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“This is a moment of profound clarity on values”, Mackinnon Engen, Watsi

kokou adzo



Mackinnon Engen Headshot scaled e1589966930958 1

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?

We are grateful to be healthy and safely at home. We’ve been adapting and building new routines as we now have our two young boys at home rather than at school. Getting at least a small dose of fresh air and sunshine every day helps too!

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company

I joined Watsi as their new Executive Director just a couple of months before the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. Our platform directly connects people around the world to fund life-changing healthcare.

To those leading companies and organizations right now, our leadership and work matter more than ever. It is inspiring to know that if we can navigate this time well, we can not only continue to fulfil our mission helping those in need but also emerge stronger and more impactful on the other side.

At Watsi, we have a strong set of core values and an incredibly dedicated community of supporters that have kept us focused and allowed us to continue helping patients around the world even amidst the current crisis.

How does your company innovate?

Innovation is in our DNA at Watsi. We even launched our organization around creating an entirely new model for non-profits. We are built on scaling through technology, being radically transparent, and creating direct connections across borders.

We strive to understand problems before we build solutions. We are creative in finding ways to move past obstacles. We take an agile and iterative approach so that what Watsi creates is usable and creates impact all along the journey.

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?

The pandemic has brought the need for access to healthcare to the forefront in every corner of the world. COVID-19 has made clear that health is truly a global issue and we are only going to get through this time and ensure health for all by working together.

This is a moment of profound clarity on values, purpose, and where to invest limited resources of time and money.

Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?

We took an initial deep breath and then got straight to work.

Our first calls were to our Medical Partners to understand what our patients and health providers needed to sustain in both the near and longer-term. In some cases, surgery had completely halted, in other sites, the focus was on providing emergency surgery and preparing for a possible influx of COVID-19 cases. In many places where we work, there has not yet been a high rate of coronavirus cases, so now we are seeing a rush of patients who had to put off treatment who still need care.

At a time of such uncertainty, we’ve learned to be guided by our values and the needs of those we aim to serve. We’ve had to be adaptive, over communicate, lean into our partnerships, and cut costs that don’t directly support our current and future plans.

How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and your company in the future  ?

We’ve found it helpful to build out long-term scenarios that enable us to plan for the future based on what we know now. It is possible non-profits will sustain a 2 or 3 year funding dip, so we need to take action now to ensure we navigate the path ahead well.

As a leader, I’m regularly checking in with each team member to ensure we are all taking care of ourselves and pacing for what is still ahead. Personally, I find getting outside or doing something active each day is helping me to relieve stress and is often when I have the most time to think big and creatively.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

The impact of the pandemic on the non-profit sector is only beginning to emerge. I’m hopeful that through innovation and adaptation, building new partnerships, and a renewed global commitment to giving back, our sector will rise to meet the tremendous global need that exists.

Your final thoughts

At a time when it is so essential, you can join with us to help people directly access healthcare.

Your website

Kokou Adzo is the editor and author of He is passionate about business and tech, and brings you the latest Startup news and information. He graduated from university of Siena (Italy) and Rennes (France) in Communications and Political Science with a Master's Degree. He manages the editorial operations at

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