Jacquie Cutts is a firm believer in participatory design and collaborative entrepreneurship: creating social solutions not for underserved populations, but rather with the local communities. As founder, president, and CEO of Safe Mothers, Safe Babies (a nonprofit organization working to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality in Uganda), Cutts is also a woman who knows how to get things done.
“My greatest desire is to restore pregnancy, childbirth, and childhood to protected times of growth and development, in which maternal and child mortality are the exception and not the rule,” she said. “The single greatest resource to improve maternal and child health is the people that need the improvement.”
If innovators fail to engage with their target consumers, the odds of a project making a long-lasting difference in people’s lives will never be very high—a point she proved in a 100-page thesis that explored the root cause of failed development initiatives. Her thesis earned her Departmental Honors at Vassar College in New York.
Needs and offers—basic economic principals—are the main drivers of marketplaces. But not all marketplaces are created equal, which is why Cutts has enthusiastically embraced building several changeshops, a new feature on Changemakers.com for assessing and growing innovative solutions.
The Changemakers’ changeshops web pages are just one-third of the way through a 12-month trial and development (or “beta”) period, but already Cutts has created four changeshops, including needs and offers pages, for her Safe Mothers, Safe Babies organization; a motorcycle ambulance service; a program that uses photography to empower indigenous women; and has successfully obtained funding for her rural obstetric care project powered by solar energy.
“Changeshop is helping to build the ideology of participatory development,” Cutts said. “The platform has helped me connect with other people to share lessons learned and even form new partnerships.”
Through her changeshop, Cutts formed a partnership with Katherine Lucey, founder and CEO of Solar Sister. Cutts had followed Solar Sister’s work for some time, but it wasn’t until she started using a changeshop that Cutts reached out to Lucey for support. Today, whenever Cutts installs solar power at a health center to strengthen birth outcomes, Solar Sister works to train new solar entrepreneurs in the area.
“There’s actually a conduit to the community to promote my technology, while simultaneously expanding (Lucey’s) organization to other areas of Uganda,” Cutts said. “That was a very vital, helpful connection and that’s one of the strengths that I see coming from changeshops.”
Changemakers changeshops pages give Cutts a way to track and incentivize her growth as an entrepreneur. In the past several months, Cutts has completed five offers-needs connections, marked 38 goals as completed, completed six project milestones, and uploaded four impact reports for her projects.
Cutts is determined to improve maternal health by pursuing demand-driven, collaborative, sustainable, and scalable projects. Cutts is using changeshops to achieve those dreams—whether in New York State or in Uganda’s Iganga District—by discovering new collaborators who share her vision for change, as well as the resources she needs to achieve success on the ground.
“Changeshops is more than just about trying to move small people,” Cutts said. “Instead, it’s about pushing big funders toward the idea that we shouldn’t be deciding for people what they need without their input.”