What‘s your Dad‘s favorite book?
What’s the name of your wife‘s first pet?
Maybe you know the answers, maybe you don’t, but the point is that we may not really know as much about even our closest loved ones as we think. Now, consider questions where the stakes are a lot higher, such as, what are their end of life wishes for instance?
Regardless what your loved ones may want, knowing their end of life wishes is proven to substantially reduce your risk of depression or PTSD after you lose them. Even so, most people never talk about this, even with their own families.
You might remember being asked if you wanted to be an organ donor at the DMV when you first received or renewed your driver‘s license. It‘s a an important, personal decision. However, will your loved one know what your wishes are at the moment this decision becomes most relevant - the moment you die?
In search of answers (and warmer weather), we flew to Palo Alto and partnered with the Stanford d.school‘s best and brightest. Our task for them was clear:
Help us figure out how we can normalize the organ donation conversation within families.
Why is it that we talk about this with DMV clerks but not spouses or children, those most immediately affected by our decisions? If the most important step is to share your wishes with your next of kin, how can we spark those (admittedly somewhat uncomfortable) conversations at home?
Led by the teaching team, Sarah Soule and Justin Ferrell, 36 graduate students in engineering, journalism and business alongside a handful of undergraduate students learned and applied design thinking to our challenge.
The class focused on “empathy and define” during the first week. Students were divided into 9 groups of 4 and then sent out to conduct field interviews and learn from real people how they felt about this issue. The ORGANIZE team served as sounding boards for informational questions, but we really tried to steer clear of anything even resembling suggested directions. The more outside-of-the-box students thought, the better.
Here are the insights that resonated the most with us: organ donation is inextricably linked not only to death but to unexpected death, which triggers a highly emotional state. One group even interviewed a husband and wife who, during the interview, realized that they had never once discussed this with each other and had no idea what the other‘s wishes were.
The class dove even deeper in the second week, learning and applying ideation and prototyping before presenting their ideas.
Final ideas included:
• a new employee orientation module about the U.S. healthcare system (including organ donation) at a major tech company
• a pink donor profile badge for your Facebook page - with the goal of destigmatizing the issue and helping create social prompts for others to make the same decision
• "Cards About Humanity," a spin on the similarly-named card game but with socially important conversation prompts
• A dining experience built to facilitate this conversation between families (“Organ is the New Black”)
The common thread that ran through all the prototypes was that everyone wanted their wishes to be known; the friction lay in how to share them. This leaves us with a difficult but important (and fun) question: how can we create environments in which people can share their wishes without fear of introducing emotional stress for their loved ones.
The class was merely a jumping off point; if you like any of these ideas and want to help us run with them (or build off of them in other ways), please reach out to us. The White House recently announced an upcoming Summit on how we might save lives and improve healthcare through innovations in organ donations and transplants. If you want to bring your innovative ideas to this space, email us at email@example.com.
Anjelika Deogirikar is the ORGANIZE Innovator in Residence at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Greg Segal is a co-founder of ORGANIZE.
This piece originally appeared on organize.org.