There Are No Bad Ideas: Just Untested Ones

“Listen. Draw it. Make it possible. Learn from it quickly.”

Catherine has been part of PSI Tanzania’s Adolescents 360 program from the very beginning. She learned how to prototype ideas to help reduce unplanned teenage pregnancies from leading researcher and design thinker Pam Scott.

Pam has worked with Nike, Levi’s, Unilever and  to develop fresh solutions to entrenched problems.

“Pam taught us that there are no bad ideas — just untested ones.”

One idea that had promise: providing “gift boxes” with lipstick, makeup mirrors and sanitary pads at clinics that counsel about pregnancy prevention. Another: Teaching young women to drive bajajis — small motorized three wheel scooters — and provide contraceptive counseling to girl riders.

Any idea is worth testing. But most don’t make the cut. They are either too expensive, ineffective when put to the test, or difficult to scale.

But those that work, get put to work. Catherine pioneered the Pop Up workshop where young girls learn a skill, gather together to chat and see a provider if they want to.

Catherine I Photo Credit: Benjamin Schilling

During Saturday’s event, 76 girls swarmed the pop up tent. Teens and young women learned to make jewelry around tables covered in trendy patterns. They sat together laughing. And when and if they wanted, they met with PSI-trained health care provider who was patiently waiting in a discreet area behind the tent to talk about sex and provide contraception.

During the event 30 teens decided to get an implant, which will protect them from pregnancy for 3 years.

“In our culture, it’s not easy for parents to talk to their children about contraception. We have to think about how best to reach the girls in meaningful ways to them.”

The need to reimagine reproductive health care for teens in Tanzania is urgent. 45% of the population is under the age of 15 and 44% of girls become pregnant by age 19. PSI’s Adolescent 360 program meets teens where they are — outside of clinics — and with language and activities that make sense for them.

Adolescents 360 (A360) is a four-and-a-half year initiative co-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). The project is led by Population Services International (PSI) together with, University of California at Berkeley Center on the Developing Adolescent, the Society for Family Health Nigeria, and Triggerise. The project is being delivered in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania, in partnership with local governments, local organizations, and local technology and marketing firms. In Tanzania, A360 is building on an investment and talent from philanthropist and design thinker Pam Scott.