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Health Care Design Conference - 2013 Boston


About Me

Christopher Fabian is the co-lead of UNICEF's Innovation Unit in New York. The team identifies, prototypes and scales new partnerships, processes and technologies in support of UNICEF's 135 country offices. UNICEF has had recognized success in innovative design of development solutions. Examples of this work include the Digital Drum, which was recognized by Time Magazine as one of the Top 50 inventions of 2011 and the multiple award-winning RapidSMS which uses SMS / text messages to provide instant test results to health workers, track supplies and directly engage young people in discussing their problems and needs.

The team works exclusively with scalable, adaptable open-source technologies and ensures that local capacity and technical knowledge-building "in country" is a priority in every prototype and engagement.

Christopher co-created the Design for UNICEF course at NYU's ITP program and believes that authentic and humble engagement of academia, private sector and development can create powerful solutions for those most in need. Specializing in the confluence of design, technology and development, Christopher has been with UNICEF since 2006.

His academic background is in Philosophy and Critical Theory from the American University in Cairo, Trinity College, Dublin and The New School. Prior to UNICEF, Christopher founded technology start-ups in East Africa and the Middle East.

Q&A with Christopher

HxD asked speakers to tell us what inspires and drives them in healthcare and design. Check out our Q&A with Zen Chu!

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  • Q1: What is your burning mission in health?

    Use realtime and user-generated information flows to create efficiencies and better responses in national-scale health systems.

  • Q2: What is something you want everyone to see?

    I don't always share this – but I'll share it with you: It is a music video from Kampalan kids, singing about innovation.

  • Q3: Why it inspires you?

    These kids are part of UNICEF's innovation network – they help our teams understand issues and needs, and work with designers and developers to co-create solutions.

  • Q4: What is your patient story?

    I was in a health clinic in rural sub-Saharan East Africa. Every six weeks a set of surveys would routinely shut the clinic down for three or four hours, causing patients to wait in the sun while people from the capital collected pages of data. A young pharmacist looked at me and said: “every time, the information they collect is the same – nothing changes – except for the supplies we’re running low on. And we don’t need a whole survey to tell them we’re out of Coartem.” This story, among others, inspires our team to look at ways of collecting a few key pieces of information by text message from frontline workers, rather than adding more burden to an already strained system.

  • Q5: Why HxD?

    Because I’m not a health expert. I create teams that design elegant solutions to complex system problems – and while some of our work is in health, I find parallels and inspirations in questions around identity and birth registration, around education and how it’s failing its users, and around how we bring people who need solutions most into problem solving spaces – and I think HxD is an interest place to explore these issues.

  • Q6: Why come to your session?

    I’ll be fresh off the plane from UNICEF Innovation Labs ( in Uganda and Burundi where I will have been looking at some exciting innovations in health service delivery, education and entrepreneurship.

Christopher at the Conference

CONFERENCE | Monday, March 25

From Malawi to Minnesota: Hyper-local System Design and Global Scale

Sometimes the answers to complex challenges are actually very simple. Our team looks at how to work with people who have the most direct access to those simple solutions to figure out how to surface them and actualize them. This means, often, that we have to work with users in new ways – and take our inspiration from non-traditional sources.

Bringing best practices from design and start-up culture to the world of development challenges is daunting – but allowing for failure, co-creating solutions, and recognizing that almost everything we build in New York does not, in the end, work in the field have forced us to be humble and look for ways to facilitate solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

"Last year's HxD conference was so amazingly inspiring, and has definitely caused me to strive harder and become more passionate about improving our healthcare system." - 2012 HxD Attendee

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Watch the 2012 HXD Conference Recap