Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Livestrong CEO Doug Ulman - the LiveFromStubbs Podcast

This article was originally posted as "Social Innovation in Healthcare – LiveFromStubbs with Doug Ulman, CEO of Livestrong" on WCG's Common Sense blog.

The 3rd edition of the  LiveFromStubbs podcast was a special one for me for more than one reason.  First, it was my first on-camera episode – and I’m always happy to share a stage with regular hosts Aaron Strout and  Kyle Flaherty.  But more importantly, the subject of our interview was Doug Ulman, the CEO of the Livestrong Foundation.  This is a big deal for me not only because of who Doug is – the CEO of one of America’s most remarkable and forward-thinking non-profits, and the man Fast Company has called “The Most Savvy Health Care Leader in Social Media” – but also because of how we came to be where he is.
A 3-time cancer survivor, Doug was forced to a difficult realization at a young age:
“[After being diagnosed with  cancer,] All I wanted to do was connect with other individuals who’d been down the same path … I could not find them.  I thought I was the only one.  I felt all alone.  I knew all the statistics but I could not easily access other people.”
Livestrong has dedicated itself to improving the lives of people affected by cancer worldwide.  And a big part of their strategy involves connecting cancer patients and their families with the resources they need … which often means helping to connect them to people like themselves – people who “have been down that road before,” as Doug puts it.  Over the last two years, Facebook and twitter have become the largest source of referrals of survivors to Livestrong.
One of the really unique ways that Livestrong helps people who approach them is to offer the services of a “Navigator” – a person who can help point them directly to the resources they need (and 90% of whom use twitter to interact with participants).  Increasingly, those resources either leverage the principles of social media (the groundswell vs. top-down, corporate hierarchy) or are literally built on social media platforms.  LiveStrong has positioned itself not as a be-all, end-all source for information or a lone behemoth, but as a “catalyst and convener” of all those who share an interest in living with (and ultimately beating) cancer.  Just a few weeks before our interview, Doug and his team hosted an event in Austin called the LiveStrong Young Adult Alliance – more than 200 organizations focused on helping young adults dealing with cancer.  That kind of crowdsourcing is a natural way to ensure that the best ideas bubble to the top, and that the right people are in the right place to make those ideas real.  And it’s use of Facebook has been particularly remarkable – operating separate communities that focus not only on different geographic regions, but also different types of cancer … whatever can deliver the most value to the audience it’s there to serve.
With that kind of thinking, it’s easy to see why Livestrong has made the transition from being a cause into a movement. Enjoy the video,  follow Doug on Twitter, and be sure to check out the great work that Livestrong continues to do.  For more LiveFromStubbs podcasts, click hereand subscribe!