Steven McDermott Chosen for Innovation for Impact

Steve and Maddie at workSteven McDermott is a program manager for Sawyer Street Behavioral Health Program in South Portland. He is also one of thirty people chosen in a national competition to be part of Innovation for Impact, a nationwide pilot program from Volunteers of America, designed to create a roadmap for identifying challenges and opportunities and tackling solutions. As part of the Innovation for Impact pilot, 30 Volunteers of America family members from across the nation with diverse experiences are collaborating to uncover novel ideas and put those ideas into action. Teams will work closely together over the coming months to develop actionable plans and research for a number of potential internally and externally facing innovations. Solving problems in this way will use proven innovation and business development tools combined with a strong focus on the needs, hopes and desires of the people we serve.

Ninety proposals were submitted in the competition and the thirty participants narrowed it down to five ideas to examine closely.


The group of thirty met face to face in Chicago. George Aye ( presented on "design thinking," a different approach to problem solving. To practice what Aye was presenting, the group was told to come up with different uses for a brick and then to describe the use to their teammates

They learned divergent and convergent thinking, and the opportunities that can be gleaned from both approaches. Steven's team is studying a mobile health unit that can be a modifiable template to work within the context of different affiliates, or even renting out to (for instance) Veteran's Administration clients.

This led to a discussion about "telehealth" for areas where there is not enough population density to support a facility, or where clients tend to miss appointments do to health or financial challenges. With a Mobile Health Unit, physicals could be conducted onsite where clients live.

Steven listed actionable keywords for their process: "Ideate, Integrate, Reflect, Blueprint, Discover, Define, Develop, Deliver." Evocative verbs for a fascinating study.

The groups will have 5-8 hours per week working independently as individuals and meeting on the phone, then will reconvene in January. To learn more or follow their progress,