Makerere University, School of Public Health ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) launched its very 1st “Social Design Clinic” on Friday October 23, 2015 at the RAN Innovation Lab. The Social Design Clinic driven by the theme “The role of Social Media in promoting Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) Behavior” provoked deep thinking among attendees through interactive brainstorm sessions and also inspired the participants to propose new approaches on how to harness social media to promote positive sexual reproductive health behavior given that social media has been penetrated by hackers who use it to promote profanity, indecency and to front negative role models and agendas. This monthly event targets the involvement of mostly Arts, Humanities, Behavioral and Social Science disciplines as the RAN Lab recognizes and appreciates that these disciplines contribute significantly to the quality of Innovation and this was a great opportunity to bring these disciplines out, to engage them so that they start actively participating in Innovation Lab’s activities. Over the years, Technology, science, engineering disciplines have dominated Innovation spaces during Exhibitions, Hackathons, Fairs, and design garages. However, the Human centered design (HCD) approach emphasizes the need to understand the human complex behavior, to deeply immerse ourselves in the problem and be able to identify insights and opportunities by studying human behavior in order to identify areas of opportunity for innovation taking into consideration the culture and needs of people living in the community. We can only do this successfully if we engage behavioral scientists, anthropologists, social scientists, psychologists and communication specialists in the Innovation related and non-related activities.
With a turn up of 60 participants including Maggie Linak of USAID Washington D.C, the Private sector, development partners in the area of Sexual Reproductive Health, Innovators, Heads of Departments at Makerere University, Senior faculty, students, the community, former and current student interns, it was a rich knowledge sharing and networking opportunity.
The 1st Social Design Clinic hosted 4 panelists who led an engaging conversation of Social Media in relation to Reproductive Health. Dr. Paul Bukuluki, an Anthropologist and Social Science expert at Makerere University introduced the theme and alluded in his remarks that the Social Media Movement is un stoppable, we all therefore need to position ourselves and make the best of this movement. He gave live examples of his students in the social science class who were asked the advantages of social media and indicated that Social Media has a unique capability of privacy and confidentiality which allows them to get sexual advice privately like to ask about pregnancy issues, HIV and AIDS, or diseases like candida among others – The youth feel safer sharing through an online portal as compared to face to face visits to seek sexual health care.
Additionally, participants had the golden chance to listen to Reproductive Health Practitioners from Straight Talk, Ms. Anne Nattembo shared experiences on using the social media Tools as communication tools to facilitate interactive conversations with the youth among others.
Mr. Charles Ofwono from Naguru Teenage Center also shared experiences and interesting statistics of their Social Media users. It was very evident that the social media platform presents a powerful tool of reaching adolescents and young people if we creatively tailor our content.
The RAN Deputy Chief Party Dr. Roy William Mayega who concluded the panel discussion emphasized the Innovation points in Social media and how we can harness social media to our good. He pointed out that “The cue of sex ‘agenda cists’ on the internet are very long and yet the harmless users are either silent or boring”. He further encouraged participants to think like ‘powerful bloggers’ and attract a massive audience to things that are relevant and developmental, not to be social prefects and sanitize the social media platform but innovatively embrace the platforms to benefit all. He urged all participants to probe further why some posts have more likes and shares and comments so that we craft our messages to attract such attention.
Participants were then engaged in a 15 minute Brainstorming group discussion to suggest innovate approaches to harness social media in terms of re-imagining the content, the message, the communicators to suit the needs of users of social media.
It was very exciting to see participants finally pitch innovative ideas around the challenges they had worked on in groups; like using emoticons or peer ambassadors to champion the message we wish to publicize or educate the youth on, since they relate more with their peers. Our next step will be to jointly prototype some of the emerging new ideas and try them out with partners like Straight Talk Foundation who offered to partner with RAN in such areas and beyond.
The Social Design Clinic is a great platform for us to brainstorm brilliant ideas and interventions that address pressing social issues to change the way we perceive the world, to explore traditional forms of visual, storybook or performing arts. To explore innovative art and social science approaches, techniques and projects that meaningfully engage with issues of communication, advocacy, justice, community peace building, gender and sexual violence to mention but a few, bearing in mind that we can use visual, conceptual art, photography, new social media, video, dance, theater, performance art, music, creative writing, documentaries that raise awareness about public health consequences and detrimental social impact.
RAN lab presents a great platform for us to suggest social innovations, Be part of the next exciting debates where wet generate innovative social innovations in real-time by following us on Twitter and liking our Facebook page to register for the next event.

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“Solutions through Innovation”