Meet the IIU’s New Challenge Prize Fellow: Nolan D’Souza
What made you decide to apply for the Fellowship program?
I am attracted to the spaces that allow for new ideas, products, or policy changes to be created — especially when they can result in system change. I decided to apply to the Fellowship because the work has the potential to enable fresh solutions to complex challenges, such as those in healthcare. I’ve been lucky to have worked on funding and capacity strategies for clinical testing, frameworks for the spread and scale of proven innovation, and community-led health and social service integration. The Fellowship offers an exciting opportunity to combine the learnings from those experiences with the momentum of a Challenge, and the expertise of the Privy Council Office (PCO) and partners, to surface ideas that can benefit as many Canadians as possible.
What unique perspectives do you bring to this work, as someone entering the public service for the first time?
My perspective is that collaboration, knowledge sharing, and empowering many leaders to take a call to action are essential components to catalyze innovation and system transformation. My recent work has focused on building partnerships and developing coalitions to advocate for healthcare changes in Ontario. When multiple players bring themselves to the table to plan and perform work necessary for improving the sector, it’s gratifying to facilitate aligning goals and converging ideas that can bring about sustained change. I also retain my clinical lens of compassion from my experience supporting people through their medical journeys. I advocate for planning and designing processes bespoke to the clinical, social, and psychological needs of the people I want to help. I’m happy to share these perspectives with the public service.
How would you explain Challenges to someone who had never heard about it before?
In a nutshell, a call is put out inviting as many people as possible to create solutions (and potentially a breakthrough) for a complex problem. To inject novel thinking and connect dots that people may not have even known existed, the problem is framed in a way that attracts the most diverse group of innovators, including those who aren’t regularly involved in the sector. The Challenge also supports innovators to invest time, energy, and resources into solutions using many different types of incentives — reducing barriers to implementation or market, resourcing or seed funding for early prototyping, policy windows, drawing attention to a neglected area of work, and even the creation of partial solutions that can be foundational for future efforts.
In what way(s) do you believe the application of Challenges can improve government policies and/or programs?
Especially when aligned to a policy window or a government priority, Challenges can be immensely impactful. The work done to design the Challenge, create the solutions, and perform the evaluation all shed light on important and potentially underrepresented issues that can be drivers for government policy or program changes. Even when complete, the momentum a Challenge creates can be leveraged by a government program to continue workshopping ideas and tools, or to start research into additional priorities that were uncovered during the Challenge process.
What are you the most enthusiastic about the work that you will be doing on the Diabetes Challenges?
As a clinician, empowering people to be as healthy as possible is part of my “DNA”. I am grateful to work on a challenge that I believe will cultivate health as much as it prevents chronic illness. Developing chronic illness can alter a person’s life or identity in ways they never anticipated, and it can be challenging to manage the associated medical, emotional, or financial burden. I’m excited that this Challenge may surface solutions that not only address system costs and strategies for chronic illness but that these solutions will be person-first, considering the personalized impact of chronic illness. The approach is of particular importance to me as someone who has spent a large amount of time helping people understand multifactorial risk and providing counselling to inform decision making around managing those risk factors and illness itself.