May 17, 2016, will mark Danya International’s 20th anniversary. Founded in 1996 by Jeff Hoffman, Ph.D., our company’s journey began in, of all places, our CEO’s basement. While his daughter Daniella watched Under the Umbrella Tree and his son Yaniv played with Legos and pirate ships on the floor above him, Jeff started writing the government contract and grant proposals that continue to be the backbone of Danya’s business to this day. Jeff named his startup “Danya”—a blending of his children’s names, including his youngest Daphna, that reflected that this company would be a personal and impactful change, both for Jeff’s life and for the lives of those he hoped to reach through Danya’s work.
The rest, of course, is history. Danya continues to make positive changes through contracts and grants that allow us to help reduce addictions, prevent diseases, promote the health and education of young children and their families, and promote diversity and inclusion in everything we do. With a company philosophy of “Innovative Solutions for Social Impact,” we have embraced six core social impact goals that we conceived a decade ago and that continue to drive us in our search for new and socially significant projects:
- Improving child, family, and public health
- Improving public and behavioral health education and training
- Improving the quality of comprehensive early childhood education
- Reducing hunger and increasing food security
- Reducing the impact of HIV infections and other infectious diseases
- Reducing tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use and addictions
To help us kick off our anniversary celebrations, Jeff recently took some time to discuss some of the joys and accomplishments of growing Danya throughout these past two decades.
How would you describe your experience running the company?
JH: Overall, it has been very exciting and fulfilling to run a social impact company, working in so many different important health and education areas. It has been an honor to work hand-in-hand with government agencies and personnel, to help them accomplish their public service goals.
Looking back at the past 20 years, what would you say is Danya’s greatest accomplishment?
JH: There have been a number of accomplishments. We’ve worked closely with the Office of Head Start to improve the overall accountability and monitoring of Head Start grantees around the country, which we believe is resulting in improved education and comprehensive care for children and their families in Head Start.
We’ve accomplished many communication and training goals with CDC, helping to enhance HIV and other infectious disease prevention around the United States.
We’ve also been able to assist the Navy through their Clinical Preceptorship Program, which provides clinical supervision to their substance abuse counselors on Navy bases around the world, for more than 10 years. It’s been very fulfilling to work with our Armed Forces/military.
And we accomplished a number of goals in East Africa—improving health systems in Kenya, enhancing farming practices, and engaging women in leadership decision-making in farming co-ops in Ethiopia and Tanzania.
Are the social impact goals as relevant today as they were 10 years ago?
JH: Yes, unfortunately—they are still huge problems in our society and around the world. The drug epidemic, for example, has increased in this country recently; and while tobacco use has declined in the United States, it has increased in many countries around the world.
However, there has been tremendous progress in reducing the number of HIV infections and AIDS cases around the world. We’re honored to have made a contribution to this effort.
What do you find most meaningful about Danya’s work?
JH: When we get feedback from children or families who are positively impacted by our video or web or educational materials, and we see that it helps them live a better life—that is meaningful. We’ve done a lot of work in the area of autism, providing a whole range of educational materials that are available on autismonline.com, that have been enormously helpful to many people around the country.
Where do you see Danya heading?
JH: We plan to work in partnership with a range of other companies to build on our core capabilities in monitoring and evaluation, training and technical assistance, and marketing and communications to address a wider range of social problems.
Finally, what has been your greatest joy of running the company?
JH: Working with the staff on these social impact projects. We have had and continue to have some of the most talented, dynamic, and gifted staff, and I enjoy planning, implementing, and problem-solving with the various teams. I also enjoy working with our clients on these issues. I especially like coming up with creative solutions to difficult social problems.
So, there you have it—the people are his favorite part of the business! Happy Anniversary, Danya!