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OpenIDEATOR Insight: Sarah Fathallah

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Sarah Fathallah is from Rabat, Morocco and has recently started work in the US at CGAP which advances financial access for low-income communities. She's been an active OpenIDEATOR, collaborating on others' ideas and sharing some brilliant ones of her own across a number of challenges. She managed to find the time to answer a few of our questions:
What first drew you to get involved in OpenIDEO?
I knew about IDEO's long history of innovation and heard (on Twitter) that they were launching OpenIDEO last year. While I was initially a passive reader, the Maternal Health Challenge really sparked my interest (I am passionate about mobile solutions!) and convinced me to start contributing -- both inspirations and actual ideas.
And how's the ride been so far?
The community here is really incredible, very welcoming and extremely diverse. Every day you get to read about off-the-wall ideas and while some of them sound crazy, many will actually work! The collaborative discussion often helps refine them to become more implementable. It also becomes addictive and I've learned so much along the way, as I wasn't initially very familiar with many of the issues the challenges tackle.
Tell us a bit about your recent international travels.
Well, I'm currently on a student budget so I haven't travelled extensively abroad. I've been focused this past year on design thinking, designing a friendly passenger experience in the airport of the future, which gave me the opportunity to travel back and forth between France and the US and visit many airports along the way.
I'm Moroccan, so I've also been particularly interested in the Arab Spring Movement and the role technology has to play in the area.
How was the OpenIDEO tweet-up that you co-organised in San Francisco?
I had read about the first Tweet-Up Anjelika organized and thought it was a great idea so contacted her and we organised a second one recently when I was in town on my travels. It's always good to meet people offline and discuss OpenIDEO of course – but also a lot about innovation, social impact, entrepreneurship, Silicon Valley, etc. It was very interesting to realise how people in person are actually really similar to their online personalities!
What are your future plans around social impact?
I have just moved to Washington DC to start working on product design for financial services targeting low-income unbanked individuals in emerging markets. I believe that access to financial services is fundamental for improving a family’s well-being and productive capacity. It empowers the poor by reducing their vulnerability and offering them opportunities to improve their lives.
Cheers Sarah. We hope to see more of your ideating goodness in future!
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Photo of Anne Kjaer Riechert

What a great interview and super interesting and relevant work you are doing with the financial service design for low income areas, Sarah! It reminds me of the IDEO design "Keep the Change" for Bank of America n . I wonder what the low-income equivalent would be!

Photo of Sarah Fathallah

'Keep the Change' is actually one of the (very few) examples we often use to show how we can develop new financial products (instead of basic tweaks) by actually melting two different functionalities into one service (payments + savings)!