Bruce Mau popped into the Community Mental Health team room, listened for a few minutes and then shared his insights on the topic. He then proceeded to blow the doors off the problem.
He’s working on something similar in Malawi (not sure if I can be more specific) that empowers the community to provide healthcare without requiring more doctors–a rare commodity in most poor communities.
Mau pointed out that you can’t and won’t get everyone on board with new ideas, so create an ecology that supports the naysayers without impeding the new ideas. “If you look at innovation, a lot of it happens in pilot projects. You can’t take the whole organization [with you]. Identify the leaders and give them the most support we can,” added Mau.
He also asked pointed out a huge barrier to improved health is the laser focus healthcare aims at the individual. Your doctor doesn’t (usually) ask you about your family, your neighbors, and your support system. It’s only in specific situations, such as an organ transplant, that healthcare thinks about your support system.
Mau proposes that the family is the most important unit for improved health. “If you put a healthy person into a toxic family, they will become toxic.” And, he says, “All health is mental health.”
His model for this new concept is one of concentric circles with permeable boundaries. The center is you, the inner circle is your family, the next circle is your neighborhood, and continuously larger units in each ring. Energy and matter transfers back and forth.
Mau’s philosophy includes methodology as well. He recommends that, instead of focusing on many small efforts, create one large effort that breaks through the clutter and becomes highly visible. Once an idea becomes visible, it affects society on a logarithmic scale, not linearly.
After Mau left, the team examined The Adler School’s structure and curriculum for ideas. Then they thought about how to drive belief in the ideas they want to share. Then they split into two groups to brainstorm about solutions. It’s fascinating to watch Mau’s ideas percolate through the group and shift some of the thinking.
What do you think about this model? How would you implement it?