As an organization, we’re proud to be moving the needle on urgent challenges facing people in the poorest countries. We reach hundreds of millions of people in Africa and Asia with critical, cost-effective, and often life-saving products and services. Our programs improve health, education, and long-term wellbeing, and through our Beta Incubator we’re strategically investing in a portfolio of promising, evidence-based initiatives with the potential to reach millions more.
In keeping with our mission, we talk a lot about our impact at scale and approach to development - but much less about the people who drive both. Working across more than 10 countries, our team is energetic, deeply passionate, and truly diverse in terms of their experiences, knowledge, and expertise. We see that diversity as one of our fundamental strengths, and a well of potential that drives innovation - in our programs, incubation process, and back-end operations - and impact.
As the United States commemorates Women’s Equality Day on August 26, we’re celebrating a key aspect of our diversity, which is not yet the norm across many sectors, including in international development - gender equality. In the spirit of challenging convention, one of our core values, we’re honoring the phenomenal women who lead across Evidence Action. Currently, women comprise 54% of senior manager and higher roles, 57% of our global leadership team, and 50% of our board. We asked some of these women to answer a few questions about their professional development, inspiration, and the best career advice they’ve received, among other topics. Read part one of this two-part interview series to see what they had to say! You can find part two here.
1. My interest in the evidence-based approach to international development began... quite some time ago. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in how to get outsized impact and value for money in international development, but I know of very few organizations deeply rooted in this approach. My interest grew exponentially as I got to know Evidence Action - first as a donor to the Deworm the World Initiative, then as a Board member.
2. I joined Evidence Action because... I really think that the “DNA” of the organization–the focus on reaching hundreds of millions in a highly cost-effective, evidence-based way–is unparalleled. I also love our incubation process, which involves testing, iterating, embracing risks and preparing for the possibility of failure. Overall, the scale of our work and the scope for impact is immense.
3. The Evidence Action value that most resonates with me is... Think big, act urgently. While we are grounded in rigorous evidence, we recognize the scope of needs is massive and that the problems we’re confronting from preventing needless child deaths to creating better lives for families–they cannot wait. We act boldly and with urgency to address these.
4. The best thing I’ve read in the last year is... the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott. We have really big and important work to do, and we need to do it as efficiently as possible. As a leader of Evidence Action I try to be kind but at the same time very direct in addressing what’s not working – realizing that our ability to quickly address challenges and work effectively together can ultimately cascade to impacting millions of people.
5. The best career advice I ever received was... “join a fast-growing organization, where there is more interesting work than people to do it!” That’s what happened for me while I was at Clinton Health Access Initiative. The organization quickly grew from 50 to 700 people which offered staff, including myself, incredible opportunities. As a young professional I was soon managing teams across fifteen countries, overseeing tens of millions of dollars in funding, and helping the organization provide access to HIV/AIDS drugs to millions of people. That was an immense learning and growth opportunity, and one which set the path for the rest of my career.
6. To me, success is... doing meaningful work you love, and doing it exceedingly well.
7. The woman I would most like to meet and have a conversation with is… That’s a difficult one! Perhaps Angela Merkel – I’ve admired immensely her approach to immigration and leadership overall, and it’d be fascinating to learn from her knowledge and experiences. But that’s a tough question!
8. One thing I’m particularly curious right now is... behavioral nudges – how they work, the evidence behind them, examples of their effective use and so on. Behavioral science evidence informs so much of our work, such as how we design our chlorine dispensers, how we motivate volunteers in our incubation-stage Winning Start program, and how we generally design programs to ensure optimal uptake of life-improving products and services. I’m also excited about the earlier-stage Beta work we’re exploring - including whether and how we can play a role in addressing untreated syphilis in pregnancy which is a significant driver of fetal and neonatal deaths and has adverse effects on child health and development outcomes, but is also a fairly neglected issue globally.
Loice Ochweri: HR Manager, Africa
Loice oversees HR service delivery for Evidence Action’s operations in Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Nigeria. She holds nearly a decade of experience leading human resource teams for organizations in the private and non-profit sector.
1. I joined Evidence Action because... I was looking for a role that was more than just a job. I wanted to work in a place where what I did everyday had a direct social impact, and I found that at Evidence Action.
2. I am most inspired by... the resilience of human beings; the willingness to create where there is none, the resolve to keep pressing on against all odds. A never say die attitude!
3. The best thing I’ve read in the last year is... Nelson Mandela’s biography – Conversations with myself.
4. The best career advice I ever received was... from my first mentor straight out of school who also happened to be my first boss. She was the Human Resource Director at the company I was working for. She told me that as a woman you will always be judged for displaying emotions in the workplace, but the strength of a Human Resource professional is actually found in that - in the ability to empathize, rejoice with employees, and mourn with employees.
5. To me, success is... seeing a shared vision come to fruition, being in good health, and being in a position where I am comfortable with and enjoying both my family and career life.
6. The woman I would most like to meet and have a conversation with is... Oprah Winfrey. She personifies the strength, compassion and generosity of a woman despite having had a difficult upbringing. Michelle Obama too – I want to know how she does it all and looks so graceful doing it!
Anne Healy: Chief Innovation Officer
Anne leads the development and execution of Evidence Action’s global innovation strategy. She previously led Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) at USAID’s Global Development Lab and has held leadership roles at Innovations for Poverty Action, McKinsey & Company, and the U.S. State Department.
1. I joined Evidence Action because… I firmly believe there is no mission in global development more compelling than Evidence Action's. Our focus on bridging the gap between evidence and implementation at scale continues to be relatively rare in development.
2. The best thing I’ve read in the last year is... definitely the book Factfulness by Hans Rosling. Especially in the U.S. right now, it can be hard to stay positive about the trajectory of the world. Factfulness is a helpful and reenergizing reminder of the silent, often under-celebrated progress we’ve made in human and global development.
3. The best career advice I ever received was... “Don’t have a plan, have principles.” Especially early in one’s career when a lot of young people feel like they need to have a plan, a really clear sense of what they’ll be doing and where in 5 years, 10 years, and so on. But anchoring on that can be really counterproductive, putting blinders on young people to the things they don’t yet know they might be interested in, good at, find meaning in, and may make them less open to the opportunities you simply can’t bake into a plan. So, I’ve always found it useful to stay anchored on a set of principles as I make career decisions, rather than a super clear vision of the specific role, specific place, and so on. Had I not, I never would have ended up doing the work I do now.
4. To me, success is… intentionally reflecting, learning and growing from all your experiences - even if you’re not necessarily “successful” in achieving a particular goal.
5. The woman I would most like to meet and have a conversation with is… Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice who has been a staunch defender of women’s rights in particular for decades and who is just remarkably indefatigable at age 85 in the face of extraordinary challenges to civil liberties in the U.S.
6. To me, the most fulfilling thing about working in Evidence Action is… being part of a global team that is extremely mission-aligned. Everyone I’ve engaged with in our offices around the world is truly passionate about the organization’s mission and fairly relentless in doing what they can, in their respective roles, to enable us to pursue it more effectively. That’s such a foundation for being energized at work, for strong morale and, frankly, having been a management consultant in the past working with organizations and companies on things like organizational health, it’s a pretty rare attribute to have the degree of mission alignment that we do.
Katherine Williams: Senior Manager, Africa Region, Deworm the World Initiative
Katherine oversees the Deworm the World Initiative's technical assistance to governments in Kenya, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. She has held several positions within Evidence Action and is a Global Health Corps alumna.
1. I joined Evidence Action because... I was specifically excited about working on worms with an evidence-driven team! I had learned about the high impact and cost-effectiveness of school-based deworming in graduate school and then gained some context-specific experience working in East Africa before discovering the Deworm the World Initiative, when it all clicked into place.
2. I am most inspired by... the sense of “wildness” and endless possibility that exists in nature. A run along the Rift Valley Escarpment or in Nairobi’s Karura Forest gets me excited about life.
3. The best thing I’ve read in the last year is... This Week in Africa – a weekly installment of curated news on “democracy, development, and daily life” within this exciting and ever-changing continent. It’s a snapshot of political, academic, and cultural updates from a diverse mix of outlets and a nice way to (attempt) to keep up with current events in parts of the developing world.
4. If there’s one thing I wish I’d known at the beginning of my career that I know now, it’s... the value of feedback – both receiving and sharing it.
5. To me, success is... knowing your personal and professional values, and putting in the work to live them out.
6. The woman I would most like to meet and have a conversation with is... Michelle Obama. For so many reasons. She’s incredibly smart and accomplished, and must have amazing insights to the complexities and joys and sorrows of life all around the world, but embodies an incredibly grounded and humble leadership style.
7. One thing I’m particularly interested in learning right now is... Kiswahili! I’ve begun classes. I’m also interested in learning more about other neglected tropical diseases aside from those treated through school-based deworming – like lymphatic filariasis.
8. To me, the most fulfilling thing about working in Evidence Action is... knowing (and having the evidence to prove!) that my team and I are contributing to positive change for people living in poverty, within systems that don’t naturally serve them. So many of us hope that our lives will impact the world in a positive way, and I’m so grateful to go to work every day knowing that’s exactly what I’m doing.
Esha Kalra: Senior National Program Manager, India
Esha manages state programs in India and supports national level advocacy and program strategy. Esha holds more than a decade of experience in program management, capacity building, partnership management, behavioral change communication and advocacy.
1. The Evidence Action value that most resonates with me... is Passion Throughout. I’ve never come across anyone in Evidence Action who doesn’t have commitment to our mission and cause.
2. I am most inspired by... the role models in my life. I have three– my father, my first boss and my husband/friend of many years. I’m also inspired by the evolution of our India program, and the work we’ve done with governments to deliver a high quality program each National Deworming Day.
3. The best career advice I ever received was... benchmark against yourself and surpass your own performance each day. Our Country Director tells us this all the time in meetings.
4. To me, success is... not about what you create for yourself, but what you leave behind for others.
5. One thing I’m particularly interested in learning right now is... effective people management practices. And it is something I am learning and practicing.