Meet Pam Scott
Design Researcher + Innovation Catalyst
I’ve always been fascinated by people. At an early age, my mom introduced me to what became one of my favorite pastimes – ‘people-watching.’ I grew up appreciating the differences, similarities, quirks and habits of the people around me. Little did I know my early curiosity about my fellow humans would inspire my work as a business owner and later as a philanthropist.
Since the late 1980’s, I’ve practiced various aspects of Human Centered Design (HCD). The philosophy behind HCD is that, before you take on any design challenge, you must first delve into the lives of the people your design is intended to serve. Only after truly understanding them as real flesh-and-blood human beings can we design extraordinary, and even delightful, solutions to the challenges they face.
In 2003, I married my husband Tim Koogle, founding CEO of Yahoo! At that point, I no longer had financial reason to work. This was a bit up-ending because I never imagined myself not working. So, I pivoted from helping corporate clients to helping social sector leaders become more human-centered in their approach to solving problems around the globe.
My early efforts as a philanthropist focused on advancing the access of quality education for underprivileged children. As I got closer to the issue, I learned that parents in the developing world are often faced with the horrible choice of sending all of their children to school or feeding their families. Of course, they opt to feed their families. When parents decide which of their children to send to school, it’s typically the boys who get that privilege. This is why Tim and I have invested heavily in school scholarships for girls. We believe parents should never have to choose food over educating all of their children.
Among the girls who are lucky enough to go to school, their education is often at risk. All around the world, girls who become pregnant unintentionally are not only kicked out of their schools, but also often kicked out of their communities and sometimes even their families. When this happens, a girl and all of her future children enter a continuous cycle of even deeper poverty. We realized that addressing education wasn’t enough. Tim and I agreed we wanted to stop unintended teen pregnancy as well.
To do this, I needed to find an organization with an appetite for risk and innovation – a scaling partner who would be open to bringing Human Centered Design to the issue of unintended teen pregnancy. Enter PSI, a pioneering organization that has been addressing reproductive health since the 1970’s. Together PSI and I are partnering with IDEO.org (an organization for which I also serve on the board) to bring HCD to the issue of unintended teen pregnancy in Tanzania. As you might imagine, the problem is complex and surrounded by a dubious web of cultural norms. By coming at the challenge with true empathy for the girls, their parents and even the healthcare workers who deny adolescents their legal right to conception, we are in the process of developing some potentially game-changing ideas.
Making the big + bold commitment to PSI and the issue of teen pregnancy prevention has given me a greater sense of hope and for the innovation I’m able to bring to social change. I’m hopeful that, within my lifetime, I will put a dent in the issue of unintended teen pregnancy and provide girls the education and opportunities they need to thrive.
Kate Roberts Describes the Impact
SVP, Corporate Partnerships & Philanthropy, Population Services International and Co-founder, Maverick Collective
Population Services International (PSI) is a leading global health organization with programs targeting malaria, child survival, HIV, reproductive health, gender-based violence and non-communicable disease. What makes PSI unique is a focus on measurement, a commitment to innovation and the use of proven business practices for health solutions.
Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for girls ages 15-19 in developing countries (excluding China and Southeast Asia). In Tanzania, 44% of girls become mothers by the age of 18, and Pam Scott was passionate about doing something to change this. She partnered with PSI and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to pilot a Human Centered Design approach to address unintended teen pregnancy in Tanzania. She brought not only her generous financial support, but also her time, talent and network to approach the issue taking into account the girls and their communities. Her commitment far exceeds her financial support, and as a founding member of Maverick Collective, a philanthropic and advocacy initiative of PSI to end extreme poverty by investing in girls and women, she has been instrumental in building a new model of philanthropy.
As a co-creator of the Tanzania project, Pam challenges our organization to take risks and think more creatively about how we can engage girls and women as we work with them to solve the biggest challenges they face. With her leadership, we have partnered with IDEO.org to identify several potential design strategies to address teen pregnancy in the country. Next, we aim to change the attitudes and behavior of health providers to ensure girl-friendly reproductive health services and leverage the results with government and foundation donors.
Her partnership, support and role as a Founding Member of Maverick Collective, enables us to pilot and prototype new models for innovation. She has become an effective advocate, is leveraging future government funding, and improving the way health services and products are delivered to girls and women. Pam is an inspiration for PSI and for others who desire to be a hands-on philanthropist, bringing their skills and knowledge to changing the way philanthropy is done.