Updated March 23 at 12:28am

Rhode Island Foundation names 2013 innovation fellows


PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Foundation has announced the two winners of its 2013 Rhode Island Innovation Fellowship, an annual program designed to stimulate solutions to Rhode Island problems by the state’s residents.

This year, Adrienne Gagnon and Dr. Lynn E. Taylor were chosen from a pool of 180 original applicants for their projects on “design thinking” and Hepatitis C, respectively. The winning proposals were selected by a panel chaired by Rhode Island Foundation President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg.

Gagnon was selected for her “Innovation by Design” project, which seeks to “foster the next generation of Rhode Island innovators by bringing the transformation tools of ‘design thinking’ to students across the state,” according to her project page on the Rhode Island Foundation’s website.

As part of her project, Gagnon plans to send out mobile design labs that have been repurposed from retired shipping containers to parks, school yards and vacant lots in Rhode Island cities to “engage students in free, hands-on design programs that will improve our communities.”

Gagnon will work with students to design and create structures, products, public awareness campaigns and other interventions to “strengthen their neighborhoods, while also gaining academic and life skills.”

“I believe that by offering Rhode Island youth the tools of design thinking, we can create a generation of entrepreneurs, of creators, of engaged citizens who see challenges as opportunities and work together to solve them,” said Gagnon on her project page. “This fellowship will fund not just one great idea, but an entire generation of Rhode Island residents full of great ideas.”

The Innovation by Design project also plans to develop an online interactive design curriculum portal that will be available to all Rhode Island school districts, as well as a summer institute for teachers on using design thinking in classrooms.

Taylor was selected for her plan to make Rhode Island the first state to eradicate Hepatitis C. Taylor – a doctor, researcher, public health advocate and Brown University professor – called Hep C a “time bomb in Rhode Island,” on her project page on the Rhode Island Foundation’s website.

On the project page, Taylor said that, with the medical community on the verge of a “game-changing” shift in HCV therapy, Rhode Island’s cure rate could potentially be 100 percent, if the state scales up its delivery system, which “barely exists now.”

Taylors project is a multi-step plan that includes: awareness, rapid testing, linkage to care, building infrastructure for a sustainable model and evaluation.

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