that MMH Connect adds to Making More Health. For me, probably the most exciting aspect is that it enables people from different countries and cultures to come together and engage for the common good. To see the MMH community grow globally would be a massive contribution with a strong co-creation impact. I am really looking forward to seeing the outcome and am super curious about all the future projects MMH Connect will unleash. Another aspect of MMH Connect that I feel is well worth highlighting is that it strongly represents the guiding principles of Boehringer Ingelheim: accountability, agility, and intrapreneurship. By engaging with MMH Connect, employees will have an excellent opportunity to embody and internalize these values. This will benefit us as we implement our guiding principles in full within the company as a whole.
(10.) WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO A COLLEAGUE WHO WANTS TO ENGAGE WITH MMH CONNECT? AND WHAT SKILLS DO THEY HAVE TO BRING IF THEY'RE GOING TO CONTRIBUTE?
Thanks for this important question! I would say that there are no specific skills needed that a Boehringer Ingelheim employee would not already bring with them. Before choosing a particular project, I’d suggest considering whether I want to develop my personal skills along the way or if my focus should be on contribution and support. Do I want to contribute to a specific area in which I am already adept, i.e. a project that matches my individual skills? If people want to try something completely new, I recommend them considering that they indeed can also create an impact. Still, I think that common sense will steer you to choose an area where you build on existing skills.
Anyone who wants to contribute to something big should approach projects with an open mind and not shy away from trial and error. If you want to really make an impact and unleash your potential, erase “idea-killers” from your mind: No great idea has evolved from thinking “there is not enough of a budget”, “there are not enough resources”, or ”the problem is too complex“. Last but not least: always put your target group first and align your thinking with their needs and means. Most importantly of all: Take action. With the launch of MMH Connect, it has never been easier than now.