Social Innovation (IV). Susanne Stormer: Changing future Health

Notes from the VI Annual Conference of the Institute for Social Innovation, held at ESADE’s Institute for Social Innovation, Barcelona, Spain, in February 20, 2013. More notes on this event: #6ac.

Keynote: Susanne Stormer, Vice President of the Global Triple Bottom Line Management, NovoNordisk
Changing future Health.

Research tell us that people that lived during the Dutch Famine (1943-1944), their bodies “memorize” the state of hunger even if, 50 after, famine is over. Then, the maladjustment between reality (there is abundance of food) and body memory, creates diabetes. And, indeed, ther is n intergenerational transfer of risk of having such health diseases. And what happens during pregnancy is utterly important when it comes to transmission of e.g. diabetes.

Changing Diabetes is a project to prevent diabetes by acting on “vicious” life cycles that increase the risk of diabetes through unhealthy lifestyles. A social innovation approach was chosen when it came to designing and put into practice.

Public-private partnerships were established in Malaysia, the place where to run a pilot project to raise awareness on the risks of diabetes and unhealthy lifestyles. The programme was embedded in the national health system not to disrupt it.


Carmen Netzel: what was the rationale for choosing Malaysia? Stormer: we saw that there was a huge need in the country. The government was ready and keen to have a programme to address the issue. And there already was research thoroughly depicting the state of the question.

Q: what were the difficulties in collaborating with partners from other sectors (e.g. nonporfits)? Do not individuals feel they had their lives invaded? Stormer: on the contrary, people are eager to listen for good advice and guidance if it is good for their health. Related to collaboration, it is true that working with partners from the third sector, it is very important to take your time to build strong and long-term relationships so that the different tempos and sensibilities are in line.

Q: how do you engage with people in telling them that their lifestyles are “not convenient”? Stormer: we call it “food literacy” and the idea is showing people, with real evidence, that there is food that is more convenient than other. And, indeed, people already do know that, so it is about creating an environment that values a change of lifestyle.

Q: how is social innovation and private-public partnerships changing your business model? Stormer: it will not. This initiative is another way of approaching the same mission, which is health, though the core business is about providing medicines (while Changing Diabetes is about prevention).

Jem Bendell: can’t see Changing Diabetes as social innovation, but as corporate philanthropy, as there is no creation of entrepreneurship or social tissue. Stormer: it is right that there is a lack of incentives to challenge and change reality. But the project settles a new landscape over which others can build up things.

Ismael Peña-López: the previous speakers stressed the importance of sharing the process in social innovation. But, shockingly enough, the project “Changing Diabetes” is a registered brand. Can “social innovation” be copyrighted? Are there plans to open up the project and share the procedures and materials so that the initiative can be replicated elsewhere? Stormer: it’s just the name that is registered. Some materials have been shared in the past among partners [personal note: can’t find any materials (of any kind) on Changing Diabetes website, not to speak about any CC-licensed content. Just the ever present ®].


VI Annual Conference Institute for Social Innovation (2013)