How we work

How we work

Marie Stopes International operates as a social business, meaning we use business approaches to deliver social outcomes. But we don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. Rather, we work hard to understand our clients and their unique challenges, tailoring our services and solutions accordingly.

We fund our programs in innovative ways, with a combination of individual and organisational donations, grants and public health financing, as well as with income generated in country. Every dollar counts. We are developing sustainable and scalable business models for the future, so we can serve women with high quality, affordable and accessible services for as long as they need us.

Clinics

Each day around 30,000 women and men access one of our 600 clinics located across 37 countries worldwide.

Offering a range of services including family planning, safe abortion (where legal) and general reproductive health services, these clinics set the standard for care in each country where we work.

We put a lot of thought into their location, design and the way they are run. Above all, we want to be sure that the women who visit our clinics feel at ease from the moment they walk through our blue door.

Our clinics are conveniently located in places that are safe, easy to find and well served by public transport. Importantly, we ensure they are open at times that work best for people living locally.

Once a client steps inside, the atmosphere of a clinic has as much of an impact on them as our high clinical standards. Creating warm, welcoming environments also leads to quicker recovery times. So we try to ‘de-medicalize’ our clinics as much as we can.

Outreach

We have hundreds of outreach teams taking contraception services out into some of the world’s most hard-to-reach communities. These teams travel to remote rural communities where contraception is simply not available, or to urban and surrounding areas where the poor continue to have unmet need for services.

We will do whatever it takes to deliver contraception to women, even in the remotest areas of the globe. Our teams will travel using whatever means they need to reach people – from planes in Papua New Guinea, to tuk-tuks in Tanzania, to boats in Bangladesh. We also have teams working through periods of political instability, for example in Yemen, Afghanistan and Mali and through Sierra Leone’s Ebola crisis and civil war.

Outreach is a crucial element of our delivery model, as it gives us a way to reach out to many more people who need our services, particularly young and very poor clients, and those who have never used contraception before.

Social franchising

We know that we can’t reach all the women who need our services on our own. That’s why in 2004 we established a social franchising network, where we partner with existing private health providers who we equip to deliver high-quality contraception and safe abortion services on our behalf.

Franchisee members, often women business owners, are able to offer a greater range and higher quality services to their existing clients and encourage new clients.

Private healthcare providers deliver services under our BlueStar social franchise brand. We now have over 3,600 franchisees working with us across 18 countries.

We take responsibility for the quality of the services they provide by training, equipping, mentoring and assessing them to ensure they meet our required standards and provide client-friendly services.

Social franchising is a way to quickly scale-up access to services by engaging the private sector, so that poor and under-served women have access to greater choice in a sustainable way.

Contraceptive social marketing

Originally developed in 1967 in India, contraceptive social marketing programs are designed to make low-cost, attractively packaged contraceptives (originally condoms and oral contraceptives; now including virtually all methods) as easily available as tea, cigarettes, or Coca Cola. Social marketing brings short term and emergency contraceptive methods closer to the client and provides an opportunity to offer information and referrals to outreach or clinics for clients interested in long-acting or permanent methods.

Our program markets and distributes low-cost and free condoms, pills and other contraceptive and health products through pharmacies, community-based distributors and other private providers.

In Mongolia, our socially marketed condom brands Trust and Mungalug are available throughout the country. Working through a large network of pharmacists and community-based distributors we are able to significantly impact contraceptive uptake in the countries where we work.

Marie Stopes Ladies

Marie Stopes Ladies give us another way to provide services within communities and bring services to women who need them. These might be midwives or nurses, or just committed women from other walks of life whom we train and incentivise to provide services and follow-up care to women in their communities.

Marie Stopes Ladies are united by an entrepreneurial spirit and a strong desire to help people within their communities get hold of the contraception and safe abortion information and services that can change their lives.

They cover specific catchment areas and visit clients in their homes and at community centres. As with our social franchise network, we assess and ensure the quality of what they do – and as urbanisation increases, they’re helping us to reach many more people in underserved, densely-populated areas.

Impact through partnership

Partnerships play a pivotal role in enabling us to deliver and maintain the quality and scope of our services. By working with partners, the private sector, health departments and policy makers, we are able to reach more women while also making it more acceptable for women to access reproductive health services.

Public sector support

We support governments at local, provincial and national levels, helping them to address resource gaps in sexual and reproductive health education, awareness, training and service delivery.

In Papua New Guinea, we lead the implementation of the country’s first National Family Planning Training Program, providing training, skills and confidence to public-sector workers to provide high quality family planning. This capacity building project is an important part of health system strengthening in the country.

Private sector partnerships

By partnering with private companies and workplaces we are able to reach women where they work, providing them with affordable, accessible and high quality reproductive health services and information. Our work with Cambodian garment factories helps us educate and assist young female factory workers, often from poor rural areas, who are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

Working in consortia

We recognise the value of working with other, like-minded organisations and have been part of a number of local and international NGO partnerships including the Australian government funded Australia Africa Community Engagement Scheme (AACES) and Partnering to Save Lives in Cambodia.

Advocacy

With local experience and a commitment to measuring the impact of our work, we are uniquely positioned to advocate for the women we support and contribute to local and global policy decisions. Our voice is critical to ensure that policies are supportive of access to contraception and safe abortion, and we help ensure that policies are fit-for-purpose and informed by the latest medical guidance.

Our 2020 strategy, Scaling-Up Excellence, recognises that providing services alone will not secure universal access to contraception or safe abortion and that to bring about real change we need to transform the environments in which we operate.