Joanna Sader – Insulin for Life Global


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Jo Sader is a board member and volunteer for Insulin for Life Global, a non-profit that raises awareness and supports Insulin for Life affiliates around the world. Insulin for Life collects insulin and other diabetes supplies that would otherwise be wasted and distributes them in emergency situations or to people in developing countries who can’t afford the cost of insulin.

This dynamic of too much in one country and not enough in another is all too familiar. We’re innovating to bring these two problems together and find clever solutions to use the world’s resources better

Can you tell us a little bit about the idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?

In 1984 a newspaper article was written about a little girl, 6-year-old Arti, with Type 1 diabetes, whose only wish was to live until Christmas. She needed daily injections of insulin to stay alive, yet the insulin cost her parents 148% of their monthly salary on an ongoing basis.

They scraped, borrowed, begged and went without for months until they were faced with the decision to keep Arti alive or sacrifice their entire family of 5 children because of the ongoing cost of Arti’s insulin. Pragmatically, they take Arti back to the hospital where she is left to perish, just days after Christmas.

Yet in affluent countries like Australia, insulin is the second most discarded medication and much of this resource is still perfectly usable and unexpired.

Because of Artis death, the concept of linking surplus diabetes supplies to those who need them was born. This upcycling started in Australia 20 years ago; Insulin for Life has saved over $12 million dollars’ worth of supplies from landfill, and more importantly diverted these supplies to keep over 20,000 people alive across 74 countries.

Fast forward 20 years and I decide to join and launch Insulin for Life Global when my dear friend Fiona Kwok suddenly dies at the tender age of 31. She had Type 1 diabetes and had been a global advocate for people with diabetes. I was on maternity leave and decided I had to help raise awareness around the two problems of waste and need.

Insulin for Life Global was started on World Diabetes Day on November the 14th. Its mission is to raise awareness on a global scale as well as monetary donations to sustain the operation of connecting surplus supplies to those who cannot afford or access them.

There are over 422 million people with diabetes and many of these people require daily insulin to stay alive. The world health organisation projects that diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death by 2030.

Can you explain your business model for us? 

Insulin for Life is a not-for-profit organisation set up in over 10 country affiliates around the world. The way we work is to collect unused and unexpired diabetes supplies from people with diabetes in the first world and then redistribute to people in countries needing ongoing supply or disaster relief. The process of collecting surplus insulin is actually fairly easy. Much of the supply comes from mothers who have had diabetes in pregnancy (Gestational Diabetes) and once they have their baby they no longer need insulin and so Insulin for Life collects the surplus of supplies.

The challenging part of the operation is covering the cost of transporting these supplies to the developing world. Whilst the supplies are donated free, the cost of redistributing supplies through courier services can make this operation expensive. And those who need these supplies are often the most financially vulnerable, who have no alternative but death.

This dynamic of too much in one country and not enough in another is all too familiar. We’re innovating to bring these two problems together and find clever solutions to use the world’s resources better – so that a 6-year-old child with everything to live for, can.

What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?

Improving operations and funding streams to create a sustainable model around transportation. The entire operation is run on a voluntary basis.

I’m excited about attracting talent to build a global board so we can reach the mission of serving 25,000 people by 2020. 

What role, if any, have mentors played in your business life?

A huge role – One of my mentors Kevin Friel left a huge imprint on me and taught me the value of “living simply, so that others may simply live”. This cause embodies that – there is a huge movement happening around zero waste and sustainability, and Insulin for Life is at the forefront of taking this a step further to save lives.

What does your typical day look like?

Creating social media content, applying for different grants and funding sources.

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?

Insulin for Life Global is all voluntary led and so it has been challenging to start the entity on very few resources. Justice Connect were great in helping us navigate the legal complexities of setting up the structure and attaining DGR status.

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

Everything has a use and value – you just need to brainstorm far and wide to find its new use. 

What other organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?

I love what OzHarvest do – they take the concept of upcycling fresh food to feed the marginalised like homeless people and giving to domestic violence shelters.

What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?

Partnering with organisations who are creating positive social impact. Consumers want to engage with brands who live and breathe social impact (not just pay lip service). It’s a win-win commercially and for society.

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea? e.g. are you looking for funding, interns or marketing help?

Yes – all of the above! We are looking for interns and marketing help to help strengthen our social media presence.

We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc., what would it be?

Building awareness through social media is slow to start with. How do you build engagement/dialogue with your target audience ?


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