Recently, we announced the four inspiring entrepreneurs who won our MIT Solve Health Access Prize competition this year, which called for boundary-pushing solutions that empower health workers and further health equity. Around that time, one of the 2022 winners, Dawa Health, was also celebrating at their graduation from MIT Solve’s nine-month support program, a core part of each award. The program equips winning social innovators with individualized coaching, business training and a community of peers, funders and experts to help them scale their work and impact. These are often game-changing resources for equity-oriented entrepreneurs, who face tremendous obstacles in bringing their innovations to life, often in the context of fragile health systems.
J&J Impact Ventures (JJIV), an impact fund within the Johnson & Johnson Foundation, has been proud to support MIT Solve to enable innovators with powerful resources. Complementing our direct investments in companies, partnerships like this allow us to support other early-stage entrepreneurs and the broader healthcare impact ecosystem through means other than capital alone.
We caught up with Tafadzwa Kalisto Munzwa, CEO and Co-Founder of Dawa Health, which won a 2022 Health Access Prize for its AI-powered health platform democratizing access to healthcare through community health workers. We asked Tafadzwa how his experience over the past year has strengthened both him and his company’s mission, and we are excited to share some of his responses here!
CB: What was one of the most memorable parts of your experience with MIT Solve over the nine-month program?
TM: The most memorable part of my MIT Solve experience is the community I gained through the rest of the Solver teams—fellow entrepreneurs and winners of my and other MIT Solve Challenges—coming from across the world to in-person and virtual meetups. My cohort, specifically The Care Economy, has become my “MIT Family.” We still have meetups post-program to support each other, share opportunities and provide a safe space where we can discuss what we are going through and how our businesses are doing. Being a company founder is sometimes an alienating and lonely journey. To have these amazing and brilliant mates in your corner who have or are going through something similar is so comforting and encouraging.
Additionally, the annual Solve at MIT event is another highlight for me. And experiencing the human-centered design process at the MIT D-LAB, a participatory design and inclusive innovation lab, and watching an MIT professor’s demonstration of an advanced mechano-sensory robot, blew my mind with the potential of robotics in healthcare.
CB: It’s great to hear that peer support and community is continuing! Can you share something that’s impacted you on a personal level—something you are grateful to have gained or learned?
TM: I am grateful to have worked with Karla Teruel, an executive leadership coach, through MIT Solve. That process changed my approach to leadership, team-building and work culture. I truly believe that the coaching has honed my leadership skills, and I can already see improvements in both my team's performance and my personal motivation. The network of people I met at MIT and within the Solve community will always be an invaluable resource for me, as my company, Dawa Health, has taken advantage of this network to further scale our work.
CB: How do you feel this support has accelerated your company’s growth and investment-readiness?
TM: The Health Access Prize propelled us to the next phase of our work by enabling us to acquire a mobile clinic van and E-bikes. These assets are vital in our mission to decentralize access to maternal and child healthcare in marginalized communities, such as the slum compounds of Lusaka, Zambia. The DawaMom mobile clinic van now functions as a comprehensive outpatient support unit, serving as the anchor for our network of field clinicians and community health workers.
Additionally, our eco-friendly electric E-bikes are instrumental for over-the-counter medication deliveries and sample collections from patients in marginalized communities. We were also able to leverage the Health Access Prize to secure additional scale-up and R&D funding from other sources. We have since secured partnerships to scale DawaMom with partners like Human in the Loop, Delft Imaging Systems, Virtual Doctors and Old Mutual, among others.
Thank you, Tafadzwa! We are honored to be a part of your entrepreneurial journey and look forward to seeing Dawa Health’s work grow across Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and beyond.