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UCLA communicators ‘raise the bar’ on Depression Grand Challenge storytelling

The UCLA Depression Grand Challenge hosted a speed-ideation session at the university’s 2023 Bar Raiser Summit: DISRUPTx, a full-day professional development workshop for communications professionals across the campus. The breakout session, which attracted more than 120 university storytellers, engaged attendees in a rapid creative session to reimagine key descriptors and language for the DGC’s overarching strategic objectives.

In an introductory film, DGC Director Nelson B. Freimer, MD, provided an overview of the vision for the campuswide grand challenge and its eight-year growth, milestones and successes toward its goal to cut the global burden of depression in half by 2050 through innovative research and treatments.

“What’s contributed to our success is the ongoing prioritization of cultivating relationships with experts, leaders, partners, philanthropists and stakeholders from around the world, who share and invest in our vision,” Freimer said. “With our playbook, world-class expertise and a lens of inclusion and representation, UCLA is focused and best positioned to continue leading on the solutions for this grand societal problem.”

DGC Executive Director Michelle Popowitz and Director of Communications Anne Dahlem further shared the program’s core values and strategic focus before inviting attendees to participate in a rapid and collaborative iteration process, which included best ideas being put to a room vote, to conceptualize, simplify and better articulate the complexities of the work uplifting and driving the Depression Grand Challenge.

Popowitz said, “We were inspired by a similar rapid idea-sharing process we used when we initially set our sights on depression as a university-wide goal. It was exciting to employ this process with UCLA communicators who brought their storytelling expertise, Bruin-passion and a fresh perspective to the table. Each group crafted engaging new language to describe what we are doing in a way that is more accessible to stakeholders.

“We are grateful to the UCLA communications professionals who lent their talents to the DGC in this session, which we also designed to add new creative approaches to their toolkit. Thank you also to the UCLA Strategic Communications team for inviting the DGC as a featured breakout session at the annual Bar Raiser Summit. It was a rewarding and inspiring day and broadened the reach and understanding of the DGC among this important constituency of UCLA.”

The UCLA Depression Grand Challenge is a groundbreaking campuswide approach that focuses its capabilities and expertise while leveraging new collaborations with outside sectors toward the shared goal. Currently the DGC is focused on discovering the types and causes of depression, developing new treatments and putting new understanding and strategies into practice, especially for communities underserved by current systems and methods.