City Life

Navigating the system: Center for Patient Partnerships

Center for Patient Partnerships is one of thirty-five social innovations that has made the 2015 M List

As a cancer survivor, Meg Gaines saw the scarcity of health care resources available to people with serious and life-threatening illness.

In 2000, she co-founded the Center for Patient Partnerships with the mission to engender effective partnerships among people seeking health care, people providing health care, and people making policies that guide the health care system. In the last fifteen years, the center has helped thousands of people "from Texas to Thailand and Portage to Portugal" understand and navigate their diagnoses, effectively confront the fiscal barriers and ensure job and life stability. Gaines brings the University of Wisconsin–Madison law, medicine and public health, nursing and pharmacy schools together and provides interdisciplinary "transformational learning" experience to graduate and professional students with a determination to make a change in health care. By strengthening the field of health advocacy through research and enhancing the capacity of patients to influence health policy, Gaines is on her journey to turn the experience of illness into education, hope and transformation. 

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What is social innovation? 

According to Stanford University's Social Innovation Review, social innovation is a "novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable or just than existing solutions" and benefits primarily society as a whole rather than private individuals.

It includes these elements:

  • Increasing employment, productivity and economic growth
  • Justice, fairness, environmental preservation, improved health, arts and culture and better education

A social innovation:

  • Can be a product, production process or technology (much like innovation in general), but it can also be a principle, an idea, a piece of legislation, a social movement, an intervention or some combination of them.
  • Recognizes the fundamental role of cross-sector dynamics: exchanging ideas and values, shifting roles and relationships and blending public, philanthropic and private resources. Innovation blossoms where the sectors converge.
  • Can't be understood, let alone solved, without involving the nonprofit, public and private sectors.


The M List
Madison Magazine's M List is a who's who of organizations and individuals who are having an impact on our local culture and economy. In its third year, the M List recognizes those making strides in the area of social innovation. Last year's list of innovators were in the food industry. The original M List, in 2013, honored the technology sector. The 2014 M List honored "Foodtastic" entrepreneurs and innovators.


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