Behind the Breakthrough: Mark Newell


Behind the Breakthrough: Mark Newell

November 12, 2015

Mark Newell’s work improves lives. As a portfolio deputy director with Global Good, he focuses on boosting agricultural productivity in some of the lowest resource areas on the planet. With a background in sustainable business and energy, as well as product consulting, Mark has a unique ability to study a challenge, detect the gaps, and identify potential solutions that will be useful and usable for those who need them most. 

Here are some of his reflections:

On his role at IV:

“I am currently focused on improving agricultural productivity in the developing world. The overwhelming majority of the world’s underprivileged are farmers, including somewhere between 70 and 90 percent of most African countries. My main job is to support agriculture – and look for opportunities to interrupt cycles of poverty – by increasing access to water and energy through the use of technology. This work inevitably leads to a lot of questions. For example, how do we support farmers who rely on seasonal rains gain access to water year-round? What are the systems that framer operates in and where are the leverage points? What are the technology gaps that contribute to these problems? Is there a role we can play in addressing these gaps? These are the questions I ask and attempt to answer every day.”

On the people he aims to help:

“I came to IV as a contractor to help manage the trials of the passive vaccine storage device. In that role, I spent some time in Senegal and Ethiopia and saw the positive benefits the device brought. I met children in the far northeastern corner of Ethiopia –where our device contributed to improving the vaccine coverage rate from 20% to over 80%.  That statistic means that many of these kids are alive today because we developed this technology. 

“That particular visit is one of the more meaningful experiences of my life.”

“Along the way, I also saw many other challenges people in the region were facing. In particular, community leaders would tell me how desperately they needed water solutions. Their biggest challenge – and threat to daily existence – is the lack of access to water. And I always think about this. They were asking me for help. This is one of the reasons why I’m so committed to the work we’re doing at Global Good.”

On the link between water access and other challenges:

“Beyond water, access to reliable energy and suitable sanitation are difficult challenges for underprivileged areas of the world. In the rich world, electric pumps solve many of these issues. But when electricity isn’t available, these same pumps offer little utility. That’s where we come in. We’re exploring solutions through the application of potentially state-of-the-art technologies that aren’t yet developed and commercialized. But it doesn’t stop there. We’re also looking into solutions for sanitation, hygiene, child nutrition, and more. These are not easy problems to solve, but success could mean better for lives for many people. That keeps me going.”

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