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Ten years ago, I co-founded Bive, a social enterprise facilitating access to high-quality healthcare +60,000 low-income farmers in Colombia.

Serving rural communities on the field gave me two takeaways. First, transforming rural development depends on social, economic, political and cultural dimensions beyond healthcare, which demands collaboration with public, private and civic actors. Second, the transformation needs leaders who can design and implement innovative and scientific-driven solutions, influence policy, and engage the state and other stakeholders to change the rules.

This is why I am studying International Development Policy at Duke to gain knowledge and skills on how to design, implement, and evaluate social policies that make a difference in people’s lives.

Woman smiling
Diana Carolina Quintero is a current MIDP student.

Even when it sounds idealistic, I feel inspired and connected with the story of Jim Kim, a physician and anthropologist who has been able to influence international development policy bringing to bear knowledge from his community fieldwork experience.

Thirty years ago, Kim co-founded and led Partners in Health (PiH), an international non-governmental organization (NGO) that provides healthcare in the poorest areas of developing countries by using a community health approach. His efforts were instrumental in designing and implementing a highly effective and low-cost model to treat tuberculosis. This experience prompted international organizations to strengthen their efforts to eradicate tuberculosis and established the ground for the World Health Organization (WHO) to design guidelines and programs for large scale treatment of this disease. Later, Kim moved to the WHO, where he was appointed as director of the HIV/AIDS department and led initiatives to help developing countries scale up their HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care programs

Kim is a gamechanger. His work at PiH and WHO broke paradigms by providing solutions to "insoluble," too expensive, complex, and big social challenges. He also has broken social stereotypes. He was the first Asian American to be president of an Ivy League School (Dartmouth College) and the first World Bank’s President with a social science instead of financial or political background.

I had the honor to meet with Kim when he recently visited Duke to give the Rubenstein Lecture. I was given the exceptional opportunity to take part in Kim's talk in Page Auditorium and a private dinner for him afterward.

He talked about diverse topics: i) The need to make available Covid-19 vaccines for all and implement targeted social programs such as cash transfers to end the pandemic and mitigate its consequences; ii) The key role of quality education to close social gaps and accelerate social mobility; iii) The mission of the World Bank providing funding and conditions for development projects and countries that otherwise were not able to access. Kim emphasized the need to promote social justice as a key pillar to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and for young people to lead the society towards a more prosperous and sustainable future.

Kim’s multidisciplinary thinking and multifaceted experience led me to reflect on what is needed as a leader to drive and scale up novel solutions for social challenges.

On one hand, such a leader needs to develop the capacity to understand the role that several actors, communities, governments, NGOs and social enterprises, multilateral organizations, etc.- play in creating and accelerating social innovation, establish a common language and vision and put together their resources. On the other hand, a leader needs to develop a systemic vision instead of operating in silos to lead us to more comprehensive social solutions. To do that, Kim provided a piece of wise advice for future leaders, “being a long-life learner.”

Forcing ourselves to move out of our comfort zone and learn new things prepare our minds for thinking differently, enlarging our vision and innovative capacity. To this wise advice, I add a prompt, "being connected with a higher purpose." thus we can channel innovation for solving the most critical challenges of our society and achieving this goal of a more prosperous and sustainable society for all.

Diana Quintero is a social innovator passionate about rural development. She cofounded a social enterprise facilitating access to healthcare for 60,000 rural families in Colombia. Diana also worked in Malawi at an international NGO to eradicate pediatric AIDS and empower women living with HIV. She is interested in climate-smart agriculture, Agritech and the role of innovation to enhance more productive, sustainable and inclusive agriculture models in LMICs. She is a current candidate for the Master of International Development Program (MIDP).