Thesis topic: supporting cancer patients with emotional turbulence

What is the problem I will be focusing on and why is it a good topic for thesis?

I will focus on supporting cancer patients with their emotional turbulence especially when they are diagnosed initially. 

I think it is a good topic for thesis because -

Firstly, It is a wide-ranging issue. “In 2016, an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States, and about 39.6 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer of any site at some point during their lifetime.” The emotional turbulence from being diagnosed would effect on quite a number of people’s life.

The other reason is for individual, the emotional turbulence has influence on symptom perception, treatment outcomes and quality of life. 

According to the research: 

  • “About 20–40% of cancer patients have reported significant levels of depressive mood and anxiety, and these patients typically have reported higher frequency and severity of clinical symptoms, including pain, fatigue, poor appetite and sleep disturbance.” 
  • “In animal models of cancer, stress was found to decrease the efficacy of or resistance to chemotherapeutic agents.”
  • “Mood disturbance is correlated with poor quality of life on physical, functional, social, emotional aspects ”and their relationship with doctors.”


What makes this issue fit into the context of social innovation?

The issue is based on a big healthcare system and it influences 39.6% men and women and their family’s life. People who affected by this issue not only the cancer patients, but also their family, friends, doctors, nurses and social workers. The intervention could be measured by the contrast of patients emotional feelings and whether they can truly accept the diagnosis or not.


What communities will I be looking to engage?

I’m trying to engage with cancer support communities to get in touch with cancer patients and survivors. I agree with Maggie’s suggestions before, to find some cancer survivors who wrote articles or shared their stories online, they would be more open to talk about their experience. And recently I found one cancer survivor whose name is Ashford. She shared her journey on blog with me and I’m trying to keep in touch with her. I still try to reach out some support groups on facebook, twitter and, got few feedback and some refusal. I will keep doing that and I also plan to print some flyers and post them up in oncology hospital and everywhere to find cancer patients and survivors to talk with. 

What are some research approaches or concept forms you are interested in experimenting with during the thesis process?

One-to-one interview and focus group. These two approaches I want to experiment most. One is for talking about more personal experience and feelings, the other is to find common problems as a group. 


Research activities I did this semester and what key insights I learned from them.

My thesis topic has been changed a little during this semester, at the beginning it was about hospice care and understanding of death, and my target group was cancer patients. So I went to Hospice of New York organization and interviewed the workers there. 

Now my thesis target audience is still the cancer patients, but I adjusted the topic direction to the emotional turbulence when cancer patients are diagnosed initially. For these few weeks, my main research approach is desk research to get more knowledge background and some basic information. I found that there are many groups, organizations doing relative research in this area and most of them are really helpful. 

Some key insights I learned from research:

  • According to the Cancer Experience Map (experience timeline), in the diagnosis stage, the single most important behaviour for patients is to accept the diagnosis. 
  • In the diagnosis stage, the pain point for cancer patients is that they would feel shock and crisis, feeling betrayed by their body, feats of incapacitation and death, and how do they tell people. 
  • People feel stressed to be positive.
  • The stress comes from emotional turbulence and physical uncomfortable influence the treatment outcomes.


Research activities I will be engaging in over the summer. What questions will I be looking to answer or get more information on?

For the next few months, I’ll try to find the answer about what factors effect the emotional turbulence, what emotions the patients would have, and what ways to deal with it. 

I’ll get in touch with cancer support groups, interview as many cancer patients and cancer survivors as I can. At the same time I also need to get in touch with oncologist, psycho-oncologist, and social workers to help me filling the gap which I might miss in my knowledge background. 


What do I think will be the hardest part of my thesis topic and how am I addressing it?

I think the hardest part of my thesis topic is to reach out my audience, not only the the most important audience - cancer patients and survivors, but also doctors, nurses and social workers. Because my thesis topic is sensitive and I don’t know any person who has cancer in US. 

I talk about this with some people recently, and Yena, a second year student, gives me a suggestion that since the topic is a little bit sensitive, maybe I should try to ask a lot of my friends if they know some patients and introduce me to them. I will still try to reach out some people online but maybe this way would help me to build a relatively strong relationship with cancer patients and survivors so that I can continually get in touch with them in the following one year. 

If I find someone to interview, I want to ask these following questions:

  • What kind of cancer do you have and in which stage?
  • How long time have you had cancer?
  • Do you remember how the doctor said the diagnosis result to you? Can you describe the experience to me?
  • How did you feel at that moment?(Do you have the emotional turbulence?)
  • How did you feel at the first week after being diagnosis? How did the result influence your life?
  • Where did you find the strongest emotional support?
  • What was your family’s reaction when they knew you have cancer?
  • How did you go through that difficult process?
  • Do you want to share any story with me about this journey?

"The toolkit"

Be clear of what is Current reality and desired reality

I find that when I explain my thesis process these two words are mentioned many many times. It is a really good and clear way to show people and myself about where I am and where I want to go. 


Keep asking why and make sure each step has a reason

The design process is more like a dialogue and to understand this easily, it’s better to explain what is the difference between dialogue and monologue. In monologue, we provide the experience we think users want, but once we get that feedback in no matter verbal or nonverbal way, we’re turning into a dialogue, and it’s our job to deliver on what users really want. So keeping asking myself “why why why” is a good way to do the self reflection about each decision I make. 


Make sure the Priority of audience 

Make sure who is most important audience for this project. It is true that there are a lot of audiences in a particular system, and they all influence each other or influence the fact in their way. But my time and energy are limited, I need to put them in some order. 

For example in CHW project, I was having so much passion about interviewing patients and getting to know their experience. But I cannot do things just because of the passion, the most effective way to solve a problem is to make sure who is the most important audience I need to reach out. And for the secondary audiences, I also need to talk with them but I need to do it in priority order.


ask you self what is The single most important message you want to tell to the audience

Find the real demand from the target group or the point they really care, and figure out based on the need, what is the single most important message I want to deliver. And then translate the message to creative idea. Design is a very logical process, each step should be based on a reason. The message helps me to clear my mind and always be the guideline when I feel lost. 


try to stay alone in a quiet place when you need to pay most attention on something and be creative

I usually think that group working is the most creating way to work, especially people can get inspired by others’ ideas. Because of this thought, I experienced a very tough period time during this semester, which I found during some group meetings, my brain is just blank and I cannot generate any brilliant creative ideas. This makes feel so sad and begin to question myself about “Am I a creative person?” “How can a designer work without the ability of creativity?” 

I’m a very sensitive person, and it is too easy for me to notice the atmosphere and the relationship in a group. Sometimes it is not a good thing because that would distract my attention from the work. It really bother me and I cannot control myself to close my sense. I’m trying but that’s hard. 

After doing the reading about being more creative when someone stay alone in a quiet place, I began to have the awareness or I can say I start to notice how different my state is when I think alone without interruption and when I work and discuss in a group. I’m so glad to see that I still have to creative ability especially when I sitting in a quiet place and pay all of my attention on one problem I need to solve, and most of the time, they are good. 

Then I found the most effective way for me to do a work, is when I feel stuck on somewhere or I need to have some ideas about one project, I need to have the time to think alone first, then bring them to a meeting or group work and discuss it. Also I think that would be effective for most of us. 

I really like this tool just because it helps me know more about myself. 


Put it in words, if you cannot say it, you cannot do it

I just want to say, that’s so true. Especially when I try to explain my thesis to someone, I find when I mind is messy, I cannot describe it in a very logical way. It’s usually like saying saying and suddenly cannot keeping going. Then I know I’m stuck in somewhere. 


As little as possible, as much as necessary

It reminds me “the 30 seconds elevator speech”. An elevator speech is a clear, brief message which communicates three basic information in 30 seconds. A clear and brief message has the biggest power because every single word is just on the point, directly and accurately. 



It’s a very useful tool which should be used at the beginning of a project. It includes Background, Assignment, Goals, Audiences, Barriers and Truths. It helps me to clear the situation at the beginning and also a basic guideline to let me check in the later process when I find I’m a little bit lost my way or feel that I’m stuck. 



Although maybe I still cannot create a good enough story, but I like the way to communicate our works to others. I want to make the notes of the Eight Classic Storytelling Techniques, just in case I forget some of them in the future. 

  • Monomyth or Hero’s Journey
  • The Mountain (This one is very dramatic)
  • Nested Loops (Three or more narratives layered within one story)
  • Spark Lines (Contrast the ordinary world with the vision, the ideal)
  • In Media Res
  • Converging Ideas
  • False Start (Begin something that sounds predictable, then turn the tables and shock or at least surprise.)
  • Petal Structure (Organize multiple speakers around a common theme)

According to the few times practice, it seems like I usually use the Spark Lines because I always pay more attention on the “current reality” and “desired reality”, and the contrast between them. I mean it is good but I hope in sometime I can try more other techniques. 


Do not put so much energy to against with something. Creating a better one defends on the reality and see if it works, It works!

I generate this principle from the quote of Bucky Fuller: "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." 


If you cannot explain it, show it

Explain ideas to people not only in words but also using sketch or mock up to show them, would be easier to let people know what I mean. 


re-identify the problem of my thesis

The problem

According to the Cancer Experience Map (experience timeline), the cancer patients experience journey includes the continuum of five stages from initial cancer diagnoses to preparing for the end of life: Diagnosis(Initial) - Treatment Decisions - Active Treatment - End of Active Treatment, After Treatment - Recurrence. 

Cancer Experience Map: created by JMIR Publications (

Cancer Experience Map: created by JMIR Publications (

Patients in each stage have the common situational stressors. And I found that the moment when people were diagnosed, they suffered emotional turbulence - they felt shock, fear of incapacitation and death, feel betrayed by their bodies, and wonder how to tell others about the diagnosis. 

Patients usually need to experience an “U” emotional process, “Emotionally, you don’t drop to th\e= bottom; you get thrown to the bottom. I think most people do. It’s a matter of how long some people stay there.” How long time people’s emotion back, and how do they feel will influence the following stages of treatment.

People feel stressed to be positive. There are a lot of suggest and guidance which tell those patients that they need to be positive because it is good for them. But most of time saying “be positive” doesn’t really cheer patients, on the contrary would let them feel stressed when they cannot really be positive.  

According to my research, in this stage, the single most important behaviour for patients is to accept the diagnosis. 

So the aim for my intervention here is to support those patients to go through the emotional turbulence and help them accept the diagnosis.


For next step

To answer these following questions -

How much the emotional turbulence would influence the patients’ life and the following treatment process. (professional) - how valuable my work will be

What are the specific emotions that patients would have (fear, guilty, angry…) and what are the factors which could result in those emotion. 

Where is the most emotional support coming from?

My mission before is “looking at death teach me how to live”, is there any chance to achieve it in this project?


How does my thesis topic/nugget qualify as social innovation?

People affected by this issue

The target group is the elderly people who suffer from the serious illness such as cancer, and are terminally ill to live in their end of life. Every year, estimated 23,585 people dead because of cancer. The percent of all cancer sites deaths is highest among people aged 75-84.

Cancer patient, terminally ill, age around 75-84.

According to the research from National Cancer Institute:

- Number of New Cases and Deaths per 100,000: The number of new cases of all cancer sites was 454.8 per 100,000 men and women per year. The number of deaths was 171.2 per 100,000 men and women per year. These rates are age-adjusted and based on 2008-2012 cases and deaths.

- Lifetime Risk of Developing Cancer: Approximately 39.6 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with all cancer sites at some point during their lifetime, based on 2010-2012 data.

- Prevalence of This Cancer: In 2012, there were an estimated 13,776,251 people living with all cancer sites in the United States.

Death rates for cancer are higher among the middle-aged and elderly populations. The number of deaths was 171.2 per 100,000 men and women per year based on 2008-2012 deaths.


How the issue (and/or behavior change related to the issue) could be measured

Current reality for those group of people is that the experience of life after being diagnosed is not as good as the life they live before. But the end of life is also a part of life, so my desired reality is to help those group of people improve their quality of life. And the measure way could be the contrast of life experience. (Including physical and psychological feeling)


The relationship of the thesis topic to a social or structural problem

Deliver health care not only focus on medical session, treat patient as in a human way

Relationship between doctors (hospitals) and patients & their family members

Bias for hospice care service

Aging of population


#thesis# When we talk about death...

Since I begin to think about "Hospice Care" or "Palliative Care" as a topic or kind of one direction of my thesis, I've been trying to get to know more about this area, trying to think about what is exactly the thing that attract me.

It's a heavy topic, but it's about humanity. Sometimes we don't like to talk about it, but we do care it, like we care the ending of a beautiful story, we of course care the ending of our and our loved ones’ life. 

In China, the hospice care is not very widespread, or we don't even know there is an organisation or kind of service like that. It seems like family members usually care the physical treatment more than the experience or feelings that patients or themselves would have. And also for us, it's kind of taboo to talk about "death". 

I notice the reason why I I have this topic in my mind is about my grandpa. He died of lung cancer and had a really bad experience in hospital to spend his last few days of his life. He felt pain, weakness, and scared. And after my grandpa passed away, my grandma could not accept it, and because of less psychological counselling, she has depressed for a very long time, even now.  And for the whole family, we all love my grandpa, we want to let him accept the best medical treatment. But the reality was, there were a lot of facilities around him and what I can see seems that the "over" treatment aggravated his suffering and made him feel worse. 

Michael Hebb: Let's have dinner and talk about death

Michael Hebb: Let's have dinner and talk about death

"Generally the patients who have the highest expenditures at the highest suffering, pain, depression and more often that not, they die sooner." Told by Timothy Ihrig, a palliative care physician, "... those individuals who had more tests, more bills, more chemotherapy or more whatever, the more what we do to someone, it decreases the quality of their life. And it shortens it, most often. " 

"Hospice is care for people who are in the last stages of a terminal illness up until their last breath. " (Alia Indrawan at TEDxUbud). As a hospice nurse, Alia said the most important thing that the experience taught her was, it's not really about how much time we have, it's how we live these moments we have, that matter. 

I like an international movement which called "Death Over Dinner". The goal of this project is to gather people from different area and background to dine and discuss their views on the end-of-life. Michael Hebb, the founder of this movement, gave a talk on TEDMED and one of his words I really like :

"... Looking at death has taught me how to live."


This is not about end of life, this is about life. Even if I have no idea what can I do yet, but I have a strong willing to do something in this area, as a human, for human. 






- Michael Hebb: Let's have dinner and talk about death:

-  essons from a hospice nurse: Alia Indrawan at TEDxUbud:

- Palliative Care, a Different Voice in Healthcare: Timothy Ihrig at TEDxDesMoines:

"i want to go home"

Tonight When I search some information about Palliative Care, I see a sentence from Lower Cape Fear HOSPICE's website:

"Most hospice patients receive care and support in their own homes, in familiar surroundings with loved ones..."

This remind me the several days before my grandpa passed by. Most of the time, he was in a coma, but once he waked, the only sentence he constantly repeated is "I want to go home" ... Every time when he said that I just felt like breaking my heart, he felt unsafe, he felt scared, he wanted to go home, like a child afraid of outside world. But they wouldn't. The doctors and nurses ignored his afraid, and left him in that having advanced facilities but cold hospital. It's their job, understandable, so that they just treated him as a patient, not a human. 

When I was five years old, my first day in kindergarten, I was crying super loudly and told to my parents "I want to go home".

When I was 15 years old, my first time traveling abroad by myself and lived in a homestay. The language barrier and sense of lonely made me feel so sad. I sat on my bed, wept and said to the moon "I want to go home".


I don't know why, I just feel so sorry for my grandpa. I know at that moment there were no any possible to let him go home, a lot of facilities worked around him and continued his life.  I can totally understand, but just feel so sorry...

No one took him home, like they always did to me when I was a little girl. 


[game design] games toolbox

This weekend I tried to play this game. At the beginning I thought I might feel boring soon because there is no music or any photos or animation. But later I found it is a really good intervention! Or we can say, a really good game. 

No other things to distract the player’s attention, I paid a lot of attention on those words. I found they are so normal as we are all facing everyday. 

As a player, the game let me know, everyday could happen something and any choice I made can influence my life. During playing the game, I can know many details of low-income people’s life. For instance one in four Americans doesn’t have dental insurance and when they have to get an emergency surgery, that’s twice as expensive. “Over 44% of people living below the poverty line visit public library to get online.” I think the value of this game is not only to let us have a view of low-income people’s life, but also these information - it points some reality which I haven’t noticed before. 

During playing this game, my goal is not running out of the money and trying to live a better life or caring my family better. The left of money is always showing on the corner, very clear. And on the right side of the screen, I can see how many days I need to wait for the payment from my job. Like a lot of games, the SPENT is also about balancing and choices. The whole process of playing can evoke a strong feeling of empathy and I think it is smart for the game to offer a chance for players to transfer their feeling to a real action - donation. I think it is a game which has a strong social impact, maybe not so fun but meaningful.


It’s a new game for me and I start play it from this month. When I begin to pay more attention on “game” and want to try more, there are a lot of my friends recommend the Monument Valley to me at the same time.

When I try to play it at the first time, I felt really confused that what should I do or what kind of tools I can use to pass the game. So at that time I find the “exploration” maybe also a very important part of the game.

My favourite part of the game is the fantastic structure of architecture. They are so beautiful and super surprise when the structure changed by the perspective change. 

It’s a multiplayers game. If there are 5 players play the game, there should be 5 cards on the table, which 4 of them is A, 1 of them is B, B is the spy. (no matter how many players in the game, just to make sure there is one player to be the spy which means the person has a different card with other players) For example, A is ORANGE, and B is LEMON. 

Every player has a card and doesn’t let others know what they get. During each round, each player needs to say a word or a sentence to describe what they get in turns. People can not directly say the word they get on the card. The purpose of your description is to make players who have the same card with you know you are not the spy. At the same time, people can’t make the spy know what they get. In addition, the spy doesn’t know he or she is the spy or not. If you are the spy, your purpose is to make others think you are on their side. It means that you need to make others think you have the same card with them and the spy is someone else. As a spy, even you know the other word according to people’s description, you can’t protect yourself by describing the word which others’ have. Your description should be just for your word. 

After everyone describes for a round, the moderator will say three, two, one, and each play points to someone they think is the spy. The person who gets the most votes die. If there are only 3 players alive, the spy wins. Or the spy loss. 

I usually play this game with my friends when we take subway. I like it because this game is very simple and can be played at anytime and anywhere. Even no need a real card, we can type the two words on our phone and show each of them to players separately. There are a lot of thinking process in this game, and it all about the strategy and balancing. I think the key of the game is the two words. They should be very similar to each other, so that it will be hard to figure out who is the spy. 

This game I usually play during my “waiting” time, very simple and full of fun. Each level of the game has a special Target, limited Moves and Score. It is very clear to let players know what is their goal and how far along they are on the road to reaching the goal. Players can play in a strategic way - gathering “Striped” candy or “Wrapped” candy to clear as more candies as possible in one time, which I think is the most exciting moment during the game.

When I play it, I find that I’m usually addicted to it and cannot put my phone down, but I like the “total time limited” which after players keeping playing it for a long time, it forces you to wait several minutes or days to continue. I’m not sure whether the part is designed for this or not, but it really reduce worries of addiction. 

This is my favourite game and I always play it with a lot of my friends. I like it because the game is not only about the playing with cards, players need to role-play and debate for protecting themselves and convincing others. The moderator who controls the flow of the game has a really important role.

The rules of the game is a little complicated, the moderator have to know all the rules and the results after every action. The special villagers don't want to reveal their identity to the werewolves but they need to gain the trust from other villagers to avoid being lynched; and werewolves need to pretend that they are villagers so that not being killed during the day time; the general villagers maybe the most boring characters but still have a lot of play space according to different players. So I think it’s all about strategy and balancing, and full of challenge. 

As an extremely popular game, I have played it since I was a middle school student. It can simply be played by flipping a bottle and see which player is pointed. Or it can be combined with many other games. When someone lose that game, the “Truth or Dare” could be a punishment. 

There can be a lot of people play it at the same time, and the simple rule helps players understand easily. Choice of tool which is used in this game is very flexible, not only a bottle, it could be anything just to make sure the tool can “point” a player during each round of the game. It offers more creative space for players to adjust the game according to their specific situation. 

In addition, the questions for “Truth” and orders for “Dare” as the most important role make the game interesting and exciting. Players could be friends or someone they meet each other at first time, and the game would help them know each other better or a good way to break the ice. 

But some times we will find it is a little bit hard to think a funny “Dare” order or a good question for “Truth”, especially in very short time. So there are some people gather a lot of funny questions and put them online or some “question cards” are made especially for this game. 

As a whole I think, simple, flexible and multi-players are the key to make the game notable.



Platform: Digital / Website


First playing time: Feb 21, 2016






















Monument Valley


Platform: Digital / Mobil

Genre: Puzzle

First playing time: Feb 2016










Who is the spy!



Genre: Co-op Srategy; Multiplayers

First playing time: 2013

























candy crush


Platform: Digital / Mobil

Genre: Puzzle

First playing time: 2012














Platform: Tabletop

Genre: Co-op Srategy; Multiplayers

First playing time: 2010












truth or dare



Genre: Multiplayers

First playing time: 2007

"Work here is so hard" - Interview with Ehab

Ehab is a street vendor who sells hot food like “chicken over rice” to people. He comes from Egypt, and has been in United States for 7 years, in New York for 5 years. 

I know him because I usually buy food from his cart and we usually talk a lot. He is a very kind person and he works in the same place every day.

Winter time, when we all walk as fast as possible to avoid the cold weather outside, I notice that most of the time, the street vendors are still standing outside and do their work as usual. This makes me began to notice this group of people, what is their life looks like? 

He lives with his family in New York and goes back to Egypt once a year. He used to be an English teacher in Egypt and moved to United States for giving his kids a better future. “No one knows what gonna happen, I just want them to have a better future.” He said he doesn’t like the job but doesn’t have any other choice, especially the winter is cold and he has to stay outside whole day. 

He always stands in the corner of 6th avenue and 22nd street, starts work at 7 am every day and works 12 or 13 hours. At night the cart has to be moved back. Good to know, he has free time on weekend. 

He has a boss, who has a lot of employees but he said most of them don’t like the boss. Especially him, he really doesn’t like his boss. He repeats a lot of times about “Work here is so hard”. He said, it is very hard to find a job, and even he really doesn’t like the current job, he has no other choice but continue doing it. 

I also asked some questions about health issue. And he said he has health insurance and it’s ok for him. 

The interview with Ehab was about 16 minutes. Because of the language barrier (both of us), some questions can not go deeper as I expected before but the information I have now can already let me have a general understanding about his life. I think I need to talk to more this group of people so that I can find some common problem they have.

Interview with Alex

During this weekend I interviewed Alex, the second year student in DSI, who is working on health care area as his thesis topic. I decided to talk with him because I not only want to know more information about this area, but also hope to get some suggestions of the whole process of doing thesis.

But when I finished the interview I suddenly realised that the person I talk with should be someone I haven't known before, so I’m trying to get a contact with someone else now. 

For my thesis, I think there might be two directions that I can focus on: health care and homelessness, both of them are my interested areas. For this semester in communication class, I’m working with a client providing Health Coach service to patients, which makes me have more opportunities to get to know this area, so I decide to pick this area to explore first. 

Health Care is a huge system and each country, each city, each community even each hospital might be totally different in some specific area. How to narrow down my direction of the thesis is the biggest question I have in my mind. And also I want to know during the whole process of doing thesis, especially based on health care topic, what should I pay more attention to and what do I need to prepare from now?… I listed questions I had on my paper and began to contact with him. 

His thesis is about helping patients who have language barriers to have better access to health services and care. He said health care is a very complicated system because there are a lot of audiences (patients, patient’s family members, doctors, nurses, health insurance company, etc.) being connected to each other and no problem exist independently. What we need to do is trying to know and understand the system you focusing on and talk to people to know their past experiences. There are a lot if people or organisations work hard to improve the health services and patients’ experiences, but we still can find the different kind of gaps in this huge system. At last he mentioned that what I need to always keep in mind is the users are not only the patients - patients’ family members, doctors, nurses… they all could be the users that we need to consider.  

From this conversation, I get to know some information of health care system and the process of doing thesis in general The next step for me is trying to do research online to know more about this area and get in touch with some people who work in this area. 


ALL about health


I used to think “Health” means no sickness, feeling good, and it’s more like an individual issue. But when I really getting to know this area last semester, I found that all of things around us would affect our health, everything in the community is all about health. 

That is the insight I've learned so far. 

In the “Harlem First” project, our group’s topic is “people” which means we need to figure out what kind of relationship between “people” and “health”. It was a really broad topic but just because of it we realised that when we want to see the connection between people and health, we need to step back and see the whole map of people’s life. 

We took 100 photos of people’s hands. We talked to them and tried to know them and the community they living. As researching, we found that there are a lot of elements may affect people’s health, not only smoking, diet and physical activity habits but also the educational attainment, income, and a lot of factors but we usually not notice. In addition, physical and social environments in the community also can have big health effects. The pollution, crime, and lack of access to health care… It seems including everything. So when Carmen Quinones said “… everything you do is about health.” on Harlem First Panel, I was so excited and thought that “Yes! That is exactly what in my mind now!”

And this semester in communication class, we are working with City Health Works, a non-profit in Harlem, to pay more attention on health area in a community perspective. For me it’s like a continuation of “Harlem First” project and also a good opportunity to getting to know more of health system based on this neighbourhood.

five interventions I wish I authored or created

In Brazil, there are a lot of students who want to learn English and practice their spoken English with native speakers, but it is not easy for them to find those opportunities in their daily life. On the other hand, the seniors living in retirement homes got a big block of free time and have no idea what to do with these time. Especially when they stay at home by themselves, we usually feel longly and want to talk with someone. This project is about connecting the two groups of people via an exclusive digital tool that uses video chat technology to meet and talk to each other. “Students choose registered institution and topic suggested by the system, with the resulting conversations uploaded to a private YouTube channel for instructors to evaluate.” This solution is simple and benefits both of them. 

This project is my favourite because it was the first time to make me think of different types of design. I really like the way they build the communication bridge between two groups of people, which is using the resources we already have in this world instead of creating something new to solve a problem. I think it is a very smart solution and I wish I can do something smart the same.


Photographer Jonathan Diaz has founded the Anything Can Be project, to give hope and inspiration to these children, but also to raise funds for the fight against cancer through the sale of the book.

For little children, dreams are fancy and seem never out of reach, whether that be a princess or a Batman. But for some sick children, those dreams can seem further away, and this is the reason that photographer Jonathan Diaz has decided to use his talents to ensure those fantasies become a reality - he wants to use his photography to give those children something that they can look at and find hope and believe that anything is possible.

He explained: “I first had the idea for this project a while back when I took photos of my son who wants to be an NBA player. We were doing the photos and it made him so happy that I realised it would be a cool thing to do for children who had cancer.” Diaz asked the children what they would be if they could be anything. Their answers became the subjects for each fantastical photo. He printed all of the photos into a book and all royalties from the book will be donated to the Anything Can Be Project, which aims to continue doing these unique photo shoots.

I want to say this project really touched me. Those photos may not really help the sick children to win the battle with their cancer, but the experience is very meaningful for both the children and their family. They give them the hope. Also, it is really good to see that they utilise the royalties to continue their project. But I’m thinking maybe there is some opportunities for them in the future to combine the their project with some treatment program.


Lava Mae, founded by Doniece Sandoval, puts showers and toilets on retired buses to deliver hygiene and dignity for those experiencing homelessness. 

Sandoval said she was inspired to start Lava Mae after learning that there were only 16 shower stalls for the 3,500 plus homeless people who live on the streets of San Francisco. And one day when she saw a filthy homeless woman crying and saying she would never be clean, she was touched and hoped do something. Sandoval considers that if food could be made on trucks, putting showers and toilets on wheels should be able too. 

I like this program because the solution here not only helps those homeless people to have a chance to take a shower, but also deliver dignity to them. “With hygiene comes dignity; with dignity, opportunity.” Most of the homeless people cannot access jobs or maintain health and wellbeing when they can’t get clean. Sometimes we have to experience insurmountable difficulties in our life, we may lose hope, miss way, and even lose all the strength and courage. But we still need hope. This program gives them the chance to begin afresh for their life. 


Rosa's Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia has a “pay it forward” system. Customers can pre-purchase $1 slices for those in need, which are redeemed with a sticky note on the wall. Since that first pay-it-forward slice, they have given away almost 10,000 slice a pizza. Pre-purchased slices now represent a 10% of Rosa's business. “And it's having a remarkable impact on the community, showing not only that acts of kindness can be contagious, but also how a small gesture of support can have a ripple effect of positivity.”

People who pre-purchase the pizza would write their wish or anything they want to say on their “sticky notes”, and the homelessness will see the world when they receive the “pizza”. One day a young man came in and brought a lot of “pizza” for others. He said when he was suffering the insurmountable difficult situation, he ate a pizza here which made him feel full and warm. Later he found a job, the first thing is coming back to buy more pizza for others. 

I like this intervention because it let me know how individual behaviour can give a big impact to other people and even can infect the whole community to have the power to spread the social impact. . 


Every day, thousands of South Asian labourers arrive to Dubai to work for a better future. They live far away from home, and hope can hear their family’s voice everyday even just few minutes. But it’s hard because the high paid for making an international phone call. 

Coca-Cola noticed the demand for them and turned Coca-Cola bottle caps into currency. People can use one bottle cap instead of coins for a free 3 minutes phone call. 

I put this project on my list because I think this intervention is so smart. First, it helps those labourers to bring them happiness for the 3 minutes phone call - heartwarming. Second, recycle. They can gather the bottle caps and re-use them in other appropriate ways. Last, this project benefit for their brand building, not only good for selling, but also good for reputation.


I have read an article recently which named Innovation Starts with the Heart, Not the Head. There is one sentence there I really like - “Empathy is the engine of innovation.” I like these five interventions not only because those solutions can solve some kind of problems, but also somehow I’ve been touched during getting to know what they are doing. “Food” and “Hope” both are important for someone needs help, the only thing is to figure out how to deliver the “help”. This process really helps me to know what types interventions I’m interested in, and I’m so excited to know what I’m going to do with my thesis.

speaking exchange


“Speaking Exchange”, launched by FCB Brazil and the CNA language school network, is a language project which connects CNA language school students in Brazil with the seniors in the USA living in retirement homes. 














True heroes


"True Heroes" is a series of photographs by Jonathan Diaz, who portrays the dreams of children with cancer in dreamlike and poetic images. 





















"Lava Mae" — a nonprofit that turns old Muni buses into shower stalls to be used by homeless people.














Rosa's Fresh Pizza


Rosa's Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia has a “pay it forward” system. Customers can pre-purchase $1 slices for those in need, which are redeemed with a sticky note on the wall.

















Coca-Cola created the Hello Happiness Phone Booth -- a special phone booth that accepts bottle caps instead of coins for a free 3-minute international phone call, helping labourers connect with their families back home more often.