Can We Fall in Love With the Problem? Monica Kerrigan on Innovations in Maternal Health
“Innovation happens when there are pioneers that stick with it,” says Monica Kerrigan, vice president of innovations at Jhpiego in a podcast from the Wilson Center’s Maternal Health Initiative. At a recent panel discussion on “Reaching the Farthest Behind: Facility-Level Innovations in Maternal Health,” Kerrigan shone a light on some of the challenges facing innovators trying to change the way we care for mothers and their children.
According to Kerrigan, one of the key components of delivering truly innovative solutions is partnership. “We need to use our partnerships to bend the curve,” Kerrigan says. “We at Jhpiego are good at things; other people are better at other things.” Effective partners harness one another’s comparative advantages to plan for scalability and adaptability. “When we think about scaling up,” she says, “we have to think about it now, in the design process.”
Even as these developments are being rolled out, Kerrigan warns against “falling in love with the solution”—investing time, energy, and money into just one idea. Instead, she urges innovators to “fall in love with the problem” first. After years of work in maternal health innovations, Kerrigan admits that one of her biggest challenges is learning to more effectively use data to change plans.
Innovations are not always shiny and new products; they may be restructured business models or processes. For example, the Low Dose High Frequency model, developed by Jhpiego, incorporates “targeted spurts of training that would allow people to learn faster, better, more affordably, and sustainably,” she says, preventing the loss of productivity often caused by removing healthcare personnel from their positions to train in classrooms.
“[Change] is part of prototyping and adapting, and willingness to look at what you are doing well and continue to do it,” says Kerrigan. “Let’s deliver on our promises to mothers and newborns.”