“I want to change the way organizations work. I want to make business more humane and more relevant to what employees, customers, and stakeholders at large want today,” remarked Céline Schillinger, head of innovation and engagement at the French-based vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur during the first of four ASAP plenary sessions at the 2017 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Profit, Innovation, and Value for the Partnering Enterprise,” at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley, San Diego, California.
“We can’t stick to 20th century tools and mindset to create value today. They’re not adapted to our complex, globalized and interconnected world. They’re obsolete,” Schillinger emphasized during her talk “Comfort in Discomfort: Leadership and Innovation from an Uncommon Alliance.”
Schillinger has been recognized with prestigious awards many times over for her innovative engagement initiatives in the pharma world, and specifically, for her role in the successful launch of the first vaccine developed to combat dengue fever. The plenary focused on her life as an international business-oriented engagement professional with an expertise in social technologies, marketing, communications, and human relations. She explained how she developed a social movement to create change in a very conservative and hierarchical company environment.
In short, Schillinger has succeeded to make change as a corporate activist in a top-down, male dominated system. “I’ve started to change this in my own organization with corporate activism. There’s considerable energy when you tap into a broader pool of knowledge, common purpose, social media, and co-creation. I want to expand this work within my organization and beyond,” she continued.
When Sanofi Pasteur was preparing to roll out their groundbreaking dengue fever vaccine, they were confident that a tried-and-true approach to launch the product would succeed and the vaccine would sell itself. After all, dengue fever is a greatly feared, potentially serious disease delivered through the bite of a mosquito. Its potential victims are the 2.5 billion people living in Latin America and Asia as well as the southern part of the United States. Though the disease was virtually nonexistent 50 years ago, it’s now widespread. There’s no prevention and no cure. When outbreaks occur each year, half-a-million people with severe dengue are hospitalized. Some recover, but thousands die.
With a break-through vaccine to combat dengue fever about to be approved and commercially available in several countries, executives at Sanofi strongly resisted Schillinger’s radical outreach approach. Communication campaigns are the usual response for many governments in affected countries. They often try community-based approaches, in line with the World Health Organization’s recommendations. But their success is limited. The question was, how might this be made more effective as well as more efficient?
For Schillinger, the answer was obvious: “Why not use social media?” she asked. Social media could be used to inform people about the new way to fight dengue fever, but equally important, to connect people to a whole network potentially impacted by an outbreak. Through social media, people “connect and exchange with trusted interlocutors who derive their credibility from what they do, not just what they say. This is a transformative shift for communication and activism, and this has huge consequences for healthcare,” she stated.
Social networks are not just an additional tool for pushing information, she argued. Through social media such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as websites and chat rooms, users contribute their own experiences. They check facts and demand feedback. It’s much more than communication, she said. Eventually, she convinced the executives at Sanofi Pasteur, and she was proved right. Her initiative, the Break Dengue Community, garnered over 250,000 Facebook followers in its first year and enlisted over 4,000 volunteers globally to assist in the distribution and administration of vaccines.
This approach may not be for the faint of heart, but “health organizations and companies have to adapt to this new interaction model,” she concluded.
Schillinger has been recognized as a 40 Women to Watch Honoree (2016) and received the Gold Quill Award (2016), Employee Engagement Award (2016), Most Impactful Emerging Initiative (2015), and Best Use of Social Media for Healthcare (2014) and was honored as the French Businesswoman of the year (2013). She is also a TEDx speaker https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMDKkTuLUHw, blogger, and charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide.