Tomorrow Labs: A Collaboration with Partners In Health

Working with the Partners in Health (PIH) team was incredible – so many bright minds and passionate individuals all in the same room. Our process began where any adventure should – trying to truly understand where they were as an organization at that moment in time. Who were they trying to reach? What obstacles stood in their way? How could they better fulfill their mission? We asked question after question and listened for the entire first day – quite a data load!

Day two brought more insights and personal stories. Cori Shepherd Stern, a film producer and agent for social change, was a vocal member of our team and had some incredible stories to share. She has been documenting PIH’s work in Rwanda and though some of her stories were heartbreaking, all of them were inspirational and filled with hope. We spent a long time understanding how these personal connections and relationships fit into the PIH model, sketching out systems and working to make their process visual. For the second part of the day we broke into smaller teams and did ‘yes,and’ style brainstorms, which introduced lots of new ideas into the group. Needless to say, we ended the day with LOTS of ideas! Mercifully, one concept stood out from the rest, and by nightfall we had agreed on a direction to pursue.

After a good night’s sleep,  we began to poke holes in our “solution” and really find the problem points. Addressing these concerns was painful and exhausting (everyone just wanted the answer to be perfect and move on) but we kept at it and came up with a stronger solution for it. We probably made the most tangible progress this day, which really helped to keep people’s spirits up. As amazing as our time spent brainstorming in the rooms was, I really appreciated the opportunity to check in with some of the other teams at meal times and learn about their days, too. By day three I already felt like I was surrounded by my best friends… I guess working day and night to solve common problems will do that!

We started out day four by completely modifying our solution, as is want to happen in these sorts of brainstorming sessions! Katie, Maggie and I cobbled together a presentation with direction from the PIH team, and managed not to be the last team out of the office, despite the last minute changes in approach. We really considered how our solution would live in the real world – would the rest of the PIH organization support it? Was it a sustainable solution with a chance at longevity? How much would it cost to implement and does PIH have the personnel to maintain it? All these creeping thoughts influenced us to continually modify and tweek our solution, and I think we really could have used another week (or two) to really think through all these issues. As much as we wanted to deliver  an airtight solution in one-week, that was not in the cards.

The last day was presentations and I was so proud of all the teams. Design thinking can be a very uncomfortable experience, and all five organizations clearly participated in this process to the fullest and explored new ideas without hesitation or fear. The ideas generated were inspiring, and most important, implementable.

I am so excited to see each of these organizations continue to tweak and modify the ideas generated at this workshop, and hopefully implement these solutions in the near future. Working with the PIH team was incredible, and I know they will continue transforming the global health landscape for the better way into the future.