Today our Student Spotlight is from Emmie Mediate, a senior at Notre Dame studying Africana Studies, Medicine, and International Development. She has conducted a variety of research on international healthcare systems throughout her undergraduate career, with a particular interest in HIV/AIDS policy. She spent her last three summers working and researching in the Ugandan healthcare system. While studying abroad in London for a semester, she also worked with the Policy and Advocacy Department of Save the Children U.K. After graduation in May, she will be doing what she loves at a still-to-be-determined location!
Idealists and pessimists. Developed and developing nations. Academics and practitioners. Us and them. Our world, and in particular, the field of international development, is divided along several lines. Moving against these rifts to emphasize what brings us together, Professor Jeffrey Sachs advocates a shared vision.
When I first heard Sachs speak in April 2012 (during the Global Health and Innovation Conference at Yale University), he spoke on “Information Technology and the Revolution in Health Care.” I distinctly remember walking out of the talk, impressed that he took such a specific topic and made it universally applicable. The discussion was not limited to innovations aimed at curbing the spread of malaria in Kenya, but also raised issues around elderly care in the US.
Juxtaposing these two challenges, Sachs nudged our audience against thinking disjointedly about health in Africa and health in the US. We all know what it is like to be sick, how reassuring it feels to be treated in a healthcare facility, and how challenging it can be to have frustration with a healthcare system.
In the same way, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which Jeffrey Sachs helped to craft, are unique because they include all of us. Development is no longer limited to gender equality in the middle of the African continent or eradicating poverty in Latin American countries. Every country has a responsibility to ensure that we can provide for each other and for the upcoming generations, side-by-side.
Which leads me to the field of social entrepreneurship, a sector that I believe is all-inclusive. Spanning healthcare, commerce, finance and more, there is a place for everyone to participate in social enterprise. The Aravind Eye Hospital in India provides critical eye-care for all socioeconomic classes. Higher-income patients pay a fee for their service thereby subsidizing the visits from lower-income patients. The commerce sector is filled with products that are ethically sourced and/or have a donation model such as the TOMS One-For-One program. With firms such as Root Capital, investors can enter the sphere of impact investing, leveraging traditional finance alongside positive social returns.
There are a myriad of opportunities available to all in the sphere of social enterprise. Even through small choices such as my eyeglass purchase (Warby Parker donates a pair for every one sold), to larger choices such as impact investing, I can make a difference, sometimes without straying from my laptop.
Jeffrey Sachs stresses the global responsibility to look after one another, and social enterprise is a platform that enables us to do so. Through innovative structures and business models, students, producers, patients, multinationals, NGOs, government and entrepreneurs can create products and services for the benefit of populations in the US, Latin America, India, or China. In this highly globalized society, everyone is interconnected, and we have greater access and capacity to accompany those in need.
As Sachs describes in his blog, “The year 2015 will be our generation’s greatest opportunity to move the world toward sustainable development but achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will require tackling urgent challenges.” There is a growing global movement among the millennial around thinking sustainably – considering the needs of the present without compromising the future. This charge includes all of us: every country, every aspect of life, and every person. I hope you’ll join.
Jeffrey Sachs is visiting Notre Dame for the Human Development Conference, which is open to all members of the Notre Dame community (HDC registration). Sachs will also deliver a public lecture on Thursday, February 26th at 7:00 pm at Washington Hall. This event is free but ticketed and tickets can be picked up from the LaFortune Center box office.
Banner photo was taken at the World Economic Forum by Andy Mettler, photo of Jeffrey Sachs was taken at Chapel Hill, North Carolina by an unnamed photographer.