Stepping out of the mid-day Bay Area heat and into the open, tailored space, we crowd around Doctor Alan Schroeder, Director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Smiling nurses, wearing red cloth shirts with flower pins, calmly navigate our surrounding area.
As Dr. Schroeder welcomes us to the medical center, many of us eagerly tip our heads to peer down the colorful halls. A rolling noise catches all of our attention – a little girl in a bright yellow plastic car slips into view, giggling nervously as she spots our crew. “Watch out, everyone,” Dr. Schroeder jokes. “She doesn’t have her license yet.”
Standing in the entrance of the Pediatric Unit of the Women and Children’s Center (WCC), located on the fifth floor of the San Jose Silicon Valley Medical Center, we can already tell that magic is everywhere. A collection of photographs drapes the walls in celebration of children from around the world. Embedded into this thread of décor, creatively curated panels of paintings, featuring butterflies, flowers, zebras, flamingoes, giraffes, and more, often with their heads bowed into the shapes of hearts, bring the space to life in blooming compassion.
The first display we see – a six-piece panel of a butterfly resting on the petals of a flower – carries a subtle note in its right-hand corner: “Love, SAP America.” Shoulders bump as the reminiscent members of our team lean closer to see the cursive on the art. Their similarly-clad backs press together, where each shirt shares the same message, “Helping the world run better.”
In December of 2013, the SAP Design and Co-Innovation Center (DCC) brought together members of the SAP Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) with those of the Sharks Foundation to facilitate a unique design thinking workshop. “Based on our sponsorship agreement, SAP directs about $375,000 annually to the Sharks Foundation. Going into the workshop, we knew there was huge potential to create social impact through our partnership,” recalls Sally Lawler Kennedy, Innovation and Design Research Principal at SAP and the leader of the workshop. “We used design thinking to define that impact, and then we created several visions for fun and exciting community activities and programs for the partnership.”
Uniting the minds of about twenty SAP innovators and Sharks Foundation activists, the design thinking workshop generated over a hundred new and interesting investment opportunities. One of those ideas sought to re-invent healthcare in the San Jose community, striving for greater resources and stronger care for women and children.
Now, just six months later, what began as a dream on a sticky-note has already begun to take shape in the real world as a legacy project: the $750,000 donation from SAP and the Sharks Foundation sponsoring the Pediatric Floor in the WCC, to be delivered over the next three years, marks a first major milestone in reaching the Center’s $25 million fundraising goal for 2016.
Today, we visit this Pediatric Floor for the very first time, many of us as DCC members in fond remembrance of the workshop that started it all.
As Dr. Schroeder guides us through the pediatric intensive care unit, we realize its intimacy: it boasts a nurse-to-patient ratio of 1:2 and consistently produces excellent outcomes in patient care as a Level 2 Pediatric Trauma Center. “We always encourage families to spend the night,” our guide comments. “We’re happy to accommodate them. I mean, it’s not a hotel, but it’s something.”
A strongly empathetic element, reminiscent of the human-centered design approach embodied by SAP’s DCC, prevails in the center. Our curious eyes find a playroom teeming with oil pastels, puzzles, sand art, stained glass, and a television set, its door teasingly propped open with a chalkboard, welcoming in patients and their families. Stickers of animated owls, trees, and vines adorn not only the internal walls of patient rooms, but also the door leading inside, creatively reconciling the experience of visiting a hospital patient with that of visiting a friend within the comfort of his or her own personal bedroom.
Many of these art pieces can be attributed to the nonprofit arts group Silicon Valley Creates, whose careful hand in designing the wing redefines the healing process in a very deliberate, beautiful way. As our eyes eagerly trace our surroundings, Dr. Schroeder laughs, “You haven’t even seen the roof yet.”
A 12-foot long, bright red play structure welcomes us onto the ledge of the roof, complete with several slides and enough space for kids to run, jump, and climb to their hearts’ delight. Navigating around a few plastic jeeps parked around the structure, we find ourselves overlooking beautiful views both below – where the bustling San Jose city expands like a maze and trails off into the distance – and beside us – where the lengthy, painted ledge simulates a winding, divergent road on green terrain.
When we ask about what’s next, we hear more than one vision for the future. For one, the hospital dreams of extending the walls of the roof higher to create an even bigger safety net for children’s play and greater opportunity for play structure features. Inside the pediatric unit, the doctors and nurses hope to bring in paw prints for the windows and floors, adding an even more playful and friendly touch to the space. They also imagine providing coffee and treats for visiting families and playing light music in the background of the center, to ameliorate the stress that a hospital environment often carries and instead create a more therapeutic and calming space for visitors.
“Since the design thinking workshop just six months ago, we’ve been able to watch this amazing project come to fruition and become this unbelievable, iconic thing in San Jose,” remarks Jeff Cafuir, the Manager of the Sharks Foundation. “One little idea helped catalyze the changes and progress we’ve made up until today, and now we only have more and more ideas for the future. It’s only the beginning.”
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