OpenIDEO Challenge in Realisation



Guest Post Written By: Katie Nelson

OpenIDEO is a global platform that partners with organizations who wish to address a specific problem. Together, they propose a challenge that becomes open for all creative thinkers to weigh in on. How it works: Once a challenge question is posted, individuals are able to share their ideas and experiences. Favorite concepts are then chosen by the sponsoring organization, and the ideas are continually narrowed down until the winning concepts are chosen at the end of the challenge. With hopes of learning about some potential solutions for a challenge Mayo Clinic is no stranger to; they opted to sponsor a challenge back in June: The Healthy Aging Challenge.

Mayo Clinic challenged people to come up with ideas to answer the following question: “How might we all maintain wellbeing and thrive as we age?” This topic was chosen because as the years go on, the number of people reaching the age of 65 and older will continue to skyrocket. So, it is crucial to think about the factors that affect people as they age.

Hundreds of people participated in the challenge, and the three winning concepts were announced in August. Annie Nguyen and Sylvia Stein, the designers, both came up with fabulous ideas, which they presented at the TRANSFORM symposium in September of 2013.

Annie’s first winning concept was the idea of utilizing a Caregiver’s Wellness Toolkit. The transition into a caregiving role often occurs quickly and unexpectedly, putting a strain on “even the most resilient of people” (Mayo Clinic). The purpose of the caregiver toolkit, then, is to provide resources and information on how to be a great caregiver so individuals do not feel quite as overwhelmed. How-To videos and physical “goodies” like candles and meal certificates would ideally be inside these toolkits, to make leaving the hospital a little less chaotic.

The idea of creating Pop-up Wellness Lounges was Annie’s second winning concept. She said this idea stemmed from reading an article about elderly people in China who gathered at an Ikea of all places. So, Annie thought it would be a great idea to provide opportunities for elderly to gather outside of the home or the hospital, promoting social interaction. These lounges would also provide a comfortable space for individuals to learn and also ask questions related to their health. Annie believes these concepts would be easy to pilot as very few resources are needed.

The last winning concept, “Designing-Our-Future Participatory Pods” was designed by Sylvia Stein. Rather than having younger individuals design for elderly individuals, she thought it would be more beneficial if they design for themselves. Her idea was to build the design thinking process into communities so that aging populations would be able to “forge their own future,” she said. Local community centers would be ideal spaces for elderly individuals to collaborate and bounce ideas off of one another, essentially formulating their own ideas for their future.

All three of these concepts, though very different, accomplish the same goal: helping us thrive as we age. Many great ideas were shared, and although this challenge has ended, another one has begun. IDEO is sponsoring the current challenge: “How might we inspire young people to cultivate their creative confidence?” So, for all you creative thinkers out there, do you have the solution? Share your ideas; I am sure something great will come of it!


Katie Nelson

Katie Nelson is a student at the University of Minnesota Rochester.