Department of Health and Human Services

Connecting People to Make Good Ideas Better

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The Challenge

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s disease prevention and wellness promotion agency, protects people’s health and safety, provides credible information to enhance health decisions, and works with partners to improve health. CDC, which has about 14,000 full-time, part-time, and contract employees, is headquartered in Atlanta but also has a large geographically dispersed workforce with experts working in 19 facilities across the United States and 54 countries around the globe.

As with many other global organizations, collaborating, communicating, and sharing information efficiently and effectively across functions proves challenging for CDC because of its large employee population and because many of those employees may be isolated geographically, departmentally, or physically because of enhanced security measures or specialized functions. CDC’s challenge is to find or create tools that bolster its capability to tap into its rich, diverse, institutional knowledge and to use the creative ideas of its staff in developing innovative solutions to pressing and sometimes vexing health problems.

A Solution

Innovation is created by connecting people and exploiting what is known. IdeaLab is a web-based, peer-to-peer network that was created to break through barriers and harness the collective wisdom of CDC employees stationed around the world. IdeaLab enables employees to use their insights and experiences to help colleagues build and implement high-impact solutions to important public health challenges.

Employees may post their “Ideas” or “Help Wanted” requests, comment on other users’ posts, and vote on the quality of the posts and comments. Submissions are attributed and authenticated in real time. Ideas are categorized according to CDC organizational goals, and related ideas are affinity-grouped using tag clouds. A weekly “Bright Idea” highlights a submission that has broad agency interest across multiple national centers and offices. All communications are stored in a searchable archive that anyone at CDC can review at anytime.

The Benefit

IdeaLab was recently launched to better leverage CDC’s capacity and maximize the health impact of CDC programs while promoting transparency, trust, participation, and collaboration. IdeaLab will

  • Increase connectivity of CDC employees who support multidisciplinary, evidence-based solutions
  • Promote scientific crowd-sourcing and peer-2-peer networking to build ideas, enable virtual piloting and refinement of ideas, and foster rapid implementation and adoption of the best ideas
  • Foster retention and sharing of institutional memory
  • Improve interactions among networks of knowledge
  • Improve orientation for and assimilation by new employees
  • Accelerate health impacts by increasing employee-driven innovation and improving organizational efficiency

Additional Details

Currently under development, a new facet for IdeaLab called the “Health Explorer” features an interactive global map that employees can use to learn about important health matters and challenges within the United States and around the world. CDC is also interested in exploring the use of IdeaLab or a similar tool to launch an external innovation community to gain new perspectives on solving challenging health problems.

For more information, email