Alumni Spotlight: Bruno Boldrin Bezerra, ABRAIDI
Bruno Boldrin Bezerra is the Executive Director of ABRAIDI, a nonprofit that works on representing and defending the interests of the import and distribution sector of health products, both in government agencies and in the relationship with other entities in the sector. The Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership spoke with Bruno about his experience leading ABRAIDI’s expansion into the international market and his experience in the Center’s Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate Program.
CPNL: The nonprofit sector is vast with so many important causes to champion, what led you to pursue a career in your particular field?
Bruno Boldrin: Well, I didn’t choose to be in this field of the nonprofit sector. I worked with the public sector since the beginning of my career in 2009 as a trainee of government affairs in the American Chamber of Commerce for Brazil. There, I started working in a project dedicated to anti-piracy education within public schools. After that I was involved in other subjects including the regulatory issues of the healthcare sector. I believe that because of this experience working in government affairs, I was hired a few years later by ABRAIDI, to work as the Executive Director. Of course, once you are in a in a particular field you end up becoming a specialist on that issue. In 2021 I finished my master’s degree in public policy, where I studied public policies regarding health, education, infrastructure, and public security. I was able to use my newfound knowledge to polish and specialize even further my understanding of the health sector. So, while I did not choose the nonprofit health sector, my life choices brought me to where I am today, and I love it. I think it’s a very important sector for our society, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.
CPNL: What has been the biggest challenge in your position as an Executive Director in responding to the struggles of managing an expanding organization, as ABRAIDI launches a program to connect international companies and constituents to the Brazilian health market? What advice would you give to other leaders in this field looking to expand internationally?
Bruno Boldrin: The main challenge that I experienced in expanding the organization was the lack of resources, and not only financial resources, but also human resources. The structure of the association when I joined consisted of only 3 staff members. So, I had to convince the board of directors that with the money we saved from the administrative restructure we conducted, we should invest in hiring more people to develop and deliver projects, specifically senior personnel. So, I think that this was the main challenge we faced because we are an association of companies. So, it’s a different type of nonprofit from what people are used to seeing in the U.S. We have a different structure because of that, and we have a different role because of that. We have to not only provide products and services, but also engage in advocacy in Congress and within the Brazilian government.
For leaders that are thinking to do the same, I believe that one of the most important steps in launching an international project is understanding and capturing international interest in your own market. Nonprofits must launch an investigation to understand if there is gap in the market that can or needs to be filled by your nonprofit work. Sometimes there is not gap, so it’s important to understand whether your nonprofit can adequately play a role in the international market before you engage because sometimes the answer is no.
In our case there were two main reasons why we decided to expand internationally. First, we saw a demand from companies abroad looking to try and enter the Brazilian economy and generate revenue. Although we are a nonprofit, even nonprofits need money to run.
The choice to bring in international consumers proved to be the right move, after completing the Certificate Program at Georgetown last summer. I had moments of doubt about whether we should invest in development and partnerships abroad. I realized in order to do this, I needed to find more donors so that we had the proper finances to generate structure in our nonprofit work and maximize our impact within our society and the communities we serve.
So, I believe that you have to make a strategic assessment and evaluate whether engaging the international market is right for your nonprofit before spending your valuable time, money, and energy.
CPNL: Besides being the Executive Director for ABRAIDI, you also serve as Vice President of ABIIS. As Vice President, how do you navigate the intricacies of both the public and private sector to help expand health legislation, regulations, and policies in Brazil?
Bruno Boldrin: Great, so ABIIS is a very interesting project because of its origins that emerged from this brotherhood sponsorship from a partnering medical device nonprofit in the U.S. They sponsored us with the idea in mind to form greater ties with the Brazilian government, nonprofit sector, and medical device industry. We see this alliance as an instrument of advocacy for us and for its partnering members. We often have to go to the government and discuss subjects on healthcare and medical devices, and even take propositions on amendments to bills or regulations being debated in Congress. Having this alliance can be a powerful tool of leverage and influence in helping push our advocacy work forward.
This is especially important during times of political change, like the recent 2022 presidential election. We leveraged the alliance members to lobby our propositions for medical device regulation to the different presidential party candidates before the election, that way the candidates can understand our perspective and consider incorporating our proposals if elected to office. Additionally, the pandemic really helped open Brazil’s eyes to understand the need to expand its medical device industry, as we often had to depended on countries like China for mask and vaccine supplies. This context provided the alliance with even more power to enact policy change, which is not always possible to achieve when you are one singular nonprofit advocating for these issues.
CPNL: What is one significant success you have experienced as a leader in the nonprofit sector?
Bruno Boldrin: The most beautiful thing about working in the nonprofit space is being able to leave a legacy in the work that you have accomplished, which continues to grow even after you move on from that space. With all the hard work that I have invested into the nonprofit sector, I have the privilege to be able to point to projects that I built that are that still actively running till this day. Even in my position as Executive Director, I help the people working on my team grow. I am responsible for helping expand the professional development of my staff, as they are the pillars that make up my nonprofit as well. So, as my staff grow and become better so does my organization.
CPNL: How has the Certificate Program helped you in your career?
Bruno Boldrin: The Georgetown Program helped me a lot. It helped me consolidate many ideas I thought I had the capacity to achieve but did not understand how, by providing me with the knowledge and set of skills to execute these ideas within my own organization. Secondly, the new knowledge and perspective from different leaders in the sector that I acquired was truly one of the most fruitful experiences of the program. I am a firm believer of being a lifelong learner. I gained knowledge on not only the strategic management side of nonprofits, but I also gained a better understanding of what advocacy, board relationships and financial development could look like in the nonprofit sector. Even after having been an Executive Director for the last 6 years, this program still offered me valuable insight. I especially liked how they showcased information from strategic lenses to a more operational lenses, that way you could see both sides of the equation. Lastly the networking opportunities that the Certificate Program offered were amazing, especially because I was the only foreigner in the classroom. There were leaders that came from a variety of nonprofits that dealt with issues from clean energy to homelessness, to childhood poverty and much more, allowing me to learn from every single leader in the room by listening to their experiences and leaning from their unique organizational culture and structure.
CPNL: What advice would you give to professionals who are considering participating in the certificate program?
Bruno Boldrin: You know I actually have a colleague currently from ABIIS that is considering applying for the program. I told him about the rich networking experiences that comes with participating in the program. My advice to him and for people considering applying for the program, is to come in with an open mind. Not only to learn but to also listen, both to your professor and also your colleagues. Also, being open-minded to share. Sometimes people go into these types of programs thinking they already know everything and are hesitant to participate in the conversations generated in each class. I challenge these types of people to go in with an open mind to share and to learn. Another thing that made the program so rich was the material that was shared with the students. All the presentations, models, and readings, I made sure to print them all out and actually go over them. Till this day, I continue to reference back to many of the materials that were provided to us, including things that were not even covered in the limited class time but were recommended to us in the class syllabus.