adrienne baer



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 were to introduce people to the concept of social innovation, help people find their passion, and introduce design thinking!


We developed our curriculum with a conventional human-centered design approach at the center. We added a "lever layer"focusing encouraging different ways to approach action given our corporate environment. Basically, a roadmap for leveraging Optum's human capital, skills, and profits.

Curriculum was developed in a newsletter format delivered via email. More details below.



Lever Lab launched in the Spring of 2019 with 5 teams focusing on topics such as employee mental health, social determinants of health, and transitioning to new workplaces.


Each team had a two types of mentorship:

  • a senior level mentor from Optum's Executive Development Program

  • a team of innovation coaches - one student and one faculty member from the University of Maryland

Over the course of ten-weeks, participants received curriculum via email and had weekly coaching and mentorship sessions. They received an email on Monday mornings with reading, videos, and action items related to their individual projects. While completing action items, participants received feedback on business objectives and leveraging internal resources from their senior level mentors and received feedback on the viability and inventiveness of ideas from their innovation coaching team.

Projects were pitched to a board of executives after ten-weeks, including to the head of Optum's Corporate Social Responsibility team.

Optum has continued to run the Lever Lab curriculum even after my exit from the company to attend school.