Written by: Angela Liu

We officially launched the Colorado Health Innovation Community (fondly referred to as “the CHIC”) back in June. Broadly, the intent of this ecosystem is to bring our some of our success from California to Colorado, whose health, entrepreneur, and policy players are primed and for new ideas and innovation.

The ecosystem is essentially a local reboot of our Safety Net Innovation Network, where we create opportunities for relationships to grow between health care providers serving underserved populations—Federally Qualified Health Centers, Mental Health Centers, and rural hospitals—with other similarly innovation-minded players from a variety of other sectors (technologists, funders, academics, large health systems, innovation players).

Our first ecosystem event attracted more than 85 people from 40+ organizations. We had a lot of fun. There was networking – with plenty of stories about Halloween costumes and how we each ended up there. There was dancing. There was brainstorming over analogous examples. And, of course, there were sticky notes.

What the Heck Is a Gallery of Innovations?

A major part of the day that I coordinated and executed was the “gallery of innovations.” It’s an approach for sharing best practices and innovations that is a regular feature at our networking events, but it was the first time we’ve brought it to the Colorado community. In short, a gallery of innovations showcases successful innovative practices that have been implemented in both health care and other industries.

The 80-minute, rotating session, works like this:

  • Before the session, we ask our innovators to present a one-minute intro pitch to the entire group, sharing the purpose of their organization.
  • Then the innovators break off into stations around the room.
  • Participants self-select into groups, visiting one station per rotation. Participants will visit up to six stations for 10 minutes each during the entire session.
  • We recommend that innovators prepare key talking points to explain their product or practices. However, we hope that there will be interactive discussions with small groups at their stations.

The goal is to pull participants out of their chairs and get them to interact with the people, concepts, and organizations throughout the room — no facilitator needed. This session allows individuals to process, share insights, and ask the questions that are meaningful to them about what’s being presented by each innovator. And it encourages small groups to dig deeper as they take in the information together.

We were lucky to have these eight organizations present in our gallery:

It was exciting to see people rotating throughout the stations, some interacting with one of Welcome Home Health’s patient advocates over Zoom, others opening up Project Helping’s Kynd Kits, or just discussing each innovator’s pitch.

building an ecosystem for exploration

Afterwards, when CCI debriefed as a team, we discovered that we heard began array of reactions about the activity: many participants loved it, while some others had trouble seeing the relevance of some of the innovations to their own organizations.

We’ve run this activity so many times that we intuitively know it has value for our participants: The benefits are just delayed. This mixed reaction is actually a key element of the gallery of innovations — that “ah-ha” moment may take a minute to percolate. Contrary to popular belief, innovation doesn’t suddenly appear like a light bulb flickering above your head. We are also comfortable knowing that not every innovation will resonate with each individual. We are trying to expose people to new concepts and the relevance varies based on each person.

Many of our participants arrive at our events with a clear objective — Find a new partner. Fix a care delivery pain point. Discover a technology solution to relieve a workflow jam. Or just build their own networks of people also implementing innovations and transformative ideas.

At CCI, first and foremost, we’re all about building that ecosystem for exploration. We prioritize discovery: We want you to meet someone new, make a connection, and learn about organizations different from your own.

That exchange will probably take you into unfamiliar places and it can leave you bewildered. And that’s the point! You never know when someone else’s practice or process will inspire your own.

Trust us: The answers will eventually reveal themselves.

So the next time you experience something new, file it away for later. Treat every day like you’re walking through a gallery of innovation. You never know what inspiration will sprout from a little seed.



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