Dear Friends of the CROWN Project,

Happy New Year!We are thrilled to kick off 2024 by bringing our CROWN projects together in Abuja, Nigeria for the 2nd Annual CROWN Convening from February 12-14. I can’t imagine a better way to prepare for the year ahead than meeting in person to discuss learnings, challenges, measurements, research design, and catch up with one another.I’ll keep this month’s intro short and sweet as there will be a LOT coming from the CROWN team over the next month, but read on to learn more about the Convening agenda, check out an awesome travel guide about our Convening city, and hear from an in-house HCD expert who has brought incredible insights to the CCP team over the last year, Biruk Melaku.Lastly, make sure you’re following our Twitter before the Convening, as we’ll be sharing lots of sneak peaks and exciting updates there!We can’t wait to see you all so soon!All the best,Daryl StephensCROWN Program Manager

Spotlight: Second Annual CROWN Convening

We are thrilled to bring our CROWN Projects together once again – this time, in Abuja, Nigeria! Participants include project staff from Johns Hopkins Center for Communications Programs, Nutrition International, Sonder Design, Project Concern International, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Our discussions will cover:

  • Report-outs and updates from Nigeria, Ethiopia, and India
  • Nutritional Supplementation Adherence
  • Human-Centered Design
  • and more!

If you can’t join us in person, our Twitter is the place to be to see highlights from speakers, convening photos, and more.

The full Convening agenda can be accessed here.

Team Spotlight: Biruk Melaku

Pioneering Human-Centered Design for Health Innovation 

We’re thrilled to shine a spotlight on Biruk Melaku, our Senior Director for SBC Design and Innovations at the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs (CCP), Ethiopia. With an extensive career spanning over two decades, Biruk is the visionary behind some of our most impactful health initiatives.

Role on CROWN: As a Senior Director – SBC Design and Innovations at CCP, I lead the design of interventions for the CROWN project in Ethiopia. Specifically, my role is centered around implementing HCD approaches to enhance adherence to Iron Folic Acid (IFA) and Multiple Micronutrient Supplements (MMS) among pregnant women and adolescent girls.

What the CROWN Project means to me: My lifelong fascination with human behavior, rooted in early experiences, has found profound meaning in the integration of HCD approaches within SBC. The CROWN project represents a significant personal and professional milestone, as it signifies a deliberate expansion of my engagement in HCD. This expansion reflects my commitment to developing nuanced and effective solutions for complex health challenges, aligning with my belief in the transformative power of human behavior.

Notable achievements to date: My passion for SBC has been a driving force of my career, leading to impactful contributions across diverse projects. I have spearheaded the design of SBC strategies under various initiatives, ranging from family planning, maternal and child health, and malaria, to broader development issues such as holistic youth development and free and fair elections. A key facet of my success lies in the ability to engage and collaborate with diverse audiences and stakeholders, from rural households to influential religious and community leaders, and government counterparts. This inclusive approach has resulted in transformative strategies and innovations that have driven significant changes in HIV prevention, ANC, institutional delivery, family planning, immunization, malaria, gender, and more.

In recent projects, I’ve taken on the challenge of enhancing maternal and child health outcomes for vulnerable communities. Leading extensive HCD processes using the five-step design thinking approach, I am currently part of transformative initiatives that address complex challenges in these communities. In a similar stride, I am also taking a leadership role in the CROWN project in Ethiopia in applying HCD methodologies to improve adherence to IFA and MMS among pregnant women and adolescent girls. Through such initiatives, I am inspired to push the boundaries of the impact of HCD in diverse and critical health contexts.

Hobbies and fun fact: Beyond my professional endeavors, my world revolves around my family. I am a proud father of two – a son and a daughter – and have a supportive wife who inspires me daily. When I’m not at the office, I cherish moments spent playing with my children or visiting my parents, who have played a pivotal role in supporting my journey. My worldview and approach to life are influenced by my faith. This spiritual foundation propels me to make a meaningful impact in the world.

Upcoming Events

February 12-14, 2024: 2nd Annual CROWN Convening

We’ll be meeting at the Abuja Continental Hotel – if you are interested in joining or receiving our Convening Report, please contact

May 2024: Quarterly Convening, CROWN Projects (virtual)

Stay tuned for more details about our quarterly virtual convening for all projects in May!