The 2015 Social & Community Investment Awards: The Boston Consulting Group


Firm: The Boston Consulting Group
Type of Work: Pro Bono
Client: The United Nations

As the Ebola crisis spiralled out of control in the fall of 2014, it was clear that unprecedented global coordination was needed. The United Nations created a new role to manage its worldwide response and tapped The Boston Consulting Group for help. Within 48 hours, BCG had a team at the U.N. and shortly thereafter, the General Assembly created the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response.

BCG, which already had a relationship with the U.N., sprang to action in unprecedented fashion, says Wendy Woods, Senior Partner and Global Leader of BCG’s Social Impact practice. Tony Banbury, who serves as the Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of the U.N.’s Mission for Emergency Ebola Response, reached out to BCG late Friday night and Woods was on the telephone with him on Saturday.

“Tony asked if I could be on the ground on Monday to help think through the strategy of all of this,” Woods says. “It was a massive undertaking but it wasn’t massive in the sense that either we or the U.N. needed hundreds of thousands of people. So it wasn’t a consulting project where we said: ‘how fast can we get how many boots on the ground?’ It was really a question of getting the right resources.”

BCG initially started with a team of just five people, but those people had worked in very tricky political situations in Africa before. “So it wasn’t so much about the sheer size of the response on our side but it was around being able to marshal the right recourses with the right set of experiences that would have the credibility,” Woods says: “And then actually being able to execute against that.”

BCG supported the initial design of the mission and working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.N. Special Envoy for Ebola Dr. David Nabarro to develop a 30-60-90-day plan to get the epidemic under control. The plan aimed to get personnel and resources on the ground within 30 days, treatment and isolation for 70 percent of Ebola patients and safe burials for 70 percent of its victims within 60 days, and to change the outbreak’s trajectory within 90 days, Woods says.

BCG also helped design and facilitate a four-day operational planning conference in Accra, Ghana. The conference brought more than 80 experts and all the major partners together to align on a unified response strategy and implementation plan for the three affected countries—Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. The meeting marked a turning point in the fight, the U.N.’s Banbury says.

This is a problem the world had never confronted before, Banbury says. Literally, the world had never dealt with a public health emergency like this, and the world did not know what to do. “We needed BCG’s strategic thinking and analysis to dissect the problem,” Banbury says. “We went from having this unmanageable crisis and an unmanageable problem to having a whole bunch of manageable problems—not easy, but manageable. I guess that’s really the value that I was looking for and BCG exceeded my expectations.”

Woods estimated BCG invested a total of $2.2 million in professional fees and expenses for our Ebola response work with the U.N.

What BCG brought to the table—the combination of analytic abilities, strategic thinking and planning capabilities—was so powerful that it led to the results that we were able to achieve,” Banbury says.

By the end of that year, the Ebola outbreak was very much under control, but those results that the international community and the U.N. were able to achieve would not have been possible without BCG being an integral part of the team, Banbury says. “It’s not that I believe we couldn’t have achieved those results—I know—we couldn’t have achieved those same results without BCG. I have no doubt about that at all.”

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