The Johns Hopkins Alliance for a Healthier World (AHW) and the Center for Health Equity (CHE) hosted a two-day Global to Local Design Thinking workshop in Baltimore on October 23 & 24 that brought together more than 30 public-health experts and advocates from across Johns Hopkins University; Makerere University-Johns Hopkins University (MUJHU); Baylor College of Medicine in Uganda; Moi University; the AMPATH program in Kenya; Sisters Together and Reaching, a Baltimore-based AIDS-focused nonprofit, and more.
The event was designed to strengthen existing relationships, share learning from previous experiences, and find creative new ways of partnering to solve pervasive health equity problems.
"I really gained a deeper appreciation of why as an academician I must engage with my local community advisory board in designing human-centered interventions,” said Fred Stephen Sarfo, MD, PhD, who is a neurologist, researcher and educator at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology in Ghana. “The insights you shared as a group will shape the way I think about research for a lifetime.”
Geographic distance together with funding and institutional silos often create barriers to the free flow of information and tools between communities. Yet many of the most important health inequities faced by socially vulnerable and marginalized individuals and communities around the world arise from social and structural determinants that do not respect geographic or institutional boundaries. AHW & CHE are looking at new ways to share ideas between community members, advocates, and researchers to solve both unique and shared challenges.
“Our Global to Local initiative focuses on opportunities for learning from one another, and this exchange of ideas comes far more easily when we know and care for each other,” said Benjamin Link, Executive Manager of the Alliance. “The workshop gave us the opportunity to connect professionally and personally—to puzzle through complex issues and then gather around a table with food to share about the happenings in our lives. This is how meaningful collaborations are built.”
During the two-day workshop, discussions and brainstorming sessions were conducted using a “design thinking” methodology, described by Tim Brown in Harvard Business Review as one that “imbues the full spectrum of innovation activities with a human-centered design ethos [in which] innovation is powered by a thorough understanding, through direct observation, of what people want and need in their lives and what they like or dislike about the way particular products are made, packaged, marketed, sold, and supported.”
Participants brainstormed topics ranging from empowering women to training community health care workers to protecting the environment and more. Advocates working in the field—with sex workers or tuberculosis patients, for example—gave direct feedback about what is needed on the ground to deliver equitable health care and how JHU and other entities could support those needs.
“[The workshop] was full of immense knowledge and experience from different people, which made it a learning experience for me and am sure for all of us,” said attendee Cissy Ssuuna, community educator for Baylor-Uganda. “I gained a lot in this workshop which I take along with me.”
To help turn ideas into action, at least two Spark Grants of up to $10,000 each will be awarded to teams of attendees to support first steps in new multi-sector solutions to health equity problems in the attendees’ communities. The grant winners will be announced in late December.
Check out the full events summary and photo gallery here.