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Meet the new HHS Ignite Accelerator Program Director

Margeaux Akazawa joined the Office of the CTO team to lead the Ignite Accelerator Program, an internal innovation accelerator for HHS staff that have an idea to improve how their agency or office works. The 8th round of the Ignite Program begins on March 12th. Margeaux joins us from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT where she worked on consumer engagement and patient access to health information.
Margeaux with her Ignite Accelerator teammates and coach in 2016
Margeaux with her Ignite Accelerator teammates and coach in 2016

How did you first become involved with the Ignite Accelerator Program?

In the Spring of 2016 I participated on a team accepted to Ignite Accelerator Program.  I loved Ignite so much and found it to be such a rewarding experience that I stayed involved as a coach for future teams that went through the program.     

Why should HHS staff apply for the Ignite Program?

The HHS Ignite Accelerator is one of the premiere public sector innovation programs in government. Do you have an unacted upon idea that could dramatically improve your office or the way your office delivers on its mission?  If so, apply for Ignite! If selected, you and your team will receive training in modern problem solving methods like design thinking and lean start-up within a fast-paced entrepreneurial framework.  The program also gives you the support to navigate bureaucracy and gain leadership buy-in that can help make your idea a reality.  

What can the Ignite participants expect for this round?

Participants can continue to look forward to the signature Ignite training, mentorship programming, and support for this round.  Taking our own design thinking medicine, we incorporated feedback from previous ignite participants and made some changes to the training curriculum that will better equip teams with the skills they need for their Ignite journey.  

What programs or initiatives happening in public sector innovation excite you for 2019?

I’m excited to see public sector innovation grow and scale. The Ignite Accelerator Program, for example, is now 6 years old. There are now over 300 Ignite Accelerator alums who continue to bring design thinking mindsets to their work and their mission. The program inspired similar internal innovation models in other parts of HHS as well as across federal government.  

How did your role as a participant and coach in the Ignite program shape your views about the program?

Since I had the opportunity to participate in the program both as a team and a coach I have first-hand experience of the transformative power of the Ignite program and understand the value this program brings to both HHS staff and the agency as a whole.

Ignite introduced me to design thinking principles and equipped me with problem solving methods that I continue to apply in my work. The program also provides the time and safe space for risk-taking and experimenting.

But the most important element of Ignite for me, both as a coach and participant, is the people.  When I first went through the program I felt that I found my tribe - fellow public servants dreaming of doing things differently to better deliver on their mission.  As a participant in Ignite, you immediately become a member of community of fellow problem solvers and red-tape hackers. 

I am excited to take these experiences to strengthen and enhance this amazing program! 

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Health IT