Social Capitalists: Population Services International

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
2007 Social Capitalist Winner

Population Services International

Washington, DC
Year founded: 1970
President and CEO: Karl Hofmann
www.psi.org

PSI, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., harnesses the vitality of the private sector and applies it to health problems of low-income and vulnerable populations in more than 60 developing countries. With programs in malaria, reproductive health, child survival and HIV, PSI promotes products, services and healthy behavior that enable these populations to lead healthier lives.

The Problem

Every day, thousands of women and children in the developing world die unnecessarily from poor sanitation, poor nutrition and lack of access to basic information, products and services relating to maternal and child health. Every day, tens of thousands of women who wish to space their births or limit their family size have unintended pregnancies because they lack the means to do so.

PSI's Solution

For more than 35 years, PSI has been applying private sector marketing strategies to improve public health of low-income and vulnerable people in developing nations. It has given people information and access to family planning choices and to effective, appropriate health products and services. As a result, it has made a major, measurable impact on the lives of millions of the world's neediest people.

PSI's Mission

The mission of PSI is to measurably improve the health of poor and vulnerable people in the developing world, principally through social marketing of family planning and health products and services and behavior change communications.

PSI has nurtured a powerful organizational culture around a set of core values that collectively define its institutional identity. They set the boundaries for what the organization can do -- and sets it apart from other non-profit health organizations.

  • PSI believes in the power of markets and market mechanisms to contribute to sustained improvements in the lives of the poor.
  • PSI believes in results and a strong focus on measurement.
  • PSI believes in working fast and efficiently, with a predisposition to action and an aversion to bureaucracy.
  • PSI believes in being highly decentralized, empowering its staff at the local level.
  • PSI believes in keeping its long-term commitment to the people it serves.

Impact/Results

In 2005, PSI products, services and campaigns directly prevented, among other outcomes, an estimated:

  • 212,000 HIV infections
  • 6.5 million unintended pregnancies
  • 117,000 child deaths from malaria and diarrhea
  • 21 million malaria episodes

And it gave many more low-income people the opportunity to avoid death and disability from other common diseases.

PSI's Vision and Strategy

Opportunities to leverage markets to serve the poor and vulnerable will only increase over time as incomes rise and globalization increases. More and more businesses around the globe understand that their engagement with the poor is not just good for society, but good for their bottom line as well. These trends will allow PSI to serve a growing number of low-income consumers around the world with affordable, life-saving products, services and ideas.

Strategically, PSI will continue the aggressive expansion of its line of products and services with a focus on those that address the most serious health problems of the developing world in the most cost-effective way. It anticipates a growing number of increasingly active partnerships with leaders in the packaged goods, pharmaceutical and financial sectors (modeled on its current partnership with Procter & Gamble) that will allow substantial numbers of poor to benefit from the research and development, marketing, distribution and finance capacities of the private sector.

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