Will Shaw

I came to CIE in 1979 via nine years in Nepal/Asia working in agriculture, fisheries, ESL, and Peace Corps training and three at the East-West Center, swapping the cool breezes of Oahu for the brisk winds of Amherst at the urging of John Comings, who said it was the right place for me to do my doctorate.  He was correct.  I found a vibrant learning community of kindred spirits, all of whom had significant development experience like the folks in my group such as Mike Basile, Margaret Maxwell, Kofi Bioh, et. al., and a talented faculty who were smart, practical, committed, available, and supportive.  The alternatively raucous and sedate Center Meetings were a learning experience as well, and the link to ongoing field projects was critical in keeping everyone grounded in the practicalities of the field.


After defending my dissertation in late 1982, Mona, Maya, and I moved to Ujung Pandang, Indonesia for the nonprofit AED to create the Indonesian Distance Education Satellite System, a USAID and Directorate of Higher Education effort.   Working closely with the national telcom company Perumtel, a network was created that linked 13 universities spread across 2,300 miles in a two-way audio network for undergraduate courses, seminars, and university meetings.  This consortium of universities selected 15 priority courses each semester and the faculty best equipped to create course materials and deliver lectures via satellite to 1,200 to 2,500 students per week. 


Our monitoring system compared satellite classes to those at the best university in eastern Indonesia and found that the satellite classes were less likely to be cancelled, lasted closer to the target length of 100 minutes (97 minutes to 65 minutes) and involved more interaction (i.e., 31.6 minutes of student questions/teacher answers) than on-campus classes (4 minutes of Q&A).   A decade later, the system was absorbed into a national university network once technology had advanced at other Indonesian universities.


We returned to AED/Washington in 1986 for a six-month project completion period that turned into 14 years in the home office.  I moved into child survival and behavior change communications and worked on projects that helped over 40 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America implement behavior change communication programs in all areas of child survival:  immunization, Vitamin A, breastfeeding, oral rehydration, etc.  We had a fantastic team that was able to help countries facilitate significant behavior change that improved the health of millions.


After becoming a vice president, I did a lot of work in business development, mainly for USAID projects; however, we did secure a large technical services contract with Indonesia’s Ministry of Health that enabled me to field a team of 5 staff to Indonesia and to make annual trips out there and keep my Bahasa Indonesia half-decent.


In 2000, AED won the USAID NetMark contract to prevent malaria through public-private partnerships that would expand the use of insecticide treated bed nets (ITNs) in Africa by creating sustainable commercial markets in 4-5 countries making various ITN brands, sizes, shapes, and colors year round.  All other ITN programs focused on mass distribution of free or highly subsidized ITNs every few years.


When our designated COP and then his replacement dropped out, I took the job myself.  Mona and I moved to Johannesburg which was the sub-Saharan headquarters for many commercial partners and advertising agencies and had excellent telecommunication, banking, and air connections to our target countries


Our “Joint Risk—Joint Investment” strategy had major net and insecticide manufacturers handle all ITN matters (production, shipping, stocking, distribution, brand promotion, sales) while NetMark focused on large-scale consumer research, generic demand creation to educate the public on the value and use of ITNs, and coordination with national malaria programs.  We launched multiple, competing brands initially in Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Uganda, and Zambia.  Occasionally, in meetings with Bayer, BASF, etc. and national distributors and ad agencies, I would imagine that some CIE members might think I had gone to “the dark side”.


But if you want to reach millions of people in a hurry with consistent messages linked to seasons and product promotion and availability, mass media is the way to go.  Over 200 million Africans received messages on ITNs via radio, TV, road shows, and health clinics.  One innovative side product was a Discount Voucher Program model wherein health clinics handed out 2.3 million NetMark vouchers to pregnant women and those with kids under 5 for the purchase of an ITN at a local shop with a 40%-100% discount.  Redemption rate was 89%.(Pictured left - women redeeming vouchers for ITNs in Ghana)


NetMark was extended for another 5 years, and the budget quadrupled to $67 million.  I hired a successor, and Mona and I returned to AED in late 2005, and I continued to help African net manufacturers retool to produce ITNs.  By NetMark’s end in 2009, its partners had sold over 60 million ITNs and created sustainable commercial ITN markets in all our countries.  Commercial partners invested $1.43 for every USAID dollar.


While NetMark was the most challenging project I had ever encountered, the toughest part of recent years was Mona’s battle with a rare form of cancer with no cure.  She went through two clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health in 2008 and 2010.  I retired in March 2011, days before she started a third chemo regimen at Washington Center Hospital.  Fortunately “third time’s the charm” proved true, and she has been in good health ever since, allowing us to travel a lot in the U.S. and other countries.  We continue to live in MD with our daughter and grandson a half hour away.  Life is good. [8-20]


Email:  wdshaw644@gmail.com


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