Natalia Korchakova-Heeb is our guest today. She is passionate about the Sustainable Development Goals and trying to identify and implement solutions contributing to the achievement of the SDG 2030 Agenda. Keywords that are a great match to her> sustainable infrastructure, global health and public-private partnerships as an instrument to deliver sustainable projects and to mobilize stakeholders. She is relying on her 14-year project management experience of EU-funded projects with a focus on sustainable development in highly challenging work environments and she is now Managing Director at SDG.17 Consulting GmbH and the Founder of PPPHealth4All a project that has been developing inside the 2nd cohort of Founder Institute. But we will get there, first thing first:
Natalia, tell us a bit about yourself, your story, why are you in Frankfurt? What do you do?
I have moved to Germany from Ukraine and residing in Frankfurt-am-Main since September 2017. Quite enjoying Frankfurt because of its big international community and diversity — one could hear all kinds of languages here and this is what I like.
Last 14 years I was an employee of the European Commission and was managing EU-funded projects in Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus), based in Kyiv, Ukraine. My work was to help the government of Ukraine (and in the past also Moldova and Belarus) in harmonization and approximation to the European norms and standards in various sectors, e.g. public procurement, state aid, and competition. As you might know, the European Union and Ukraine have signed Deep Free Trade Agreement that opened a door for deepened trade and cooperation. Working for the European Commission was an exciting opportunity, one could only dream of — also a chance to bring positive changes. My work was acknowledged by a medal for loyal services from the European Commission and awards & recognitions from the government of Ukraine.
In 2014 my daughter was born which caused a break in my career and led to the final reallocation to Germany, mainly for family reasons but also due to unrest in Ukraine. My husband is coming originally from Hessen, so we took a decision to settle here. In 2018 I have established my own company — SDG.17 Consulting GmbH (https://sdg17consulting.de)
Proud to be a female -”Gründerin” and to work with the Sustainable Development Goals encoded in the name of my company (SDG.17), sustainable infrastructure, and public-private partnerships. Looking back, it was quite a brave decision to start my own business in Germany but courage never lacked in my character and as Ukrainian, I am used to facing challenges 🙂
What are the big issues that you and your company are addressing and what value do you bring to your clients?
My company works on sustainable infrastructure and sustainable public-private partnerships in the healthcare sector. In April 2020 PPPHealth4ll — a global platform to facilitate sustainable and people-centered healthcare public-private partnerships (https://ppphealth4all.de) — was launched. This project has already received prestigious international awards, just to mention the ones from the Global Infrastructure Hub (G20 Initiative) and the Global Health Hub-Germany. Very happy for having a chance to do what I believe in and for being able to make an impact on a global scale. 41 countries are already using our platform! We want to help our clients- public authorities, private companies, NGOs, and financiers — to design and implement sustainable and people-centered healthcare PPPs in developing countries. For this purpose we design tools, collect data, and create a knowledge hub. Our added-value is in increased quality, reduced time & costs for preparation of healthcare PPPs along with a long-term impact for the communities who are receiving access to affordable and accessible healthcare.
As a certified expert on green buildings (EDGE Green Building, IFC, World Bank Group), SDG.17 Consulting GmbH is offering services on certification of green buildings (e.g.social infrastructure, real estate). Edge was developed with the aim to democratize a market of green building certification, to make it affordable, and to massively expand green buildings approaches. Proud to be one of the EDGE experts.
Can you highlight some, top mistakes or funny situations you come across in your experience working in your industry?
My professional life is very colorful. Should write a book already when having some spare time. Well..I am seeing quite often various misconceptions on the Sustainable Development Goals and public-private partnerships. Even in Germany, some CEOs don’t understand what gender equality (SDG.5) has to do with sustainability or some public officials in developing countries think PPPs come at no costs and are a “gift” from the private sector. Sustainability and SDGs are very often misunderstood or simply greenwashed, sometimes in quite ridiculous ways. It would be good to have NGOs and watchdogs to examine public reports published and challenge them where needed.
What is your experience inside Founder Institute Frankfurt second cohort?
Being part of the Founder Institute’s program was a great experience. Could only recommend future founders to get involved. But have to warn you that this was also very challenging in terms of time pressure. Additionally, due Corona pandemic it becomes totally virtual, which, of course, creates certain limitations in terms of networking opportunities and building a personal bond with mentors and peers. The Founder institute helps to build not only knowledge and a network but also casts a character. The tempo is very high and from 25 people only 4 “survivors” including me — the only woman-founder left in the program.
Also, as an international founder, what is your opinion of the diversity in the Startup ecosystem in Frankfurt?
Frankfurt is a great place to be. Have also heard, however, some opinions that Germany is, in general, not very competitive in terms in terms of access to venture capital and favoring startups compared to other countries. There is room for improvement, especially for women-founders. By the way, we have established recently a network of women- tech founders in TechQuartier, Frankfurt where I am currently based.
At the same time, I see a lot of initiatives and a lot of startups I personally know that have received governmental support from federal or local government or who were able to raise money from investors. It is a very positive sign.
A curiosity, was your industry affected by Corona?
Absolutely, to a great extent! Due to the nature of my work, most of my clients are international companies and it would normally involve a lot of travel. With the corona pandemic, a lot of contracts were put on hold or de-prioritized.
Professionally speaking, in a response to COVID-19, I have collected the cases around the world of how public-private partnerships (PPPs) were instrumental in fighting corona and developed a database of such projects #PPPsAgainstCorona https://ppphealth4all.de/map. The PPP projects identified have successfully brought innovations, know-how, and resources from the private sector — this is exactly what is required in times of the global pandemic as the governments alone are not able to cope with this huge challenge.
Finally, personal goals for 2021?
To grow a team, anchor locally, expand globally, and to raise funding. We are looking for partners and companies to join our community and use our services. As coordinator of Hesse Health4All digital health ecosystem launched in August 2020 under the umbrella of the European Connected Health Alliance, my task is to build a local ecosystem of digital health stakeholders and to connect it with a global ecosystem PPPHealth4All.