We normally post about market developments, our latest projects or to offer a point of view. I’d like to depart from that slightly to share some thoughts on an organisation we feel passionate about, not in an earth-shattering, “this is so innovative” sort of way, but more as an expression of our company culture and a set of attributes that I believe are important in forming a well rounded organisation.
We operate in the digital marketing services industry and, let’s face it, it’s an industry—advertising, in particular—that has come under scrutiny in recent months for its lack of transparency. That said, marketing agencies can still make ethically based choices whilst striving to build a profitable, long term and sustainable business.
We choose to work in healthcare because it allows us to contribute to the improvement of human and animal well being. I’m not for a moment saying that we are the be-all and end-all in this sector and I’d happily prostrate myself in honour of the many healthcare and life sciences professionals who I have met over the years doing much more worthy work in clinical care, research and product development and education. I hold a strong belief that technology and marketing skills can make a huge difference to making health care delivery more efficient. I like refer to our small role in this as “marketing with meaning”, i.e. we choose to work in the healthcare sector rather than consumer goods, like, for example, Coke.
That leads me to talking our approach to “giving” at Nitro. I believe giving is an important part of an organisation’s culture, both internally—in terms of sharing knowledge and effort selflessly—and also externally, in terms of “small acts of kindness” to those less fortunate. Obviously, that has to be pre-dedicated by being profitable since we are not externally funded but, where we can, I believe strongly that we should give something back. We are also a relatively small organisation that has to manage growth, service and investment demands so let’s just call this a direction of travel as opposed to a “wow, look at all this, have a pat on the back” moment. I believe we’ve been making a contribution that is scaling, and I’d like to share some examples of that. I hope that one of our most significant efforts will be the placing of 1% of our equity aside for the creation of a charity fund (in the event that some liquidity is achieved for it in the future)—an idea we are unashamed to have stolen from the likes of Google and Salesforce.
On a business level, over the years, in terms of product development, through our ULTRA (Unleash the Right Advocates) suite of products/services we’ve collaborated with hundreds of health care professionals (HCPs) to help them tell the story of their endeavours. And we continue to refine our products to best serve the needs of HCPs and patients alike: watch this space.
As a company, we participate in different fundraising days throughout the year. In the UK office, at Christmas we donned Christmas jumpers for Save the Children’s annual Christmas Jumper Day. In March, we wore red for Red Nose Day; the company matches the original amount we raise.
On an individual level, many of our team personally perform charity challenges, and Nitro supports them in various ways. Earlier in the year, several people participated in Run for Your Mind in support of the charity Mind. Our commercial director, Andy Stafford, recently ran an Ultra Marathon to fundraise for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity. You can support him here.
Which brings me to the organisation I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Over the past years—and on the back of amazing leadership by friends Rob Hamilton and John Readman—Nitro has been participating in an effort to raise funds for the wonderful charity 1moreChild by attempting to ride to Australia one 4-500 mile leg at a time. Other colleagues have contributed by travelling to Jinga, Uganda, where the charity is based and setting up computers, broadband and teaching basic computer and internet skills. I’ve recently returned from a trip there with Bonamy Grimes, Katie Hollier and Jamie Waller—all strong supporters of the charity—whose amazing efforts along with other corporate and private sponsors make the existence of the charity possible.
I’d like to tell you a bit about the incredible work the charity does.
1moreChild provides food, accommodation, mentoring, tuition, support and safety to 280 children in Jinga who are either living in the street or in difficult family circumstances. For context, Uganda is a country with a very high birth rate and a strong tribal culture, and Jinga is a town with many social issues, as well as being one of the sources of the river Nile.
It’s also a town where around 3-4,000 children are homeless, literally sleeping beneath verandas, and with few, if any possessions. Even where children have achieved a place at 1moreChild (or one of the other charities active in the area), the only items available might be clothing similar to these used boots, or toys, like these two dirty darts or the very old bicycles being ridden below. It’s not a place where basic subsistence includes a daily trip to Starbucks.
Within this context 1moreChild does an incredible job. Led locally by Bosco and his team and from the UK by founders Harry and Hen Ferdinando what they achieve is the definition of compassionate, culturally sensitive direct action. More mentoring and enablement than charity, this is a lean operation that makes the most of scarce resources.
To give some examples of both the challenges and the opportunities to improve not just survivability via food and shelter but life skills and confidence the charity organises football games. Football is a huge part of life for the childrenand 1moreChild organises community games for the children both in the homes and those outside of them. Football matches provide an opportunity to feed many children (up to 400 at a time) who would not otherwise get any protein at all. In Uganda the logistics around this are no small challenge; for example, the older children transport food by wheelbarrow from one house’s kitchen to the feeding station 1 km away.
Education—specifically, getting those children into school who been unable to attend—and establishing a sense of pride and confidence in their work is a huge part of 1MoreChild’s modus operandi. Nitro has been supporting some of the older children by providing computer equipment, onsite network support and tuition, and covering the cost of the charity’s broadband. This in itself, though important and achieving results (see the photo of one of the senior boys Geoffry using his computer skills) is a second order problem compared to the provision of safety, food and accommodation. I cannot stress enough how far a small amount of money can go: just US$50 a month can support a child’s education, mentoring, accommodation, food and clothing.
My recent trip proved to be heart-warming and heart-rending all at once. Heart-warming, because I got to see how vibrant, happy and hopeful children can be in challenging circumstances and without so many of the things we take for granted. Heart-rending, because these children are desperately poor and have had lives that, even having met them, I can only imagine. One child I met was scarred across his neck where his father had tried to slit his throat after having murdered his mother and sister … apparently they were possessed. Against that backdrop I can still barely imagine the work and decisions that the team at 1moreChild has to do and make on a daily basis. The trade-offs they have to make: do they fix that window in the house, or create a place to store computers in the girls’ houses, or take another child off the street? It’s easy to say ALL, but that’s not possible with the resources available so it’s an either-or situation. Which would you choose? This is why fundraising is so critically important. So my commitment is as an organisation that we’ll continue to give. My request for anyone who reads this is to please visit 1moreChild and consider giving too. It really is money well spent, as I hope the pictures I’ve shared in this post show.