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Nurturing New Ideas,
Making New Connections

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) wanted to design a program to bring valuable outside learning in and then create products that could efficiently share some of what was learned with their external networks. From big data to behavioral economics and from exponential technology to epigenetics, the world outside of the Foundation increasingly offered opportunities to help impact the work inside its areas of focus.

In 2012, we designed and host a speaker series we named What’s Next Health: Conversations with Pioneers. We created the strategic framework for What’s Next Health (WNH), identified topic areas and speakers most relevant to the Foundation’s work, and designed a robust engagement that reached both internal and external audiences. In addition to planning the talk and all activities around it, we created and curated WNH content to be shared with external audiences, including a short video interview of the speaker, blogs, infographics, and more, all posted on www.rwjf.org/wnh.Over the last two years, we have engaged 15 speakers, including Sal Khan on huge shifts in learning and knowledge sharing and what they mean for health and health care; BJ Fogg on Motivation vs. Ability; danah boyd on Myths + Provocations of a Networked Society; Nate Garvis on Creating Culture; and Sheena Iyengar on The Art of Choosing.

We built a detailed metrics system to measure and track staff response and ongoing engagement with each speaker. For each talk, on average, 60% of staff say that the WNH speaker has changed the way they think about something. And about half say they have heard something new and/or stimulated an idea or an “Aha!” WNH speakers, including BJ Fogg, danah boyd and Daniel Kraft, have been excellent ambassadors for sharing content and their experiences at the Foundation.