Design Thinking Workshop

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 Strategies workshop in Baltimore on October 23 & 24, 2018, that brought together more than 30 public-health experts and advocates from Johns Hopkins; Baylor College of Medicine in Uganda; Moi University in Kenya; Sisters Together and Reaching, a Baltimore-based AIDS-focused nonprofit; and more.

The event was designed to strengthen existing relationships, learn from previous experiences and find creative new ways of partnering to solve pervasive health equity problems.

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.

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Event Highlights

FACILITATED DISCUSSIONS 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.

SPARK GRANTS 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.

REACTION "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. The insights you shared as a group will shape the way I think about research for a lifetime.” -- Fred Stephen Sarfo, MD, PhD, neurologist, researcher and educator at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, Kumasi, Ghana

“[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. I gained a lot in this workshop which I take along with me. Let us continue to put our thoughts together for a future collaboration both globally and at the community level.” -- Cissy Ssuuna, Community Educator for Baylor-Uganda


“Global Health Capacity and Workforce: Turning the World Upside Down” by Lord Nigel Crisp

“Reclaim Your Creative Confidence” by Tom Kelly and David Kelley

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Image Gallery

Click on any image to enlarge, then use arrows > to move through gallery.

This event gallery draws from images created by Will Kirk of Homewood Photo.


The success of this event would not have been possible without the cooperative efforts of the following individuals and organizations:

  • Makerere University-Johns Hopkins University (MUJHU)

  • Baylor College of Medicine in Uganda

  • Moi University


  • Sisters Together and Reaching

  • Shekinatu Fasancy, Jia Lee, and Kandice Oakley of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity

  • The Johns Hopkins Office of the Provost and university leadership, including Provost Kumar and President Daniels

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