This weekend, Health In Harmony's incoming Executive Director, Jonathan Jennings, joined the Board and Staff at our annual retreat in Stevenson, WA. Jonathan had the opportunity to spend the weekend learning more about our organization as we look to the year ahead, and thoughtfully shares his reflections below. He currently serves as Deputy Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders, Canada with over 15 years of experience managing relief and development projects around the world. He also has a BA in Biology, MS in Conservation Biology and Applied Ecology, and MA in International Politics and Security. He will officially begin working at Health In Harmony at the end of January.
For the last 10 years, I’ve led humanitarian medical teams across Africa, India, and the Balkans with Doctors Without Borders. This was immensely rewarding work and, I believe, immensely impactful.
About 20 years ago, way back in what now feels like a previous life, I was an avid outdoorsman and a fledgling environmental scientist. Those pursuits fell by the wayside for the ecstasy and sorrow of international aid work, but a congenital desire to serve (and celebrate) biodiversity in all of its forms was latent in my DNA.
Recently, my wife helped me awaken to the existential need (and drive) I have to return to my ecological roots. With her help I decided that my next leadership role would bring environmentalism back into my day-to-day, and – above all – would be with an organization committed to a social mission as resonant with my professional raison d’etre as the social mission I’ve lived serving Doctors Without Borders.
The Health In Harmony (HIH) team is onto something truly special. I’ve just returned from my first Board and Staff Retreat and what an awesome and invigorating few days it’s been. The Board and staff are inspiringly engaged with HIH’s new Strategic Plan and the key drivers of its success. The comradery and unity of purpose on display was powerful. At the end of my first day, I called my wife, Sam, back in Toronto, and told her, “We’ve made the right decision. Health In Harmony is the real deal.”
I haven’t been this excited about a mountain climb in a long time.
We no longer live in a world where the health of people, ecosystems, and the planet can be considered in silos. Drivers of deforestation, disease, and climate change are intimately linked and time may be running out to bring the feedback mechanisms into check. HIH – if not peerless – is certainly pathfinding in how we identify and disrupt these drivers.
Proof of HIH impact is in the pudding. From 2007 to 2012, ASRI programs facilitated a 68% decline in the number of households involved in illicit logging inside Gunung Palung National Park, and facilitated an 18% reduction of infant mortality. Meanwhile, dozens of former loggers now farm sustainably and profitably after participating in ASRI’s agriculture training program. Health In Harmony’s community-directed, holistic intervention model is delivering health across silos. (And stay tuned for impact results from our next 5-year impact evaluation to be conducted in 2017.)
HIH’s mission is staggeringly ambitious. Partnering with communities to tackle the complex interdependencies of conservation, human health, and economy is largely uncharted territory. Evidence-based innovation is time-consuming. The team researches, pilots, tests and evaluates its impact - learns every day from every bend in the road – and dares to fail forward. To succeed we`ll have to be smart, dogged, agile, and patient.
Thanks to your commitment and support, HIH is developing the operational ingredients that may transform the way we foster healthy people, orangutans, rain forests, and a healthy planet. Your sustained interest and support (and your willingness to innovate with us) will be the key ingredient of our future success, allowing us to take the show on the road and replicate HIH’s pathfinding operations in Borneo and beyond.