Friday, November 27, 2009

Free investment advice for the season

With the upcoming world aids day, every HRI affiliate worth their salt is organizing talking shops and other junkets to celebrate mark another year passed without any impact on the epidemic. With the expert help of consultants, UN agencies the world over have been busy over the last six months putting together "matrixes" to make sure there is no duplication of celebrations events and no-one in the health business community is left out from having their logos printed on this or the other t-shirt.

This time of year also coincides with the closing of the year's accounts and quite a few donors discover mysterious buckets of money that needs to be spent before the end of December. Indeed, this is HRI territory – our affiliates always position themselves strategically to pocket this cash in the frenzy and create yet another win-win situation: as the year ends, the donor can report 100% "burn" on their budget, making a solid case for increased spending in the coming year, while HRI and affiliates bag the money and prepare a request for a no-cost extension so the money can be used to buy logo-ed t-shirts and fund some junkets next year as well.

Of course, Southern Africa is the place to be for the celebrations festivities and as HRIs Global Executive Director I am looking ahead to a busy month with trips to key Southern African countries where my presence will add dignity to various functions. I will be wearing my striped suit and crocodile shoes to go with my golden timepiece and am looking forward to banquets along ambassadors, key stakeholders and local maverick pastors. I have a standard speech for just such moments and it is saved on my power mac next to my three standard powerpoint presentations. The speech is a quality mixture of numbers, facts and drama, infused with that element of local touch and a bitter-sweet anecdote-cum-metaphor. Don’t know about others but I am always touched by the moment when the children come in singing and dancing in their dignified uniforms and thanking HRI for our life-saving work.    

Which brings me to the free investment advice: if you have some cash burning holes in your pocket wondering how to hit the jackpot, this is the time to open that t-shirt and baseball cap factory. Anywhere in Southern Africa would be a good place, but if you are unsure where, here is a helpful graph – the higher the prevalence the safer your investment).

In Comoros, unfortunately we do not have reliable numbers on AIDS prevalence. Which means that we have successfully raised money from several donors to determine exact prevalence by conducting complex qualitative and quantitative research guided by best practices and using six different cutting edge toolkits put together by different UN agencies. Meanwhile we are assuming the worst, which means we could well be on the verge of a massive epidemic that can only be avoided by comprehensive “sensitization”. We have already procured seven hundred thousand t-shirts and baseball caps that sport the message: “Change Your Behavior - Avoid Any Intercourse That Could Put You Or Your Loved Ones in Danger of Acquiring AIDS, Which Is a Not Exclusively but Mainly Sexually Transmitted Virus That Causes HIV which Is Not Curable” in red Arial 10 (we needed some space for the logos of donors, partners and stakeholders). Within HRI & partners, this ground breaking campaign is known as the “CYBAAITCPYOYLOIDOAWNEMSTVHIV campaign”, as we needed a catchy acronym to make it more memorable. 

The slogan is in English of course, which is the official language of our donor and the message was pre-tested in a focus group discussion with our accountants and their friends who were made aware of all the research behind this campaign by an epidemiologist from Harvard University who came in as a reasonably priced consultant to facilitate this process.

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