Untapped opportunity

Three Nations.
One Opportunity for Collaboration.

Data shows immunization rates are lower among underserved and under-represented communities. Among them, the American Indian (AI) communities on Native American reservations. As part of its global diversity and inclusion strategy, Merck wanted to understand these communities’ unmet needs to inform a path to increase vaccine rates.


  • Merck | Wakan-Tu-Naji

Brado’s Role

  • Small-Group/One-on-One Qualitative Research (pre-recruit and live intercepts) with tribal members, healthcare professionals, and caregivers
  • Innovation Lab™ (mobile research facility)
  • Tribal Cultural Immersion
  • Human-Centered Design (mobile app, gamification whiteboarding)

A Remote Opportunity

Partnering with Merck’s Human Centered Design Team, Brado journeyed west to remote New Town, North Dakota to spend a week on the three-tribe Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara (MHA) Nation reservation, immersing themselves with the AI culture, its residents, community HCPs, and caregivers.

The challenge? To understand the drivers and barriers to immunization and develop community-led solutions to help boost vaccine uptake.

Conversation, Consternation, Innovation

The Brado Innovation Lab was the centerpiece (and literal center of conversation) hub of activity for the week. Part mobile research facility and part creative workspace, the Lab is a traveling transformation space where interactive research, product prototyping, and brainstorming share a space. On this trip, it was all of the above.

With a combination of planned and unplanned intercepts with residents, the Brado/Merck teams explored the MHA Nation’s challenges. Conversations were candid and revealing, revolving around general attitudes toward health and wellness, and of vaccine perceptions and behaviors.

What we uncovered was sobering. Their challenges were multi-faceted, and included limited access to healthcare infrastructure, a lack of trust in healthcare provider and healthcare system, the need to rely on different sources of influences (e.g., tribal council, elders, etc.) and not getting relevant vaccine information to address their concerns.

So…we brainstormed with the residents for ideas that would tackle these challenges in a way that was relevant and meaningful.

Working Together for a Better Experience

To give caregivers confidence in managing their kids’ health and wellness and to feel more in control of vaccine decisions, we workshopped and white boarded with residents to develop solutions around: information that’s relevant and engaging, educational materials that are empowering, and alternative resources that could ease caregivers’ burdens.

One of the approaches we took was utilizing prototypes and gameplay to create a more engaging environment for ideas. In doing so, we were able to create a unique context for caregivers to communicate and connect around impactful issues. And we were better able to understand that caregivers wanted solutions that “wouldn’t shield” their children from the world, but “prepare them to succeed in a healthy, engaging way.”

Over the course of this project, we worked with Merck on a series of solutions dedicated to vaccines. Merck has deeply invested in this initiative, and over the coming years, will continue to bring these solutions to life in ways that will impact this specific community, and hopefully, other AI communities across the country.