By Tina Dirmann staff writer for BCBS of Louisiana Foundation Last month, Christy Reeves, executive director for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation, made a once-in-a-lifetime journey to Korea, where she had the pleasure of sharing with the Korean business community (and the prime minister’s office) our philosophy regarding corporate responsibility. We here at the Foundation already know all about that — how to use our name, our brand, our financial muscle for the good of community. Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana, after all, leveraged grant support of $10.2 million into nearly $30 million when combined with community match requests — not to mention forging partnerships between some 200 like-minded wellness organizations across the state. And clearly, we’re not the only ones impressed by those numbers… Reeves explains more in this Q&A, where she talks about her experience in Korea and about what our impact means to those here at home, especially this time of year. Q: Why did the Korean Social Responsibility Institute invite BCBSLAF to speak at this year’s conference? A: Well, they mainly invited us because of the work we’re doing in Louisiana through Challenge Grant. And it’s a real honor because they could have invited any company to represent America. But they asked us. Being recognized for our work in the collective impact arena internationally and speaking at the institute added an additional level of legitimacy to what we’re doing. They looked to Louisiana and our Foundation as the example, internationally, when it comes to corporate responsibility. They were very taken by our collective impact model. Q: What was your overall message? A: My message was that big business has the responsibility to address issues and support members of our community by being thought leaders, conveners and change agents. Corporations have a role and a responsibility, not just because of their financial power, but they also have a huge influence because of their brand. Additionally, I highlighted how our Challenge project has leveraged our $10 million investment into nearly $30 million by working with partners in the community, partners we may not have ever engaged with had we not initiated this collective impact model. Q: How did they take that news? A: Oh, I heard a lot of “oohhhhs” and “ahhhs” from the audience. That was a powerful message to them. You don’t have to do it all by yourself. They were most interested in our approach to using your company’s brand to bring other stakeholders to the table to work together. That was what they were most interested in hearing about. Q: And you aren’t just talking about the match dollars that were required to get our grant funds, right? A: Right. Part of it is match money, sure. But it’s also the ability to bring all these collaboratives together. Alone, we might fund one group. But in some cases, we brought as many as 20 groups together, working on just one initiative. And business can drive that, much better than even government can, often. Because as independent businesses, we don’t have to work around a lot of the parameters, like a government agency may have to deal with. We have a lot more freedom, so we can work a lot faster. Q: Since the Koreans already have universal health care, were they able to relate to a the scenarios we’re dealing with here in America? A: It’s true, they’ve had universal health care since 1972 and so, yes, they were very surprised how much health in America has declined — and especially in Louisiana. So, while they don’t have the same issues we do, my point to them is that it doesn’t have to be obesity or heart disease or health related at all. You can pick whatever issue you want — the model works the same. It’s the model we’re using that you can pick-up and copy. Q: And now that you’re back home, and it’s the holiday season, do you take a moment to look back at all the good work that’s been accomplished this year, through the Challenge Grant and related projects? A: Oh yes, you can’t help but reflect this time of year. When I look back, there’s nothing better than knowing we’ve had the ability to change lives. Q: Indeed, lives have been changed for the better. For example, we’ve been showcasing a lot of the new farmers markets on our blog site. And I’ve heard those new markets have really impacted the kinds of foods some families can access, and then serve, their families — with more fresh fruits and veggies on the holiday dinner table. A: Right, access to better foods really changes the menu you can offer around your dinner table. So, in one sense, maybe we’re changing traditions for the better… And in another, we’re probably bringing old traditions back, for people who have been unable to serve their families certain kinds of foods in a long time. Now they can bring that back. And I’m thrilled we’re a part of touching those traditions for the better.