Technology, maternity and collaboration: OpenIDEO’s winning formula

April 21, 2011 at 9:12 pm 1 comment

by Martha Hampson

Following on from my fellow intern Leonie’s excellent first post on cycling, cheap food and community engagement, I was aiming to write something exciting this week about my favourite innovative things (for those who aren’t aware of my iPhone obsession, here’s a clue: one of them’s an iPhone app). Unfortunately, being an intern at Innovation Unit seems to involve doing actual work, and it’s been delayed (though I am very nearly finished).

In the meantime, here’s a short post on OpenIDEO’s maternal health technology challenge, the winners of which were announced today.

The challenge set was to improve maternal health in low-income countries with mobile technologies and most of the entries focus on the potential of remote and virtual data sharing and social networking. This ranges from the simple Mom 2 Mom Mentor Matching, where future mothers are paired with experienced ones in their local area for advice and chat of the tea-and-cake sort, to the data-driven Medicine stock-outs, a way of placing drug orders via SMS by connecting rural pharmacies with health centre hubs and, among other benefits, reducing supply-chain inefficiencies.

What’s particularly nice about the challenge is that the proposals didn’t have to cover every eventuality or pin down exactly how their systems would work in reality, which has allowed the competitors to be as imaginative as possible without restraints of budget, immediate practicality or having to show that likely partners are interested. The original 182 concepts were cut down to 20, which IDEO then helped to refine. And as a nice parallel to the social networking suggestions in the proposals, IDEO has built in scope for the 10 winning ideas to become collaborative and continue evolving – they can be rated on the site for qualities such as potential, how realistic they are and how likely it is that they could become self-sustaining, with interested potential partners already posting comments suggesting ways in which the ideas can be progressed.

The IDEO challenge focused (admirably) on maternal health in low-income countries, but there is still massive scope for improvement and innovation of maternal services in the UK. Though not distanced by the physical remoteness that many of the IDEO ideas attempt to tackle, the lack of patient-driven, consistent provision and information exchange has led to many pregnant women being, in effect, cut off from antenatal services, and to profound (and avoidable) inequalities in antenatal and maternal care.

Innovation Unit is currently working with UCL Partners and the Health Foundation on M(ums)-Power, a project which aims to improve pregnancy outcomes and mothers’ experience of antenatal care. By forging partnerships between mothers-to-be and healthcare professionals, it endeavours to engage women through the co-designing and co-delivery of antenatal care and, in particular, to reach through its internet-based services those (such as teenage mothers or women for whom English is not their first language) who are reluctant or unable to easily engage with antenatal services. Like the OpenIDEO winners it focuses on the simple transfer of information – information to pregnant women about what to expect, and to the health services from women about the support they require – to effect tangible change.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Haiyan Zhang  |  April 26, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Hi Martha, Thanks for your kind words about OpenIDEO and the Maternal Health challenge we ran recently. In this challenge OpenIDEO was working with Oxfam and Nokia CSR to focus on low-income countries and ideas that would work in those contexts (lo-technology, lo-bandwidth).

    However, we’ve always envisioned OpenIDEO as being a resource for other projects seeking inspirations and ideas around the topics. Please do also use the database of entries we’ve received as a resource for your projects. If you’re interested in taking any of the other ideas forward, feel free to contact the author or OpenIDEO.

    Haiyan Zhang
    Design lead & co-founder for OpenIDEO


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