September 12, 2012

What Does Design Thinking Have to do with Maternal Mortality?

Merck for Mothers, a new initiative of the global healthcare leader Merck, is aiming to do something ambitious in the field of global health delivery: harness the their core areas of expertise to reduce maternal mortality globally.  The question at hand: how can a multi-national company apply critical personnel management practices, or supply chain expertise, or financial management capacity toward the issue of maternal mortality successfully and over a sustained period of time?

Merck for Mothers has boldly launched a $500-million,  10-year initiative toward the goal of reducing maternal mortality globally.  After the first year of this initiative, the company is at an inflection point: having collected key resources from across the company, surveyed the landscape to discover potential interventions, commenced initial grant-making activities, and built critical partnerships for scale, evaluation, and implementation; Merck for Mothers is ready to act.

Last week, Reboot had the privilege of designing and facilitating Merck for Mothers’ one-year retreat.  Using design principles to generate stakeholder perspectives ahead of the event, craft a substantive set of discussion modules, facilitate conversation, and visually represent key insights; Reboot helped to support an event that successfully forged critical bonds between team members and surfaced key programmatic dynamics moving forward.

The work has only just begun, but here’s why we are excited about what Merck is doing: if Merck for Mothers is able to successfully coordinate multiple interventions across multiple countries, it would be able to substantially reduce maternal mortality — and not just that.  Given the relationship between healthy mothers, healthy families, and healthy societies, these activities could help strengthen health systems, both public and private; improve management capacity in fledgling health organizations; and elevate the status of women in villages across the world.

It’s a real-time test of social entrepreneurialism and a lot to take on, but the Merck for Mothers team has demonstrated its concrete capability to make a difference.

Over here at Reboot, we are excited to see where this goes.

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