The Designathon is a fast-paced, interactive day of meeting innovators and working collaboratively on real solutions to ending the HIV epidemic

The Designathon provides applicants access to a community of business and health leaders to support their concept

To generate, connect, and scale the next innovation, apply today and pitch your solution for prize funding

1st Place:

2nd Place:

3rd Place:


To end the HIV epidemic in the US among same gender loving men, we need to more effectively engage and communicate with diverse communities and increase the use of PrEP, a clinically proven and extremely effective strategy to help people stay HIV-negative. It is critical to develop innovative solutions that overcome barriers such as stigma and medical mistrust, which remains as blockades to access care and contributes to poor health. We aim to foster a solutions-focused community to generate and refine novel ideas that can transform this urgent public health challenge, particularly for men of color. Potential solutions include, but are not limited to:

Accepting Contributor Applications

No longer accepting Innovator applications

Virtual Designathon Date

10am - 4pm EDT



Sean Coleman Founder & Executive Director

“Being an innovator means keeping your finger on the pulse of your community and discovering new ways to solve old problems.”

Juan & Gee Smalls Founders

“Create your own lane, your own ‘vibe’. We are all inspired by others, but to be innovative is to create something that is true to YOU, and that comes from within.”

Dr. Oni Blackstock Founder & Executive Director

“We have all the tools that we need to end the HIV epidemic, but we urgently need innovative, forward-thinking strategies to get these tools to the people and communities who most need them.”


We are passionate about cultivating entrepreneurs and connecting innovation opportunities and resources in underserved communities that can most benefit from innovation. Technology, systems innovations, and new business models focused on the social and environmental determinants of health and tailored to community needs are necessary for achieving ambitious public health goals and narrowing health disparities.

We believe in a multidisciplinary approach to public health innovation by bringing together innovators with experts from a wide range of fields who are dedicated to creating impact.





Those who are creative and passionate about transforming healthcare interactions to increase PrEP uptake.

Individuals with multidisciplinary expertise, including but not limited to technology, business, marketing, design, art, and health who can provide valuable insight as an Innovator or Contributor.

Those who have lived experience of the challenge or communities they wish to serve can contribute to solutions to the problem.



Up to 8 teams will be formed and invited to participate


Each team will consist of at least 1 INNOVATOR and up to 7 CONTRIBUTORS with complementary expertise


Applications will be solicited from those with original solutions (INNOVATOR) as well as those who wish to join and can bring unique expertise to teams (CONTRIBUTORS)


The Designathon will conclude in a final pitch competition with monetary prizes


Cash prizes will be awarded to winning teams, but the event does not end after a few hours. Each idea and team in the DESIGNATHON is invited to be part of the Firefly Innovations network for ongoing support.

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1st Place Prize


2nd Place Prize


3rd Place Prize



If you have expertise, networks, or skills that could help strengthen solutions that are focused on the challenge and would like to join the event to help shape an innovator’s solution, please use this form to apply.

A wide range of skills is critical to creating human-centered, compelling solutions — health, policy, education, engineering, design, marketing, business planning, art, community engagement, and more.



  • Alignment with the public health challenge of focus
  • Complementarity with the accepted innovations
  • Quality of individual expertise

Open Knowledge Webinar

The Designathon kick-off event features expert panelists discussing the gaps and opportunities in the field of HIV prevention and PrEP uptake. View the Webinar

View the Webinar

Accepting Contributor Applications until December 3rd at 12pm.

Don't Miss

Virtual Designathon Date

10am - 4pm EDT


“A significant, positive change that addresses a pressing social challenge. Having a social impact is the result of a deliberate set of activities with a goal around this definition.”
– Business + Impact, University of Michigan, Ross

Dig deeper into that definition here

Public health is “the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts of society” 11. Public health challenges are based on a variety of different topics, such as the social, economic, cultural, and environmental determinants of health. At Firefly Innovations, we connect our public health challenges to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which all impact communities’ health. However, in contrast to social impact in general, we have a particular focus on solutions that can demonstrate concrete outcomes in improving population well-being and reducing health inequities. In order to achieve this, Firefly Innovations is committed to cultivating entrepreneurs from underserved communities that can benefit most from social innovation.

Click here for podcast episodes and blogs about public health entrepreneurship by Firefly Innovations

No, Designathon participants come from all areas of society—students, professionals, citizens, techies, policy wonks, veteran designers, and passionate newcomers. Even though this Designathon will focus on specific public health challenges, we encourage people of all backgrounds to apply. We strive to have a diverse collection of participants from different sectors to work together in order to create real change. For example, we encourage engineers, health practitioners, students, coders, tech specialists, artists, marketers, business specialists, and many more to apply.

“Design thinking is a non-linear, iterative process which seeks to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test.”

Learn more at: Interaction Design Foundation

Innovator applications will be reviewed by the following criteria: innovativeness of idea/concept, public health impact, relevance to the Designathon challenge areas, prototype development, quality of expertise, and action plan. At a minimum, you must have completed some initial research on your solution, or have a prototype in progress.

Yes, you can apply as a team or as an individual. If multiple team members planning to attend the Designathon, please include their information in the application form.

While we consider applications from all stages of development, most successful applications will be beyond the purely conceptual stage. At a minimum you must have completed initial research on your solution or have a prototype in progress.

Contributors will be chosen based on alignment with the public health challenge areas, complementarity with the accepted innovations, and individual expertise.

Teams will be curated by Firefly Innovations based on team member qualities, sector foci, and expertise complementarity.

Email Firefly Innovations at or message Firefly Innovations through social media accounts: LinkedInTwitterInstagram or Facebook.



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