In August of 2018, OptumInsight launched a campaign called "Life's Best Work" to fund social impact and philanthropy within Optum. I submitted an application to form Lever Lab: an internal accelerator and social intrapreneurship curriculum specific to Optum. Spoiler alert: I was awarded $2000 to fund internal ideas and the accelerator is pending approval as a 2019 year budget line item.

Teammate: Michael Madigan (fellow Optum employee and instigator)


I work in Optum's Boston location. The Boston office does a TON of service work, but it often falls outside of the healthcare domain. I wondered... what would be the best way to leverage employees desire to have an impact (as evidenced by the service) and our vast capabilities and resources at Optum?


This was our first How Might We. Over time, we shifted our focus to social intrapreneurship. How can become a more socially impactful place to work? How can we help employees have the innovation ideas heard?

After talking to Graham McLaughlin and Callie Chamberlain - leading the new Social Responsibility efforts at Optum - we decided the best first step was to create a curriculum!

Our first goals - introduce people to the concept of social innovation, help people find their passion, and introduce design thinking!

As we developed our curriculum, I sketched a model to capture different ways of change-making within Optum.

The idea is that there is a relatively standard human-centered design approach at the center. With a "lever layer" to the outside encouraging different ways to approach action given our corporate environment.

I created a digital version of the COG (canvas of good) and adjusted the contents.

Michael and I together decided upon 6 "levers" or methods of change-making.

These fall around the outside of the canvas and serve as constraints - a participant should ideate at least one idea for each type!

Then I created a curriculum scaffold of what should go with the COG.


The COG sits on an internal website with a variety of resources

(can be shown upon request)

  • worksheets for each ring of the canvas

  • definitions of each of the levers and what they mean internally to Optum

  • resources and articles about Corporate Social Innovation vs. Corporate Social Responsibility, Intrapreneurship, Design Thinking, etc.


Now, with our website and curriculum live, Michael and I have begun coaching our first team through the canvas. They are investigating how Optum can ease the transition from college to working life and examine our usage of available mental health resources, such as our employee assistance program.

As mentioned earlier, we received $2000 to accelerate ideas through the enterprise.


This project is just beginning and I cannot wait to see how it evolves.

One major take away is that enthusiasm goes a long way! It was daunting presenting my idea to an executive and hoping for financial and systematic report. At the end of our first conversation, he was excited to work with me because I was so passionate - the idea ended up being secondary.

We move through the world by connecting with others. Truly articulating my passion and showing excitement made me feel vulnerable, but it paid off.