• Ideas

I want supportWhether you are an HHS Employee looking for support on getting a new idea off the ground or finding ways to navigate the internal bureaucracy of the Department, the HHS IDEA Lab can help. Below are a number of ways we are helping HHS employees experiment and innovate. See how we could   for your idea or want to learn more about innovation and experimentation. Check out the information below, each tab has information on resources and for innovation and experimentation.

Communication is key to executing on a new idea, be it finding collaborators, asking for feedback or changing processes or policies.  The HHS IDEA Lab is working to make communication more fluid across the Department.

Want to connect to people across HHS or externally?

There are a couple of different ways for employees to communication and cross-collaborate in the Department. This is highlighted through our HHS Connects pathway for innovation. HHS Connects works to connect people internal and external to the Department of Health and Human Services, resources and ideas virtually and physically to increase the likelihood of serendipitous collisions, resource sharing and multiple level collaborations.  HHS Connects has a number of platforms to support increased communication and collaboration. Platforms such as:

  • Yammer – Connecting leadership and frontline staff. Originally a pilot at the National Institutes of Health and adopted Department-wide in 2011, Yammer is an internal social media network that is being used to allow people across the Department to communicate and collaborate. Join Yammer Now!
  • Fairtrade – Have a great idea but don’t have the resources or expertise you need to move forward? That’s where HHS Fairtrade comes in.  HHS Fairtrade is an internal crowdsourcing platform where Department staff can go to find resources – including people’s time and expertise to help them get their idea off the ground floor. Fairtrade is currently in development, but stay up-to-date on its development through the IDEA Lab Blog.
  • HealthData.gov – Have a health data set you would like to share, or are you looking for one to use? Go to HealthData.gov, the one stop shop for HHS health data. Supported by the operating divisions and staff divisions of HHS, HealthData.gov provides an easy to use repository of health data.
  • IDEA Lab Blog – Want to learn about the latest news and newest opportunities with the HHS IDEA Lab or want to share a story of innovation or a new opportunity? That is what the IDEA Lab Blog is for, to connect people internally and externally based on new topics, opportunities and experiences.
  • Social Media Channels – At the IDEA Lab, we believe that ideas come from both inside and outside of the Department of Health and Human Services. We use our different social media channels, such as TwitterFacebook and YouTube to interact, answer questions, share new opportunities and basically connect with those interested in innovation and experimentation in health care and government.

Have an innovative idea, project or program that you want to promote?

If you have an innovative project or program and want to share it – either because you are looking for participation/feedback, try applying to HHS Innovates, another one of our pathways for innovation.  HHS Innovates works to identify and celebrate internal innovation by HHS employees.  More information on how to participate in HHS Innovates can be found here.

Use us! The IDEA Lab will help you promote your idea, project, program or challenge through our communication channels. Email us at idealab@hhs.gov.

Connect to others through your agency’s social media platforms. Using your own agencies social media platforms can help you get to the audiences that are already interested and engaged with your agency and may be willing to help spread the word.

Trying to connect to others through social media but can’t?

The HHS Innovation Council and Chief Information Officer’s Council has worked to revise the HHS social media policy, changing the default setting from closed to open. Meaning HHS employees, regardless of operating division or office, should have access to social media platforms. If your operating division or office does not grant access to a social media platform, e.g. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. please contact the HHS Chief Information Officer at OCIO.HHS@hhs.gov.

The IDEA Lab is focused on making health care and government better. Our desire is to make it easier for people to innovate, experiment and work. Right now the environment in government and health care makes it difficult to get things done. People are often faced with cumbersome policies, processes and a risk adverse environment. We want to change this, and equip the government workforce with proven methodologies that can help them in achieving project goals more successfully and quickly; such as Lean, Lean Start UpDesign ThinkingAgile Development techniques and others.

The IDEA Lab is here to help train and connect people within the Department to others that have experiences in these practices and methodologies.  We have already seen some great success demonstrated with the HHS Entrepreneurs Clinical Quality Measure Project – which has worked to reduce the time it takes to develop clinical quality measures by 92% with the adoption of Lean methodologies.  If you or your team would like to learn about some innovative business techniques, please contact the IDEA Lab at IDEAlab@hhs.gov.

Having a new idea that you want to experiment or iterate on is an important step, but if you are not sure where to go next or want some additional advice on what steps to take or who to connect to, the IDEA Lab staff are here to help. We know that when innovating in government you will face multiple hurdles before you get to your experimentation or implementation phase. To help you navigate the steps you need to take, you can consult with us and we can help guide you down the right path. If you would like to consult with us, contact us at idealab@hhs.gov.

If you are already involved in one of our pathways such as HHS Ignites, HHS Entrepreneurs, HHS Competes, HHS Data or HHS Innovates, a consultation step is already included in each of those pathway’s steps.

Activities in the government workplace are often guided or regulated by policies which ensure reproducible and predictable results. However, if one is trying to achieve better results or new solutions to problems, these policies may impede the testing of new approaches. If you are unclear about a policy that may be effecting how you are doing your work, e.g. the social media policy is not being implemented appropriately in your organization, a human resources policy is preventing you from making a critical hire, or an outdated policy is preventing the adoption of new technology, contact us and will see if we can help you in interpreting or possibly amending the policy because, ultimately, we believe that government policy should be there to help us do our work, not hinder.

Have a great idea that you are ready to act on, but don’t yet have the support you need to take it to the next level? That’s what the HHS IDEA Lab is here for.

First, the IDEA Lab provides an environment in the Department for experimenting and innovating led by leadership throughout HHS.

Secondly, the IDEA Lab has developed a number of pathways to directly support people with new ideas and limited/no resources. Pathways such as:

  • HHS Ignites ,which has been developed for early-stage projects that can be completed in 3 – 6 months and be achieved in with  $10,000 or less investment.  HHS Ignites works to catalyze and incubate new ideas by exposing teams to a network of innovators and equipping them with methodologies, resources and tools used by successful startup companies.  More information on HHS Ignites can be found here.
  • HHS Competes, provides HHS employees with a new way of procuring and cultivating new ideas. HHS Competes, notably challenges and competitions, provide employees with a new way of problem solving by giving them a new and more flexible vehicle for procurement. More information HHS Competes can be found here.
  • HHS Entrepreneurs, which provides HHS employees a way of bringing in expertise to help solve a problem or work on an idea. HHS Entrepreneurs matches internal innovators with external expertise as a way of bringing the entrepreneurial spirit into government and provide fresh and innovative problem solving approaches to HHS. More information on HHS Competes can be found here.

The IDEA Lab also has a number of platforms that can be used to find resources, such as HHS Fairtrade and HealthData.gov.

  • HHS Fairtrade is a brand new platform developed to help those HHS employees that have a great idea but don’t have the resources or expertise needed to move forward. HHS Fairtrade is an internal crowdsourcing platform where HHSstaff can go to find resources – including people’s time and expertise to help them get their idea off the ground floor. Fairtrade is currently in development, but stay up-to-date on its development through the IDEA Lab Blog.
  • HealthData.gov – Have a health data set you would like to share, or are you looking for one to use? Go to HealthData.gov, the one stop shop for HHS health data. Supported by the operating divisions and staff divisions of HHS, HealthData.gov provides an easy to use repository of health data. More information on HealthData.gov and the HHS Data can be found here.

While technology isn’t a sole driver of innovation, it is a catalyst in helping people innovate, experiment and collaborate. The IDEA Lab is a place where you can pilot new technologies to help you when experimenting.  For example, for past projects the IDEA Lab helped in the use and testing of new technologies such as High Rise, Yammer, and GitHub by lifting bureaucratic barriers to adoption, helping in scalability or assisting in finding a vehicle for procurement.  If you are working on a project and need help in adopting a new technology or think a new technology could help improve the way we work at the Department, contact us and we can help. Email us at IDEAlab@hhs.gov.

Lots of people in the HHS have some fantastic ideas or projects that we don’t know about.  These ideas could be in the infant stage of pure concept, or could be in a full on pilot testing stage.  Regardless of where you are, we want to know about it. For those who are in the concept stage and looking for feedback from either HHS employees or the public, use our forum to share, discuss and iterate. From there you can grow your idea, find collaborators and become an active member of the HHS IDEA Lab network. And if you aren’t sure if your idea fits with what we are looking for, explore some of the past and current projects for some great examples of process, data, service and product focused innovation. Share your idea now!

If you have your idea and have a product or outcome, the HHS Innovates pathway may be what you are looking for.  HHS Innovates is how we are identifying and celebrating innovation by HHS employees.  Held on a bi-annual basis, HHS Innovates is always looking to identify and recognize great work that is being done at the Department. More information on HHS Innovates can be found here.

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