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#WomensDay- SIX speaks with women who are pioneering their field: Shariha Khalid

Published Date: 8 March 2017

As part of International Women's Day, SIX is highlighting a number of brilliant women who are leading in their field. 

We spoke with Shariha Khalid from Scope Group in Malaysia, a social innovation advisory firm, set up in order to create partnerships and scale innpvation and impact. #IWD2017

Can you tell me a bit more about what you do and what inspired you to do this work?
I work for Scope Group in Malaysia, a social innovation and impact advisory firm, set up with a mission to create partnerships and scale innovations that create impact. We started our work about 10 years ago, and to be quite honest, we didn’t start thinking we were going to be doing this type of work forever. I used be a surgeon at the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK.

We created Scope Group because we felt that we needed to have a way of injecting innovation into healthcare and create partnerships for impact. We started by looking at drug addiction and HIV/AIDS issues in Malaysia and basically our work started from there – from a 2-year project to achieving national transformation and total change of how they treat drug users. We felt that this work was important and we needed to tackle other grand challenges that exist. We moved from innovating healthcare for the marginalised society (drug addiction, HIV/AIDS) to strengthening civil society and strengthening partnerships with the public sector (which we focused on for the next 3 years). Then we thought funding is a big piece of this work and bringing in private sector was important.

The following 3 years we focused on innovating financial market and public-private people partnerships. The last 1.5-2 years, we started focusing on education, our next grand challenge we are taking on and something that’s been the missing piece out of the past 9-10 years of our work, which is around “How do you work with future generations to build innovation skills and capacity?” How do you work with the education systems so that it nurtures more people from the beginning want to make the world a better place. That’s why we started to focus on innovating education. That’s our journey the last 10 years in a nutshell.

Can you tell us about a defining moment where you could see the impact of your project? What are you most proud of in your work?

I have to say, it has to go back to the first project we worked on with the drug users and the HIV/AIDS patients because for that project and that grand challenge we took on, we could really see very clearly the impact of our work. We went into an organisation where drug users were not treated as patients, it was compulsory treatment and detention centres. It was very non-medical approach to drug addiction management.

After a year of working with them, the organisations started using some of our recommendations and changing. They started opening their eyes to other ways of doing things. After 1.5 years working with them, the government organisation (the Ministry that dealt with drug addiction issues) actually made new commitments to work with Ministry of Health, to work with the police in a different way, to better understand their role as care-providers rather than enforcement officers. By the time we hit two years, we presented this to the highest officers in the country, and they were ready to say “let’s do it now”. So four months after we presented, the Prime Minister’s Office had someone new come in and two months later, she totally transformed the system based on the work we have been building up. They rebranded what they were about, rebranded the names of the detention centres.

This was a piece that we were really proud of as we could see the impact. In the beginning, we said, if we see 5% change, we’ll celebrate. In the end, the change was 100%.

We’ve not been able to very clearly see the impact of our work for other things. When you are trying to innovate the financial sector, public sector, civil society, there are so many parties and change takes time. Yes, you are playing a bit of a role but you cannot see the whole thing.

What is your hope in relation to social innovation in the future? How will your work contribute to this hope?

I really hope that social innovation will not be a niche industry or sector. I really think what’s needed is that it becomes adopted into the practices of businesses, governments, NGOs, civil societies as a necessary means of delivering their own core business areas. I can see that starting to happen with corporations adopting corporate social innovation strategies. I can see that happening to governments, embedding social innovation into their programmes and policies. But I would really like to see this field to go to a place where it becomes the norm not the exception.’

You can follow Shariha on Twitter here.