The first annual Innovation Forum began on February 13 at University of Washington Bothell with a packed crowd in the Commons to hear the opening session entitled "Fostering Innovation in Organizations." The final session of the day was a session on "Priorities in Global Health."
Priorities in Global Health
Persistent poverty and the systematic increase in the inequality of wealth are the primary challenges in the field of global health today, according to a panel of experts who participated in the session “Priorities in Global Health” as a part of the 2012 Innovation Forum.
(Slide courtesy of James Pfeiffer)
Panelists were challenged to identify issues in global public health and innovative ways to address those issues. Members of the panel included:
- Onyinye Eheh, first-year master of public health student in the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington School of Public Health.
- Stephen Gloyd, associate chair of the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington.
- James Pfeiffer, associate professor of Anthropology and Health Services in the University of Washington Global Health Department.
- Clarence Spigner, professor of health services and adjunct professor of American Ethnic Studies and Global Health at the University of Washington.
- Johanna Crane, assistant professor in the UW Bothell School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.
Each speaker gave a short presentation on their area of expertise followed by an audience question and answer session. Here are highlights from each presentation:
Eheh is studying public health with a focus on adolescent health. “People think young people are healthy,” she said. “But if you look at the factors that affect youth today – violence, drugs, mental illness – they are in dire need of help.” Ehah noted that many lifestyle decisions (smoking, drug use, and sexual behavior) begin during the adolescent years.
Eheh has worked with adolescents both in her native Nigeria and in downtown Atlanta. Whatever the environment, she stressed the importance of involving adolescents when developing services and interventions aimed at teens. “Young people have a voice and can move public health in a positive way,” she said.
Gloyd began by discussing the increase in disparity and inequality in developing nations. “What
we're seeing is something different and new and bad,” he said. “Globalization has not been universally positive.”
Gloyd identified two types of innovation:
First, “non innovative” innovations. This type of innovation is based upon fashionable trends that were designed to fit into a broken system. One such example is the use of traditional birth attendants. “What better innovation could you have than one that fits the austerity system that cuts out nurses?” He also cited HIV innovations that did not treat patients with the virus.
Innovative solutions cut across the box of normalcy to address the underlying issues, he said. Gloyd said the biggest innovation of the last year has been the Occupy movement, which has shed light on the problem of inequality. “The challenge for us is to take this powerful movement and change policy.”
The essential health infrastructures of developing countries are in terrible shape, Pfeiffer said. “The innovation we need is to change structures to provide adequate resources to the front lines.”
The number of healthcare workers to treat patients in many developing countries is far below the standards set by the World Health Organization, Pfeiffer noted. “It’s very frustrating not to have resources.”
Pfeiffer alleges that the current global economic structure actually transfers money from Africa back to the developed world. As poor countries repay debt to wealthy countries, “more funding leaves Africa than goes into it,” he said. He also addressed the issue of “phantom aid” a phenomenon in which funding is designated for a certain population, but never reaches those who need it most. Pfeiffer estimates 60 to 80 percent of aid dollars may be phantom aid.
Foreign aid also leads to “brain drain” in developing countries, when a country’s best health workers leave to work for a non-governmental organization that can offer higher salaries.
Pfeiffer cited the Occupy Nigeria strike that began early in 2012 to protest a cut in fuel subsidies. “The innovation we need is not technical, but social. We need to challenge the status quo.”
Crane described the “new scramble for Africa,” where institutions in the developed world compete with each other for research sites in Africa. “The popularity of the study of global health has skyrocketed,” Crane says, noting the proliferation of university global health programs over the last 10 years. She expressed concerns that “global health may be a way for North American universities to brand themselves" without actually benefitting the host nation.
Crane also discussed the paradox of global health. “Global poverty and inequality makes (university) global health programs possible,” she said. “Global health wants to do the right thing and often does,” she said. “However, the inequalities also present valuable opportunities. We can’t treat foreign countries as fodder for research.”
Spigner discussed the four factors that influence well-being: environment, genetics, medical services and lifestyle. “The U.S. spends 17 percent of its gross domestic product on healthcare,” he said. “But we still have not figured out how to do things better.” Referring to comments by other panelists regarding wealth and inequality, Spigner said “It’s a very troubling trajectory. “We can’t be serious about global health unless we reverse this trend.”
Spigner agreed that the Occupy movement is a “step in the right direction.” He challenged students to take up the cause of global inequality. “Students made the difference in civil rights,” he noted. “Students are supposed to raise hell and change things.”
By Laura Mansfield
Fostering Innovation in Organizations
Dr. Alan Wood opens the first session of the Innovation Forum. Wood was the chair of the event.
The three panelists agreed that building a strong team and giving students exposure to the workplace were keys for an innovative educational experience.
The University of Washington Bothell launched its four-day Innovation Forum on Monday morning with an opening plenary session that examined the role of innovation in the university setting. "This week we hope to explore the many ways that we can ensure that universities remain creative centers of innovation and engines of our economy and society," said panel moderator Chancellor Kenyon Chan.
Participating in the panel were UW Bothell Advisory Board members Lou Gray, a CEO with more than 18 years experience as an entrepreneur; Richard Shea, president and CEO of Olympus Respiratory America; and Deborah Wilds, president and CEO of College Success Foundation. Each offered insights on how organizations innovate successfully.
"For me, it's about team," said Gray, who developed DreamBox, an interactive tool to help children learn math through games. He said organizations should bring innovative people to the table, give them a safe place to express ideas, and create an environment in which it is okay to fail along the way.
Richard Shea, who has launched successful companies in the health care sector, agreed. "Building the team is the key," he said. "Create an environment where there's no bad idea."
He also advised not to "self limit" or doubt what can be accomplished. "Put yourself out in front of the pack," he said. "Eliminate those who hold you back."
Deborah Wilds, who wrote her doctoral thesis on innovation in organizations, said research shows there are key factors to successful change. People within an organization need to believe that change is possible, she said, and that it is urgently needed. They need to place confidence in the credibility of the organization’s leadership and there must be some early adopters who will get on board with new ideas. Finally she noted the importance of a "can do" spirit within the organization.
"Innovation starts with an idea and a vision," she said. "The large vision is critical." Others on the panel agreed that a shared vision is crucial to innovation, especially within an organization like a university where professors and departments may be focused on their own research and advancement.
Chancellor Chan pointed out that universities differ in culture from corporate start-ups. "We are in a traditional environment where the organization doesn't lend itself to innovation," he said. "It takes a long time for innovation to seep through."
Gray suggested moving the process along by using the military’s approach of starting with pilot projects to test the efficacy of a new idea. "If it works, others within the organization may want to emulate it," he said. "It’s really about showing that it works before trying to move the entire organization in that direction."
Shea added that innovation should be guided by the end game, in the case of a university, graduating students who have the skills to be successful in the workforce. Wilds further suggested that UW Bothell consider carving out a niche. "What is going to make this campus unique?" she said.
Chan pressed on with questions about the role of the university in a digital age where students can access information and learn on their own. Gray suggested looking for ways to serve students beyond sitting in a classroom or taking an online course. "You’re in the transfer of knowledge business," he said. "You need to serve your customers where they want to be served, whether in rural Walla Walla or Bothell."
One audience question asked what the university could do to help students become innovative thinkers. Panelists suggested providing experiences that mirror workplace challenges and environments. They encouraged students to do internships to gain real world experience and to develop skills in working collaboratively with others.
Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Professor Alan Wood said UW Bothell is poised to explore ways to embrace innovative strategies. "All we need now is to let our imaginations loose and open our minds to see the world as it might be."
By Stacey Schultz