Global Alliance on Disability and Health Innovation (GANDHI): What Makes Innovation Stick? (2018-2019)


Although 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability, the system of public health and health services is not adequately organized to promote independence. Even the most developed and well-resourced nations have medically underserved regions and communities where the presence of disability is compounded by inequities in social determinants of health.

In 2016, the Global Alliance on Disability and Health Innovation (GANDHI) launched to engage students, faculty, the Duke community and external partners to examine the system supporting transitions in health and healthcare for people who experience an acute illness or injury and are newly living with disability. With almost a dozen projects in multiple countries over 18 months, coupled with historical evidence that it takes 17 years for evidence-based solutions to be adopted as standard practice, GANDHI team members have asked: What makes an innovation stick? Why does it take so long to scale up interventions?

Project Description

This 2018-19 Bass Connections project (“GANDHI 3.0”) will create a cohort of students committed to designing and implementing systems changes. The aim is to help implement, spread or scale up innovation at Duke and in Durham County for underserved and underrepresented populations experiencing transitions in health or healthcare. The 2018-19 team’s goal is to build capacity for social intrapreneurship: people who will work as a member within their organization to develop and promote solutions to social and system challenges.  

Using Duke case examples of programs and interventions, students will first learn the fundamentals of program planning, theories of change and implementation science. This type of real world research identifies barriers and facilitators and studies methods to promote the adoption of interventions and policies. Skills learned will then be applied to Duke projects aimed to improve healthcare, health and health policy. In the spring semester, teams of students will work directly with faculty partners on scaling up Duke initiatives. While working on these projects, students will meet weekly as peer mentors, creating a cohort of social intrapreneurs at Duke.

Anticipated Outcomes

IHI Open School Practicum Certificate completed by interested students; experience and leadership with a real-world project on implementation, improvement or scaling an innovation; team-based collaboration that will advance meaningful real-world projects; presentations at a regional or national conference; online publications and dissemination; inaugural peer network of students to create change from within

Student Opportunities

Learning will be case-based with project examples from collaborators and other Duke experts. After the fall break, the group will divide into teams to begin to develop ideas for specific problem areas specified by collaborators. Students will apply as individuals or small teams to work on collaborator projects. All students will form a peer network for collaborative learning, idea exchange and support, which will meet weekly.

Students from any discipline are welcome to apply; however, an interest in public health and health systems is important for team selection. There is no second language requirement. Student selection will be ongoing from Spring 2018 through the Fall 2018 add/drop to encourage new graduate students to apply.

Duke undergraduates and graduate students can apply for this project team beginning on January 24. The priority deadline is February 16 at 5:00 p.m.

Students may be interested in a related Data+ summer project, Smartphones and the Sixth Vital Sign (May 29 – August 3, 2018); that application is open until February 24, but Data+ applications are evaluated on a rolling basis.


Fall 2018 – Spring 2019  

  • Fall 2018: Didactic and case-based learning; team problem-solving; applications for project teams; mentored projects begin
  • Spring 2019: Project work continues; peer network launches; project dissemination


Independent study credit available for fall and spring semesters

See earlier related team, Global Alliance on Disability and Health Innovation (GANDHI) (2017-2018).


Faculty/Staff Team Members

Jonathan Bae, Duke Health Patient Safety and Clinical Quality
Suresh Balu, Duke Institute for Health Innovation (DIHI)
Gary Bennett, Duke Global Digital Health Science Center
Janet Prvu Bettger, School of Medicine-Orthopaedic Surgery*
Matthew Nash, Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative
Amy Pastva, School of Medicine - Physical Therapy
Gillian Sanders Schmidler, Margolis Center for Health Policy|School of Medicine-Population Health Sciences
Kearsley Stewart, Duke Global Health Institute

Undergraduate Team Members

Isabelle Doan, Public Policy Studies (AB)
Sahil Sandhu, Program II (AB)
Jacqueline Xu, Public Policy Studies (AB), Global Health (AB2)

Community Team Members

Suzanne Smith, Social Impact Architects

* denotes team leader


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