A Lesson in Persistence. And the Breast Pump.
As soon as I had my daughter, I was using a breast pump. For those who don't know, these are devices that help mothers maintain a breastfeeding relationship with their babies. They can be used for unplanned medical situations, to help a breastfeeding mother return to work, or to continue giving breastmilk when there's distance between baby and boob. By and large, they are horrible. And the best ones are really expensive. To compound the problem, many women end up using these devices in spaces and contexts that are dirty, ill-suited, and uncaring.
Colleagues of mine at the MIT Media Lab and Emerson College had set out to fix the problem at their 2014 Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon (all puns intended). When Nina rolled in, I finally understood – as the user – why this area was so ripe for innovation.
However, what we have discovered is that there is a real lack of user experience research made openly available for anybody to hack on. Notably, the voices of women of lower socioeconomic backgrounds are particularly absent from this work. We set out to conduct this research ourselves last Spring.
A year later, I am proud to announce that the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded us funds not only to pursue this discovery process but also to apply the findings in both a product hackathon and policy summit in April 2018. One of the most dominant breast pump suppliers on the market, Medela, has also committed to supporting this work, which offers a very nice way to potentially influence how millions of women experience pumping. Jennifer Roberts, who leads the Versed Education Group, will be working with us to meaningfully address equity and inclusion throughout this work. We look forward to pulling together a national board of advisors that can keep us on track with our purpose in the coming months.
We will be visiting Detroit, New Orleans, New Mexico, and Boston as part of this discovery process, and we welcome collaborators and participants from all stripes and backgrounds to get in touch at kate DOT krontiris AT gmail DOT com.
Looking forward to doing my part to make the breast pump not suck!