By Vignetta Charles, PhD & Bhupendra Sheoran, MD, MBA | July 17, 2019
CEO (VC) and Vice President of Global Development (BS), ETR
We are beyond excited about the recent merger of ETR and YTH. Of course, a huge amount of practical footwork needed to be done. There are challenges, some anticipated and some not. There is discovery and confusion. Adjustments must be made.
But when we take a moment, take a breath, and think about where we are and how we see the road ahead, our overarching feeling is…excitement!
We recently had a conversation with Marcia Quackenbush, ETR’s Senior Editor, to share some of our impressions about our first three months together.
Marcia: What’s exciting for you about this change?
Sheoran: The most exciting thing about the change is the coming together of two successful organizations and their people. We share an alignment of values with the desire to reach and serve our communities at scale and with high quality.
Vignetta: I also love the excitement of two thriving organizations coming together to honor our mission and values. So often, mergers are a response to organizational decline. That was not the case here. We saw an organization that could be stronger and clearer together than separately—and then responded to that call.
Marcia: How does the merger fulfill a vision that matters to you?
Vignetta: For more than 39 years, ETR has worked with thousands of organizations in a multitude of ways to achieve our vision of all people having the information, skills and opportunities to lead healthy lives. That work has largely been domestic (with some very notable exceptions). The YTH team—which has now become ETR’s YTH Initiative—has strong global ties. Their integration into ETR opens up all kinds of new opportunities for us to fulfill our mission and vision globally, and that is thrilling!
Sheoran: And joining up with ETR lets us better fulfill a vision where young people get honest information, have their voices heard, and get support to live healthy lives without shame or fear. This union allows us to drive change by creating, evaluating and refining innovative technology solutions, and then providing our partners with proven models ready for scale and replication.
Marcia: Bringing together staff from two strong, independent organizations is challenging. What’s the chemistry between YTH and ETR staff like?
Sheoran: For YTH staff, it was like we were coming back into family. It was natural and easy. From the first day that YTH staff moved to the ETR office, we were really welcomed, and it’s felt like home ever since.
Vignetta: Yes. It’s been a natural union from the start. All the team members from YTH and ETR are friendly and welcoming, so that was no surprise for me. The values alignment was also no surprise—our organizations have been working together since YTH's inception.
What has been surprising was how quickly I witnessed so much laughter among the team members, the ease of relationships across teams, and a shared excitement for what lies ahead.
Marcia: What are some of the cool things our community partners (customers, clients, funders) are going to see in the coming year?
Sheoran: Our community partners can expect to see the same level of innovation and quality that they are used to, but at a higher level of scale and intensity. For example, our direct-to-youth programs will get an infusion of developmental science and research. Our customers and providers will be seeing a lot of new content and new ways in which we are delivering tools, resources and trainings.
We will engage with funders in some familiar ways—that means we’ll continue to influence resource allocation towards issues that are urgent and vital for our communities. But we’ll also be offering funders opportunities to support even bigger solutions—enhanced or entirely new, replicable and with a potential for even greater impact.
Vignetta: We’re also excited to expand the annual YTH Live conference through increased capacity. Beyond that, we're elated that we can now center youth voice in all of ETR's youth-focused work through our Youth Advisory Board—one of the outstanding assets the YTH Initiative has brought to ETR.
We're already growing our global partnerships, and we're only three months in!
Marcia: What’s something really fun or surprising you’ve discovered about each other?
Vignetta: I discovered that Sheoran finds a way to be active every single day. It's inspiring.
Sheoran: I discovered that Vignetta is a die-hard Dubs fan. Love the Golden State Warriors earrings!
Marcia: What else feels important about this merger?
Sheoran: I am energized by the access I now have to over a hundred dedicated, passionate and super smart ETRians—people who are ready to partner on ambitious ideas and projects that respond to critical issues in our community. Every conversation I have with my colleagues leaves me even more excited to pursue new ideas.
Vignetta: I'm so excited to see ETR grow in new ways! Every new partnership brings an opportunity to go deeper in the work and be greater in our impact. With this particular relationship, it became clear that, yes, we could have done that separately. But we saw that we had an option to do even more. We could join through a merger and step up to the opportunity to actually become stronger together! This is one of those situations where 1+1 = 1,000.
Vignetta Charles, PhD, is Chief Executive Officer at ETR. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bhupendra Sheoran, MD, MBA, is Vice President of Global Development at ETR. He can be reached at email@example.com.