Tackling Stigma and Brainstorming on Strategy for Nonprofit Aiming to Prevent Deadly Virus

By Katherine Murtha

On November 3, six alums of the UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business proved they are students always. Gathering on campus, the group of alumni volunteered to help a startup online health education nonprofit at a Solutions Lab organized by the Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership.

The nonprofit client, HPVANDME.ORG, creates easy-to-understand videos educating people about human papillomavirus (HPV). Its mission is to become the premier hub of information on the treatment and prevention of HPV and HPV-related head and neck cancers. HPV is a prevalent disease: each year, more than 14 million people are infected, and 26,000 are affected by the cancers it causes – cancers that are preventable. HPV has a vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control recommend all people ages 11-21 (up to 26 for women) receive the vaccine, which targets three of the most common strains of the virus. But as HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, efforts to educate the public about it must overcome a social stigma that stifles conversations about sex.

Volunteer alums Alice and Dave brainstorm ideas on sticky notes for HPVANDME, a client of the Solutions Lab.

Volunteer alums Alice and Dave brainstorm ideas on sticky notes for HPVANDME, a client of the Solutions Lab.

The approachable style and high production value of HPVANDME’s content have drawn the attention of the Centers for Disease Control, the Farrah Fawcett Foundation, the Mayo Clinic, and other potential partners. During the Solutions Lab, the alumni volunteers brainstormed ways for HPVANDME to partner with these organizations to help it achieve its goal. Alums drew on a diversity of experiences in online content creation, technology startups, and health care. The opportunity to give back through business skills piqued the interest of one volunteer, who said activities like Solutions Lab keep his “brain from turning to mush.”

“This is our ‘continuing education,’” another Haas volunteer said of Solutions Lab, “and it feels good.”

That continuing education included a quick overview of a Problem Framing Problem Solving brainstorm technique, diverging and converging. After ideating individually on sticky notes, volunteers paired up to cluster their ideas by category and refined a pitch. They presented their top ideas to the client and, via video conference, to representatives of two prospective partner organizations for HPVANDME. In the process, alums learned about the disease and the discourse within the medical community on prevention and treatment for HPV-positive cancers.

In addition to approaches to partnership, the ideas for HPVANDME also included business practices that the startup nonprofit could implement to help it grow.

The Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership has hosted four sessions of Solutions Lab, a unique opportunity for Haas alumni to lend their business acumen to assist nonprofit clients. You can read more about past sessions here.

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