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This week I'm speaking with Lucia Coulter, who co-founded the Lead Exposure Elimination Project (LEEP), which was incubated by Charity Entrepreneurship and inspired by EA-flavoured ideas.

What should I ask her?

You can learn a bit about LEEP's work here:

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What messaging has LEEP found is most persuasive to policymakers in LMICs?

Relatedly, what has she learned about policymakers in LMICs that might be unexpected or unintuitive for a Western audience?

2 practical and 1 theoretical questions (Rob/Luisa feel free to edit or combine with other qs for maximum podcast efficiency):

  1. Does LEEP have a plan to scale beyond sub-saharan Africa (I'm most aware of the work in Malawi and Botswana), or is the plan to work in a few places well and scale carefully?
  2. What is dealing with local stakeholders and political systems like? Is it something that she'd recommend EAs (or EA in general) getting more involved in or is it not the skillset we're generally best at?
  3. To the extent Lucia is able to give a view, what's her take on the randomista vs growth debate in Global Health EA? It came up in Elie's recent interview on the 80k podcast, and would be interesting to hear Lucia's perspective there too.

What advice does Lucia have for engaging with policymakers, that she hasn’t commonly heard elsewhere?

Background and Motivation:

  • What inspired you to co-found LEEP? Was there a specific event or realization that led you to focus on lead exposure?

 

Effective Altruism Influence:

  • How have EA principles influenced the strategies and tactics of LEEP?
  • What lessons or frameworks from the EA community were particularly useful or challenging when applied to the real-world scenarios faced by LEEP?

 

Charity Entrepreneurship

  • How was the incubation process at Charity Entrepreneurship like?
  • How did your partnership with Charity Entrepreneurship shape the foundation and direction of LEEP?
  • What would LEEP have looked like without the CE Program or what was the most valuable lesson you took away from it?
  •  What were the key-factors that led to you being matched with Jack Rafferty as Co-Founders?

 

Impact:

  • What have been the most significant successes of LEEP to date?
  • Which of the steps of your approach (that can be seen on LEEP's projects page) turned out to be most difficult? Which happened to be surprisingly easy? 
    Here the steps I'm referring to:
    • 1. Stakeholder engagement: Develop our understanding of the local context, build partnerships, and begin collaborative conversations with government and industry stakeholders.
    • 2. Conduct paint study: Determine whether and to what extent lead-based paints are available on the market. If paints are lead-free, end the project at this point.
    • 3. Government outreach: Share our research with relevant government ministries and seek commitments for new regulation or enforcement of existing regulation. Provide support as needed, such as in drafting new laws.
    • 4. Industry outreach: Provide technical assistance to manufacturers to enable them to switch to lead-free paint.
    • 5. Conduct followup paint study: After regulations are newly implemented or enforced, carry out another study to ensure that lead-based paints have successfully been replaced. Provide further assistance to government and industry as necessary

 

Future Goals and Aspirations:

  • What is the long-term vision for LEEP, how do you see it evolving in the next 5-10 years?
  • Are you excited by the possibility of some day being able to announce "We did it, Lead Exposure is no longer a thing!" ?
     

Personal:

  • Do you feel a lot of weight on your shoulders or more of a sense of opportunity to do good?
  • Do you have trouble establishing a healthy work/life balance or find yourself thinking "If I spend some extra time  reaching out to this or that person I could save so and so many kids from lead poisoning."?
     

And please tell her that for me LEEP is an inspiring example how much taking actions in a neglected area can achieve (that I constantly use when pitching EA here in Freiburg). 
I'm a huge fan!

This is only from my own personal interest in anthropology in international development although it might be useful to more people: How can an ethnography be helpful to work on reducing lead exposure? More specifically, I am interested in work that might be valuable to policy makers, NGOs and possibly others in Bangladesh and even more specifically related to how lead ends up in food (broadly defined, I think lead in water might count as lead in food). There is this recent forum post on lead in turmeric in Bangladesh, but perhaps there are other places lead shows up too? This ethnography can take place in any part of Bangladeshi society, from the farmers or distributers who might or might not adulterate the food or farm on contaminated soil to policy makers and their ability/inability to enforce legislation. I am thinking it might be helpful to especially an organization working on policy to understand the various ways different actors have opportunities or perceive constraints from taking action so they can target their scare resources to either leveraging opportunities or overcoming obstacles. 

Is fundraising an activity that requires a significant part of your time and mental space? How much of your time do you have to spend in such activities?