Meghan MacDonald

Meet the IIU’s Challenge Prize Fellow: Meghan MacDonald

Impact Canada

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What attracted you to apply to the Fellowship program?

The Fellowship provides a unique opportunity to work on innovative, outcomes-based solutions to complex and pressing challenges, and to forge a new way to work in government through meaningful collaboration. As someone with a history of working in a myriad of social service organizations, I have always been enthusiastic about finding creative, measurable solutions that address some of our most complex social and global challenges, and I am excited to bring my experience to this role.

Based on your skills and past experience, what unique perspectives do you bring to this work?

I began my career working as a front-line social worker with individuals facing complex mental health and substance use challenges. I witnessed some of the most transformative outcomes when we created an interconnected network of support around the folks we were working with, thinking of creative solutions to challenges we thought at first glance were unsolvable. This experience has provided me with three key learnings I will carry with me throughout my career:

- Innovative solutions do not occur in isolation;

- “Impossible” challenges can be solved, with enough creativity and;

- There is always a distinctly human impact to every decision you make as a changemaker.

As a result of my experience and training as a social worker, I am also passionate about demonstrating the measurable results of the changes we make, particularly in human-centric environments and professions. When we combine the immeasurable human impact of positive social change with quantitative, measurable results, amazing things can happen.

What is an innovative solution to a problem, big or small, that has inspired you?

A great example of a simple, but effective solution to a complex issue is the Friendship Bench in Zimbabwe supported by Grand Challenges Canada. Zimbabwe is facing a critical shortage of mental health specialists across the country, yet research demonstrates the close ties between mental health and chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDs. Benches were placed outside of local health clinics with lay health workers, known as Grandmothers who were trained to provide up to 6 solutions- focused counselling sessions and referrals to other services for individuals accessing these clinics. This solution is inspiring because it demonstrates the potential that collaboration and innovation can have on impacting meaningful change.

What is it that you — or other Canadians — would find fascinating or captivating about Challenges in government?

Challenge prizes are an inventive way to leverage resources and create collaborative partnerships that may not otherwise be possible in government. The Challenge-prize approach not only promotes innovation through finding a solution to a complex problem, but incentivizes communities of innovators around the issue. This is a novel and exciting way to tackle challenges within a government setting.

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