For some time now, we've been fascinated by the story of Embrace.
"On one of my first trips to India, I met this young woman, Sevitha, who had just given birth to a tiny premature baby, Rani. She took her baby to the nearest village clinic, and the doctor advised her to take Rani to a city hospital so she could be placed in an incubator. But that hospital was over four hours away, and Sevitha didn't have the means to get there, so her baby died."
The story of Sevitha, and many others like this, are what inspired the birth of Embrace, an infant incubator Jane and her team developed.
On Friday we finally got to meet her in the flesh, in a fireside chat with us about her work and her story.
It was a really great chat. She shared with us her journey of working in management consulting, in HIV and healthcare work in China and Tanzania, and how the founding of Embrace was made possible by being in a special little class at Stanford while doing her MBA.
Some things we took away:
Being in the field is super important. We've all heard how "theory is only abstract", but Jane's experience showed us how something like, finding out what midwives thought was really important in birthing in rural India could only happen if you were there. Seeing the expression on their faces. Them fiddling with your prototype. Them trying to find the words to describe something, and gesticulating to tell you.
Big MNC money isn't always the jackpot. Sometimes, when you're offered plenty moolah for the rights of the baby you've developed (no pun intended), it's tempting. But sometimes, you need to make that (very hard) call on what it is that ultimately advances your mission more.
Mentors matter. Day to day, they keep you honest and accountable. But when it comes to bigger, or more difficult decisions, their experience and wisdom can really help you see what you need to see. Clarifying your compass, as it were.
Check out Jane's TED talk, embedded below, where she shares the story and impetus behind Embrace. (We recommend!)
Backstory (we always seem to have one, and this one's extra long): In 2010, we organised something called Syinconnect. It was 2-day excuse for being exploratory, tactile, and truly curious about our community - packaged as a conference + field trip using design thinking for social innovation. (Good marketing eh?) Bunch of kids who went through it got inspired (yay!), including one who went on to a leadership role within the SMU Initiatives for Social Enterprise team. And guess what idea they came up with to inspire fellow students in 2012? A 2-day conference + field trip using design thinking for social innovation - known as Social Innovation Experience or SIX. We ended up doing with them something we call friendtorship (we don't really fancy ourselves as sagely mentors, hah), and guided the shaping of the programme, topics, and most importantly, the design of the experience. For SIX, the organising team flew down Jane to keynote, and chat with some of us on the panel, and that's why she was in Singapore.