The Story of a Life-Saving Coalition

Written by Barbara Byrd Keenan on January 8, 2019

When we reached our centennial at the Endocrine Society, I saw the celebration as a springboard to focus on our future. I coined a phrase:

“We’re in the first year of our second century.”

A one year old behaves quite differently than a 101 year old, and our centennial has sparked a rebirth. We continue to build upon our historical foundation but we’re not bound by our history. Our new strategic plan uses an outward-facing perspective. We’re not rejecting past practices but recognizing that now requires something different than then. It’s changed our perspective on many aspects of our work, including partnerships.

The 20th century model of partnerships involves getting together to work on a project with another organization, and then letting the partnership fall to the wayside when the project is over. Or the whole thing is reduced to logo slapping: we’ll slap our logo on your stuff and you slap your logo on ours. That isn’t true collaboration.

In our 21st century model of partnership and collaboration, everybody at the table yields some power for the greater good. When that happens, organizations start building trust in working with one another. They might allow somebody else to take the lead and find they realize wonderful benefits. They learn from each other.

Recently, we were thrilled to learn that our Diabetes Disaster Response Coalition won an ASAE Summit Award. Last year, Texas, Florida and the Caribbean were devastated by hurricanes. Many of our members treat patients with diabetes, so we looked at the storms with a specific lens. If a natural disaster prevents a patient with diabetes from accessing insulin, they are in grave danger. We knew we had to do something to ensure individuals had the supplies and medical care they needed. The situation prompted us to form a coalition with organizations including the American Diabetes Association.

We delivered four thousand pounds of supplies to affected areas. Our staff raised money for our partner, Insulin For Life. We staffed a hotline so that physicians and patients would be able to find out how to access supplies. We saved lives in collaboration with our partners and as a result, we discovered how much we can accomplish when we come together under a common goal for the common good. The coalition is now building permanent infrastructure to support people with diabetes who are affected by future disasters.

We will have members who will be part of this organization for the rest of their lives because they will remember the impact of that program. They will remember that we stay true to our mission, to improve health worldwide.

Barbara spoke in the “Busting the 7 Myths of Entrepreneurship in Associations” session during SURGE Optimism 2018, an interactive virtual conference hosted by on November 7th-9th. Click here to watch the sessions on demand.