Matthew Iasiello in the winning team in the first National Innovation Game in SA

A few weeks ago, I participated in the National Innovation Games, which was hosted by the South Australian Commission on Excellence in Health, PADDL, and COSBOA.

The event was organised to combine students, researchers, and professionals together to design innovative solutions to tackle a single challenge: to surface a full range of healthcare services for all South Australians.

I was attracted to the event as it aligns so closely to the work that I do at the SAHMRI Wellbeing and Resilience Centre, and in my PhD research at Flinders University. Specifically, I am focused on innovating our mental health care system through the inclusion of new services, so I thought this would be a great event to apply my passion and test my abilities in a competitive environment.

The event was a tough one! It was my first experience of a hackathon, so I didn’t know what to expect. Due to social distancing constraints, the event was facilitated entirely online and ran from 8am until 7pm. We were put into teams and sent off to design an innovative service to address the challenge.

It was great to participate in the team, and share our different perspectives and experiences. It was interesting to see some of the usual challenges in health care emerge straight away: Where does responsibility for health lie? With Government or with the Individual? How do we strike a balance between prevention or treatment?

Our team did a great job of determining the ground rules for ensuring a productive collaboration. Principles such as ‘no silly suggestions’, ‘challenging ideas makes them stronger’, and ‘one conversation at a time’ were particularly useful. For me, the stand out of the day was learning and participating in the Design Thinking process. In a few hours, we went from a group of strangers to an efficient team with a solid and innovative pitch. We designed a solution that would help stressed and overworked shift workers with preventative health behaviours, link them with health services available to them, and check in with their mental state.

Our pitch attracted the attention of the judges, and we were awarded First Place. The day was a particularly rewarding experience, as I got to share it with my three weeks old son, who may or may not have played a role in the final decision!

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