Interview with Dr Lloyd Nash, Co-Founder of Global Health Startup “Global Ideas”

Dr Lloyd Nash is a General Medicine Physician working between Australia and Vanuatu, who co-founded Global Ideas, a series of conferences and events where people from diverse industries unite to learn about Global Health issues, social ventures, and career pathways. Lloyd and his friends created this as they found a severe lack of opportunities for people at various stages in their studies or professional lives to explore career options in Global Health. This weekend, their fifth Global Ideas Forum will be held in Melbourne, featuring international guest speakers and small group sessions. During the year, they also host the Design Jam and Global Ideas Labs, where people brainstorm particular issues in Global Health over three hours, using human-centred design thinking.

Lloyd has successfully brought together healthcare workers, architects, graphic designers, lawyers, NGO founders, social entrepreneurs and more into a Global Health powerhouse that energises people at all levels of education to build solutions to Global Health problems. We’d been blown away by the enthusiasm at last year’s Global Ideas Forum, and got talking to Lloyd about his journey combining traditional clinical training with building his own Global Health organisation.

Lloyd Nash Global Ideas.jpg
Dr Lloyd Nash, MBBS/MPH/DRANZCOG/FRACP. Photo: Supplied

How did Global Ideas begin?

It started around the board table at an AMA (Australian Medical Association) meeting in 2011. I was there as the chair of the College of Physicians’ Trainees’ committee. I was sitting with young, inspiring people who were passionate about global health, including Dr Rob Mitchell, Dr Ross Roberts-Thomson, and Dr Jake Parker, and we were lamenting the status of Global Health career opportunities.

The lament was, there’s a lot of passion and energy around medical students and campuses, lots of activity and initiatives, then people get into the early part of their careers, whether in healthcare or not, and get buried. Often they might come to Global Health at the end of their career, but there’s a sort of donut (where their Global Health opportunities are lacking). That was a frustration for us, realising there wasn’t a lack of enthusiasm about Global Health, more of a lack of pathways, opportunities and engagement.

Also, looking at my own career path, as I trained in Infectious Diseases for awhile, the Global Health models that were around were either, do an internship at the WHO, or via NGOs- volunteer in the field for two years, then we might give you a job as a program officer. It seemed both of those were very bureaucratic, unresponsive pathways, not fit for purpose, and hadn’t adapted to the 21st century realities of technology, using the skills and passion coming through from the next generation. Most people were told to go do a Master’s degree or camp in the jungle for five years, then come back and look for work. It seemed to be the wrong way to harness the energy and enthusiasm of younger people.

So we started Global Ideas with the Forum in 2012. Our mission is to create and connect the next generation of Global Health leaders. It’s a leadership capacity building project, from Education through to Action.

The structure was Learn, Share, Develop and Connect, as an educational and networking enterprise. We wanted people to learn about new initiatives, share their own ideas, any research they might have done, any social enterprises and other new initiatives they may have developed, and connect with a broad, diverse interdisciplinary community.

We ran three conferences, then had a strategic review and thought, what more do we need to be doing? We were doing well at engaging and inspiring younger people, but I wanted to do more knowledge and skills development, so we launched a couple of new programs- the Labs and Design Jam.

Labs is an extension of the Forum- Labs engages people on a more regular basis to dive deeper into issues over 3 hours. We have a Lead (facilitator), and intimate group discussions. It revolves around the Sustainable Development Goals framework, so connections between health and development, and advocating for the Sustainable Development agenda amongst the next generation of Global Health leaders. We wanted to have events like edutainment, so people can be, like, “I could go to the cinema tonight, or go to the Lab, and I could have more fun and learn more by going to the Lab.”

The Design Jam program extends that educational journey into Action. We partner with organisations doing Global Health work, Design organisations and other groups, and smash those together with our participants to help people become more aware and comfortable applying the tools of Human-Centred Design Thinking.

How can you motivate anyone to care about Global Health and see themselves as change-makers?

If you think about how to create change or develop leadership influence, think about people’s motivations and passions. We encourage people to reflect on their world view to influence others’ behaviour. To do this, you’ve got to learn about Global Health. You’ve got to develop skills to apply in the field, not just vertical skills, but a reproducible thought model that is creative, innovative, and collaborative, to apply to complex challenges in their own careers. That came screaming at us as Human-Centred Design and Design Thinking, and I use both terms interchangeably.

We want to have discussions that feel comfortable, usually taking the form of expert, but I really wanted to challenge the idea of expertise. The concept that you have to be an old professor who’s published a lot of papers, I didn’t think that was true. We wanted to promote the idea that younger people who’ve taken time to reflect and had experiences can be experts in their own right.

I ran a Lab in June on ethics and leadership, discussing Sustainable Development Goal 16- Peace and Justice- how you build societies that encourage dialogue and discussion around conflict.

So I was nominally a discussion lead, and brought a friend and colleague, Professor Paul Komesaroff, who’s a clinician and philosopher, who also led the discussion, but we’re not there to teach or preach. We facilitate connections and help the crowd, and reflect insights back to people. That’s the essence of good facilitation.

We’re creating pathways because, maybe, someone will meet someone working in Global Health, or an organisation that has opportunities through what is a pretty complex system.

How quickly did Global Ideas evolve to what it is today?

It was remarkably quick actually, our meeting was end of 2011, our first forum was held 2012, and now we’re at our fifth forum.

We were kind of powered by medical doctors in the beginning, mainly through my networks. The four of us, Jake, Rob, Ross and I sat and decided we needed a more diverse board, so we brought on Jenny Jamieson who is also another doctor; an accountant, and a lawyer; then we ran into a young doctor who was very passionate about Global Health, Natalie Wright, and literally over a coffee I said, “I have an idea to run a conference, will you help me?” and she was like, “Yes,” and she was effectively our CEO and forum convenor. We literally sat in a cafe on the back of an envelope and sketched out what a great forum would look like.

We brought in other people. Our first academic officer, was also a doctor, Aaron, a really bright guy who created a great experience for people that was grounded in Global Health with many career development angles. This became Global Cafes, sitting in small groups talking to people who’d worked in Global Health, and could reflect back to others about their leadership journeys, and people could ask how they could consider their own career pathways, educational opportunities, and opportunities for action. We had a Career Corner, and Family Time- threaded throughout the conference, in small groups where they stayed with each other during the conference to build intimate connections. Family Time has now become Reimagine Time, which still runs throughout the conference to address global health issues via human-centred design thinking.

How did you get the word out to designers and other professional groups?

Once you diversify your leadership team, you can diversify your management team, your content, and everything else. As the board evolved, it became more diverse, we brought on a designer, a business development person, and a human-centred design service designer. The board became radically diverse.

We always took a more upstream look at Global Health, in that we’re not here to just look at tech solutions for global health. We’re looking at drivers of ill health, particularly social and environmental determinants of ill health. Health is intimately connected with development and vice versa, and people felt it was very accessible and our events were not swamped in health, and that health touches all aspects of their lives.

Once you have content that’s engaging for these people they come along.

What’s your biggest tip for people wanting to do what you’re doing?

There’s a lot of ways to create impact. We identified five personas at Global Ideas, ranging from Grassroots advocacy to Entrepreneurial activities to Policy-making. You may fit into one or more personas. Start with what you’re passionate about, and how you can influence the world, and you’ll quickly identify with one or more of these personas. Once you’ve identified what you’re passionate about and what gets you out of bed in the morning, decide, how do I want to create influence? Do I need a bigger network? More education? And that’s partly planning, part serendipity. But you’ve got to know where you want to get to.
Don’t be intimidated by vertical pathways that are wound up with social status. If you want to change the world, work out how you want to change it, and make it happen.

The Global Ideas Forum 2016 kicks off tonight in Melbourne. Tickets are still available, including day and student passes, here

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