Bihar Innovation Lab: The Path Ahead

Health Public was a fateful dialogue for the Bihar Innovation Lab – one that pointed us to strategic (divergent and convergent) futures. It spurred us into many an existential conversation of what a public innovation lab must be and do. Below we outline our own thoughts alongside the well intentioned advice from experts on the day and after:

• Focus on challenges that require actionable interventions and then plain and simply solve these challenges. Do whatever it takes design, repeated prototyping, finessing, failing, finessing, partnering with unlike minds, maturing ‘product development processes for development’ and improving our judgment till we succeed in solving the challenge.

• Find the right balance between deploying product solutions (creating solutions that address health service challenges) and introducing systemic interventions (making the healthcare system and its cadres capable of diagnosing and solving for the needs of their immediate environment.

• Create new consensus on the right balance between citizen monitored and determined healthcare models versus those that are clinical in nature and practitioner or frontline health worker focused.

• Convene conversations among parallel welfare service agencies to explore possibilities and prospects for integration of social services delivery for citizens.

• Serve as the interface between the public and private sector, ensuring that the public sector market is served by the best qualified private players, whether corporate or start-up. Mediate and direct CSR funds towards health systems strengthening.

• Advocate for tenders as challenges, creating a sophisticated tendering and procurement process that prioritized outcomes rather than specifications. It could host pre-competitive dialogues, inviting the private sector to advise government agencies on how to raise the bar of the tendering process, therefore driving innovation.

• Attach itself to champions within government agencies, align with their priorities, and support them with strategy and expertise around user insight, systems thinking, design, prototyping and solution enhancement to help them achieve their development goals more successfully. Provide government officials and agencies an innovation vocabulary to help them speak more confidently about innovations they have co-pursued.

We used to always say we occupy a space that hasn’t been defined before that of a design led entity that works inside and outside the public health system to systematically design and develop some of the key components of health services, encompassing new products, tools and technologies, protocols, communications, new service delivery mechanisms and new systems for reaching out to patients. The above existential enquiries have helped us clarify what this looks like operationally and how it’s done.

We see the Lab like a live nucleus, one that is responsive to its context – it is what the context needs it to be. For now it must be a space where we collectively design health services and their delivery with laser intention and purpose to ensure that health goals are well met and exceeded.

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