HGHI formed the first-ever graduate seminar that uses pandemic preparedness as a discussion platform and brings together the different schools at Harvard, facilitated by Patrick Whitney, Dean of and distinguished professor at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, recognized leader in "design thinking." HPM 295: Design of Social Innovation generated innovative solutions and ideas across sectors on how best to prepare for the next major pandemics and explores the ways in which design knowledge works or conflicts with the frameworks and methods of other fields. The goal was to make design less exotic and more useful to the creation of products, information, environments, and organizations.

There are many comparisons, but two examples illustrate the type of questions the course explored:

  • Do the ways in which design create value relate to frameworks in finance, such as valuing intangible assets and real options theory?

  • When should a team use soft ethnographic research that is inclusive of many variables and when should they use quantitative methods that provide certainty but may leave out important variables?

The course was offered to graduate students across the university and Harvard college seniors.