Archive for the ‘Non Profit’ Category
It’s been more than two years since we reported on Seattle as the new Geneva, that is, as the new epicenter of global health activity. An article in this morning Journal-Sentinel (Water-engineering firms see potential, challenge in developing countries) – which includes an exclusive interview with the Acumen Fund’s chief executive Jacqueline Novogratz – suggests that Milwaukee is angling to do the same for water technology:
It’s an issue that almost certainly will preoccupy business leaders in metro Milwaukee in their strategy to brand the region as an international hub of water technology. The metro area is home to scores of water-engineering companies. Gov. Jim Doyle and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee this month announced plans to invest millions of dollars for UWM to become a center of freshwater research.
An 2008 article from the same newspaper (Area’s tide could turn on water technology) provides more evidence:
[F]our of the world’s 11 largest water-technology companies have a significant presence in southeastern Wisconsin, according to an analysis of data from a new Goldman Sachs report.
Wall Street has tracked automakers, railroads and retailers almost since there were stocks and bonds. But water remains a novelty. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. didn’t begin to research water treatment as a stand-alone industrial sector until late 2005.
While several large MNCs have shown an active interest in clean water in developing countries (e.g., Procter and Gamble, Vestergaard Frandsen, Dow) open questions remain as to what role large MNCs will play in providing access to safe water for the one billion people who don’t have it.
(Thanks to Dr. Jessica Granderson for sending the link)
Cross-posted from Design Research for Global Health.
Giving talks is not one of my strong suits, but it seems to be a part of the job requirement. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity (even though I’m no good, I do consider it an opportunity), to give a couple talks, one to the Interdisciplinary MPH Program at Berkeley and one to a group of undergraduate design students, also at Berkeley. Despite the difference in focus, age, and experience of the two groups, the topic was roughly the same: How do we effectively use design thinking as an approach in public health?
The first session was so-so, and I suspect that the few people who were excited about it were probably excited in spite of the talk. It started well, but about halfway through, something began to feel very wrong and that feeling didn’t go away until some time later that evening. Afterwards, I received direct feedback from the instructor and from the students in the form of an evaluation. I recommend this if it is ever presented as an option. Like any “accident”, this one was a “confluence of factors”: lack of clarity and specificity, allowing the discussion to get sidetracked, poor posture, and a tone that conveyed a lack of excitement for the topic.
It’s one thing to get feedback like this, another to act on it.
The second session went much better, gauging by the student feedback, the comments from the instructor, and my own observations. This in spite of a larger group (60 vs. 20) that would be harder to motivate (undergraduates with midterms vs. professionals working on applied problems in public health). I chalk it all up to preparation and planning. Certainly there are people that are capable of doing a great job without preparation – I just don’t think I’m one of those people.
Most of that preparation by the way was not on slides. I did use slides, but only had five for an hour session and that still proved to be too many. Most of the time that I spent on slides, I spent developing a single custom visual to convey precisely the information that was relevant to the students during this session (see image). The rest of the preparation was spent understanding the audience needs by speaking to those running the class; developing a detailed plan for the hour, focusing on how to make the session a highly interactive learning experience; designing quality handouts to support the interactive exercise; and doing my necessary homework. For this last one, I spent 20 minutes on the phone with a surgeon friend, since the session was built around a case study discussing surgical complications and design.
Three resources I found really useful:
- Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes, Andy Goodman, 2006. This commissioned report was developed to help NGOs with their presentations, but I think there is value here for anyone whose work involves presentations. It is evidence-based and provides practical guidance on session design, delivery, slides (PowerPoint), and logistics. Most importantly, it is available as a free download. I was fortunate enough to pick up a used copy of the print edition for US$9 at my local bookstore, which was worth the investment for me because of the design of the physical book. It’s out-of-print now and it looks like the online used copies are quite expensive – at least 3x what I paid – so I recommend the PDF.
- Envisioning Information, Edward Tufte, 1990. I read this when I was writing my dissertation. Folks in design all know about Tufte, but I still recommend a periodic refresher. This is the sort of book that will stay on my shelf. Also potentially useful is The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. For those working in global health, don’t forget how important the display of information can be: (a) Bill Gates and the NYTimes, (b) Hans Rosling at TED.
- Software for creating quality graphics. The drawing tools built into typical office applications, though they have improved in recent years, are still limited in their capability and flexibility, especially if you’re looking at #2 above. In the past 10 days, three people in my socio-professional network have solicited advice on such standalone tools, OmniGraffle (for Mac) and Visio (Windows): a graphic designer in New York, an energy research scientist in California, and a healthcare researcher in DC. Both are great options. I use OmniGraffle these days, though I used to use Visio a few years back. If cost is an issue, there are open-source alternatives available, though I’m not at all familiar with them (e.g., the Pencil plug-in for Firefox).
Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to view a PhotoVoice exhibition at the University of California, Berkeley organized by Haath Mein Sehat (HMS), a group working to improve access to clean water and sanitation in six slums of Hubballi and Mumbai, including Dharavi.
It was exciting to see a group effectively blend the advocacy elements of PhotoVoice with the design elements of cultural probes. The difference between the two approaches is less in the methods and more in the use of the outputs. In this case, they organized the exhibition to raise awareness and break down stereotypes of slum life, and they are using the photographic corpus to guide the design of both programs and technologies related to their core mission.
What I was most interested in from a design perspective were the instructions given to community photographers and how this tied back to the mission of HMS. The results below followed from the simple prompt: “Represent your daily experience with water”.
A few days back Aman wrote a post about Google Flu Trends. Thought I’d add a few thoughts here after reading the draft manuscript that the Google-CDC team posted in advance of its publication in Nature.
By the way, here’s what Nature says: Because of the immediate public-health implications of this paper, Nature supports the Google and the CDC decision to release this information to the public in advance of a formal publication date for the research. The paper has been subjected to the usual rigor of peer review and is accepted in principle. Nature feels the public-health consideration here makes it appropriate to relax our embargo rule
Ginsberg J, Mohebbi MH, Patel RS, Brammer L, Smolinski MS, Brilliant L. Detecting influenza epidemics using search engine query data. Draft manuscript for Nature. Retrieved 14 Nov 2008.
Assuming that few folks will read the manuscript or the article, here’s some highlights. I should say I appreciated that the article was clearly written. If you need more context, check out Google Flu Trends How does this work?…
- Targets health-seeking behavior of Internet users, particularly Google users [not sure those are different anymore], in the United States for ILI (influenza-like illness)
- Compared to previous work attempting to link online activity to disease prevalence, benefits from volume: hundreds of billions of searches over 5 years
- Key result – reduced reporting lag to one day compared to CDC’s surveillance system of 1-2 weeks
- Spatial resolution based on IP address goes to nearest big city [for example my current IP maps to Oakland, California right now], but the system is right now only looking to the level of states – this is more detailed CDC’s reporting, which is based on 9 U.S. regions
- CDC data was used for model-building (linear logistic regression) as well as comparison [for stats nerds - the comparison was made with held-out data]
- Not all states publish ILI data, but they were still able to achieve a correlation of 0.85 in Utah without training the model on that state’s data
- There have attempted to look at disease outbreaks of enterics and arboviruses, but without success.
- For those familiar with GPHIN and Healthmap, two other online , the major difference is in the data being examined – Flu Trends looks at search terms while the other systems rely on news sources, website, official alerts, and the such
- There is a possibility that this will not model a flu pandemic well since the search behavior used for modeling is based on non-pandemic variety of flu
- The modeling effort was immense – “450 million different models to test each of the candidate queries”
So what does this mean for developing world applications?
Here’s what the authors say: “Though it may be possible for this approach to be applied to any country with a large population of web search users, we cannot currently provide accurate estimates for large parts of the developing world. Even within the developed world, small countries and less common languages may be challenging to accurately survey.”
The key is whether there are detectable changes in search in response to disease outbreaks. This is dependent on Internet volume, health-seeking search behavior, and language. And if there is no baseline data, like with CDC surveillance data, then what is the best strategy for model-building? How valid will models be from one country to another? That probably depends on the countries. Is it perhaps possible to have a less refined output, something like a multi-level warning system for decision makers to followup with on-the-ground resources? Or should we be focusing on news+ like GPHIN and Healthmap?
Another thought is that we could mine SMS traffic for detecting disease outbreaks. The problem becomes more complicated, since we’re now looking at data that is much more complex than search queries. And there is often segmentation due to the presence of multiple phone providers in one area. Even if the data were anonymized, this raises huge privacy concerns. Still it could be a way to tap in to areas with low Internet penetration and to provide detection based on very real-time data.
IDEO’s CEO, Tim Brown, wrote an article for June’s Harvard Business Review. This is a great introduction to design thinking.
Although many others became involved in the [Shimano "Coasting"] project when it reached the implementation phase, the application of design thinking in the earliest stages of innovation is what led to this complete solution. Indeed, the single thing one would have expected the design team to be responsible for—the look of the bikes—was intentionally deferred to later in the development process, when the team created a reference design to inspire the bike companies’ own design teams.
A couple extensions to Brown’s statements about the Aravind Eye Care System:
Much of its innovative energy has focused on bringing both preventive care and diagnostic screening to the countryside. Since 1990 Aravind has held “eye camps” in India’s rural areas, in an effort to register patients, administer eye exams, teach eye care, and identify people who may require surgery or advanced diagnostic services or who have conditions that warrant monitoring.
In developing its system of care, Aravind has consistently exhibited many characteristics of design thinking. It has used as a creative springboard two constraints: the poverty and remoteness of its clientele and its own lack of access to expensive solutions. For example, a pair of intraocular lenses made in the West costs $200, which severely limited the number of patients Aravind could help. Rather than try to persuade suppliers to change the way they did things, Aravind built its own solution: a manufacturing plant in the basement of one of its hospitals. It eventually discovered that it could use relatively inexpensive technology to produce lenses for $4 a pair.
First, Aravind did try to persuade suppliers to change the way they did things. The promise of a huge latent market was not convincing enough for existing suppliers to drop the price of their intraocular lenses (IOL). It was then that Aravind built its own capacity to produce lenses, in what came to be known as Aurolab. I would argue that both their attempts at negotiation with IOL manufacturers and their decision to produce their own lenses were reflective of design thinking.
The UN Foundation and the Vodafone Foundation released a new report this week – Mobile Technology for Social Change: Trends in NGO Mobile Use. Thanks to Mark over at the UN Dispatch blog for telling me about this in the first place. Credit for the below description goes to an email I recieved (thanks very much Adele!) from folks at the UN Foundation, which is reproduced below:
Case studies exploring use of ‘mobile activism’ for public health projects include:
Mobile health data collection systems ( Kenya and Zambia ): Collecting and tracking essential health data on handheld devices, in countries where statistical information was previously gathered via paper and pencil, if recorded at all.
Monitoring HIV/AIDS care ( South Africa ): Using mobile devices to collect health data and support HIV/AIDS patient monitoring in a country with the world’s highest HIV/AIDS infection rates, and where rural populations often otherwise go unassisted.
Sexual health information for teenagers (US and UK ): Connecting youth to important information on sexual and reproductive health via anonymous text messaging, to empower young people to make informed sexual health decisions.
Continuing medical education for remote health workers ( Uganda ): Providing medical updates and access to vital information via mobile phones for doctors and nurses working in some of the most destitute regions, where continuing medical education services are lacking.
A total of 11 case studies identify emerging trends in ‘mobile activism,’ and investigate both the promise and challenges of innovative use of mobile technology to meet international development goals.
The latest issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review is out. There are a few interesting pieces I have linked below on both the non-profit and for profit world. The first story on the HealthStore Foundation has been well covered by NextBillion, I am actually dissapointed that SSIR did not select another model to profile as HealthStore is by now very well known. There are a few other interesting pieces as well (see link above to see what articles are free):
Micro-franchise Against Malaria
How for-profit clinics are healing and enriching the rural poor in Kenya.
Creating High-Impact Nonprofits
Conventional wisdom says that scaling social innovation starts with strengthening internal management capabilities. This study of 12 high-impact nonprofits, however, shows that real social change happens when organizations go outside their own walls and find creative ways to enlist the help of others.
Private Equity, Public Good
Many businesses serving lower income communities languish because they cannot raise enough money to fund their growth. To meet their needs, a new breed of private equity investment—development investment capital—has emerged. Not only does development investment capital fund growth and social benefits in lower-income communities, it also gives investors a competitive return on their investments. Although this style of investing is still in its infancy, it is already showing promise.
The recent article, “Big Business goes Humanitarian“, reminded me of the Fritz Institute in San Francisco, which I have been meaning to cover on the blog. First a few excerpts from this article lumped together below:
Imagine you’re the head of a major corporation – let’s say a logistics or telecoms firm. You get a news alert on your cellphone telling you there’s been a big earthquake in Asia, with tens of thousands feared dead. What do you do? Ideally, nothing… It’s not that you don’t care. In fact, the reason you can afford to just get on with your day is because your company’s cash, equipment and maybe even staff are already in the right place to help international relief groups respond to humanitarian emergencies as and when they happen…if stocks aren’t pre-positioned and staff aren’t pre-trained, then it’s too late. Any dollar given before an emergency goes much further than more dollars given after…Vodafone also works with WFP, the World Health Organisation, and Telecoms Sans Frontieres to provide communications equipment, training and other technical support in emergencies and health programmes.
Now onto Fritz, a non-profit organization in the business of logistical support for disaster relief. The Fritz Institute maybe a non-profit, but they have strong roots in the private sector. They are “dedicated to improving global disaster relief by creating innovative approaches to ensure help arrives when and where it’s needed most.”
You can think of the Fritz Institute as the UPS or FED Ex of humanitarian aid. The founder, Lynn Fritz sold his for profit company to UPS in 2001 and started the Institute thereafter. Fritz has been called a “visionary of the global logistics industry” and previously ran a Fortune 1000 global logistics corporation with 10,000 employees in a 120 countries. His non-profit institute just launched a “Certification in Humanitarian Logistics” (link). I could not find a similar type of organization with the same level of sector expertise, however there are smaller outfits that do exist. If anyone knows of other organizations in this sector let us know.
Additional reading: Mega-cities and Mega-disasters
I saw these e-cards over on the “Water is” blog, it seems like a good opportunity to give a little back and raise awareness. You can view all the e-cards on the Charity website. Scott Harrison, Charity founder, decided to “bail out” of his fast paced NYC lifestyle and dedicate one year to a humanitarian mission. He started Charity which is focused on water issues for its first project. By the numbers-
- In 5 months they have raised $550,000
- Responsible for 71 new and rehabilitated wells
- Those wells supply water to 100,000+ people
Scott on his motivation – “The dictionary defines charity as simply the act of voluntarily giving to those in need. The word comes from the Latin ‘caritas,’ or simply, love…In service really comes freedom…the more I was concerned about myself and how much money I could make, the unhappier I became…”
Current TV featured Charity and in the video it is clear Scott Harrison has an authentic desire and was clearly moved by what he saw. Check it out the video shown on Current TV.
OK, so this is a bit of a public service announcement, but I just wanted to give a shout out to anyone with a computer that may be often idle. You know you’re the one if you’ve got a slick new machine and it basically serves as a fancy web browser and text editor with occasional number crunching during the dissertation or that last field report … Consider donating that down time to the World Community Grid.
The World Community Grid has been operating in its current form since November 2005 (you can read about the 2005 launch in the KaiserNetwork archives). They run a few extremely large research efforts on fundamental health science that require extremely large amounts of computer time. You can simply visit WCG, download the secure software, and you’re done. It runs in the background when you’re not using your machine and you contribute to research on genetics, cancer, and HIV. Something to consider anyway. And here’s a link for the kids explaining the science in computational grids.
The really interesting update, as reported in the Washington Post today, that Sony’s PS3 is getting involved in networked computing.
With the next software update for the game console, PS3 owners will be given an option to click an icon for Stanford’s “Folding@home” project and download software that the university has designed to help outsource the computing power of the game consoles (which are essentially computers) needed for some of its research.
The software will run “protein folding” simulations, which help researchers understand why proteins sometimes fold incorrectly and mutate into diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Each participating PS3 will periodically download and analyze a chunk of the school’s research, and then upload the results. The software, which is due at the end of the month, will run when the PS3 system is not playing games or performing other multimedia tasks.
KarmaTube’s video of the week is about wheelchairs which are made from recycled parts. The chairs are made by Wheels for Humanity where, “staff and volunteers at Wheels collect and refurbish used wheelchairs and deliver and individually fit them to impoverished children and adults in developing countries.” It looks like the organization has some important friends. Last Fall, first lady, Maria Shriver joined Wheels in Chiapias to deliver wheelchairs (photos here).
An excerpt from the video – “we take equipment that people consider trash…the wheelchairs we refurbish would normally go into a landfill”. Time: 5:42, Enjoy.