If you are interested in the arts, public health and innovation, join in the conversation at @WePublicHealth this week with public health researcher and blogger Dr Rebecca Tooher, from the University of Adelaide.
This article is cross-posted from her blog, Evidence-based public health.
Rebecca Tooher writes:
Innovation is typically thought of as a process of finding novel solutions to important problems (to borrow from this helpful website). A distinction is made between generation of new ideas and the practical act of implementation and it is the latter that is often considered to be the innovation.
As the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney put it, “an innovation is something useful that’s resulted from a new idea”. Social innovation is a concept that has been increasing in visibility recently and extends the idea of innovation beyond business or technological arenas to meet social needs and strengthen civil society.
All well and good. And clearly we can see that to meet the difficult problems we face in public health we need to be innovative – to find novel solutions to important problems – because obviously the persistence of the problems indicates that we haven’t hit on all (or the best) solutions just yet.
But I wonder whether the way we teach public health and the systems that we practise within – particularly the paradigm of evidence-based public health – foster innovation.
It’s not even clear that to me that we make space for idea generation, let alone the supportive structures necessary to turn new ideas into something useful.
As I’ve written elsewhere, the recent PHAA conference had a strong advocacy theme and the message that came through loud and clear was the need for cross-sectoral collaboration, that we need to work together, and to find new friends in unaccustomed places.
While I was in Melbourne I was lucky enough to visit the National Gallery of Victoria and see the wonderful clinamen 2013 acoustic installation by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot. As the accompanying essay by Max Delany explains:
“One hundred and more white porcelain bowls float on the surface of an expansive, intensely blue pool. The water is heated to optimise the porcelain’s acoustic resonance. Swept along by submarine currents, the floating crockery circulates gently, colliding as percussive instruments which create a resonant, chiming soundscape.”
Anyway, I got to wondering what can public health and health services learn about innovation from the arts?
The arts abound in practitioners, makers and artists reconceptualising objects and creating totally new ways of seeing the world. In public health we can sometimes restrict our notion of innovation to anything that we haven’t seen in public health before.
What would a true collaboration between the arts and health look like if it was centred around learning about the practice of innovation?
Actually unpacking the creative process as it applies to innovation and learning what is that innovators in the arts do and what we can learn from them about how to innovate in public health research, advocacy and practice. I suspect the answer has something to do with making and designing rather than hypothesis testing and experimentation.
And is this something that can be learned (or taught) or is it a way of being that you either have or not? If it can be learned and taught what would be the best way to do this?
So this week on @WePublicHealth I want to start a conversation about this and about innovation in public health more broadly. Think of it as a mini-twitter conference.
Every day I will find an interesting website or a TED talk or an academic paper and tweet about it (like I would if watching a conference presentation). I know that there are a lot of innovative things happening in public health (and not just in collaboration with the arts).
We would like to crowdsource ideas, examples, discussions around this topic and at the end of the week I will blog about it here, and it will be cross posted at Croakey.
Who knows where it might lead?
• For more information about @WePublicHealth, see here.