School of Public Health-ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) facilitated an Innovations Seminar at the Makerere University College of Health Sciences on Wednesday August 18, 2016. The seminar, which was guided by the theme “Using Innovative approaches to develop adaptive and robust interventions to address community challenges: The Human Centered Design (HCD) Approach” engaged an audience of 85 multidisciplinary faculty members, students and the community at large. The purpose of this session was to encourage participants to innovate and to share RAN’s approach and experiences in the innovation space.
The Dean of the Makerere University School of Public Health and RAN Chief of Party Professor William Bazeyo engagingly chaired the session highlighting the structure of the network and its mandate in strengthening the resilience of communities using the creativity and knowledge base leveraged from faculty, students and community in the Universities. He noted that all the successes RAN has registered so far are credited to Makerere University whose management, faculty, students and community have been exceedingly supportive to the network. “Makerere University has been at the forefront of all RAN’s activities from inception and we must all apportion credit where it actually belongs” Noted Prof. Bazeyo before welcoming Dr. Roy William Mayega, RAN Deputy Chief of Party to make a Presentation guided by the Seminar’s Theme.
Dr. Mayega launched the insightful presentation and discussion by sharing about the “EpiTent”- an innovation currently under incubation in the RAN Innovation Lab. He noted that the concept of the ‘EpiTent’ was born following a call for proposals from USAID after the most recent Ebola crisis, involving Humanitarian workers struggling to support patients under the hot and humid conditions which were exacerbated by the need to wear Personal Protective Wear. A multidisciplinary team was convened to brainstorm and share ideas directed towards improvement of these working conditions and through prototyping, iteration and convergence, the team came up with an innovation of a tent that breathes. This product will soon be launched in the market for better service delivery. Dr. Mayega also shared about RAN’s approach highlighting the Human Centered Design (HCD) approach that aims at training innovators and the general community to innovate for and with the end-users. He added that out of the over 1500 call applicants, RAN was the only one that looked beyond the protective wear to design something which addresses the real underlying problem– the surrounding environment of the Humanitarian workers. ‘While innovating, it is important to continuously engage the communities to appreciate their actual needs’, he said. It was from these community consultations that the EpiTent team received feedback on how hot and humid the current tent structures are. The team also worked with feedback on how patients were hidden in these settings and therefore often stigmatized. “We must stop working in silos if we are to successfully innovate” Dr. Mayega emphasized. He took participants through the importance of rapid prototyping, testing the prototype with potential end users, iteration and convergence while noting that these were all important steps in the Innovation Pipeline. This was also an opportunity for the RAN Team to share with the participants what qualifies an innovative idea or approach to attract SEED funding highlighting that the idea or approach needs to have that ‘spark’, uniqueness or value add, replicability, objectivity, ability to positively impact the communities while addressing the most pressing community challenges/needs among others. The Seminar participants were also informed that the RAN Innovation Lab was open receiving all innovative ideas, approaches and projects and they could benefit from RAN’s Pitch Tuesdays, Monthly Innovation Garage Sessions, Ignite Series, RAN4Gals engagements, Innovator Capacity Building, mentorship, prepping and coaching opportunities among others.
The Principal Makerere University College of Health Sciences Prof. Charles Ibingira while giving his remarks thanked the School of Public Health for ably leading activities which have kept the College and Makerere University as a whole up on the Global map. “It is projects like the ResileintAfrica Network which have continued to richly contribute to the growth and publicity of this College and Makerere University too. We all must innovate, it is the way to go” added Prof. Ibingira.
Several seminar participants later engaged the RAN Team immediately after the session seeking clarity on how their innovative ideas, approaches and projects can be realized. All were invited to the RAN Innovation Lab to pitch these innovative solutions and strategies on how to continuously engage the College of Health Sciences at large to innovate were drawn. The College will also always be part and parcel of all RAN activities and vice versa as the Principal put it that “Let us all work together in order to launch transformative innovative solutions to effectively address communities’ needs”.
‘Solutions through Innovation’