Toronto – When the world was largely shut down during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the leadership behind Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management began to think about how to redeploy their resources and methodology to focus on the crisis. CDL delivers an objectives-based program for massively scalable, seed-stage, science- and technology-based companies at the Rotman School and eleven other universities in six countries.
“When the pandemic hit in March 2020, it was clear that we faced a completely novel crisis—and novel crises demand novel responses,” says Janice Stein, University Professor and the Belzberg Professor of Conflict Management at the University of Toronto.
The discussions led to the establishment of the Creative Destruction Lab Rapid Screening Consortium (CDL RSC) in August 2020, a unique project to develop and implement COVID-19 screening systems at workplaces across Canada to help reopen the economy and break the chain of transmission of the virus. Participating organizations received resources, including a playbook, to set up a screening program through rapid antigen tests to protect their employees against COVID-19 exposure. It was an unprecedented collaboration among businesses, researchers, and government working together. By the time the Consortium wrapped up its work in March 2022, 3,550 screening sites had been established across Canada covering every province and territory with over 2.3 million screens deployed.
Last night the CDL Rapid Screening Consortium was honoured with the top prize from the Project Management Institute winning the PMI Project of the Year Award at a ceremony in Las Vegas. The award recognizes the complex project that best delivers superior performance of project management practices, superior organizational results, and positive impacts on society.
“The urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic demanded innovation. Highly disciplined project management processes and imaginative organizational design were essential to setting up the CDL Rapid Screening Consortium for success,” says Sonia Sennik, executive director, Creative Destruction Lab, who also served as executive director of the CDL RSC. “Though structure was critical, at the heart of our project was the tireless effort and spirit of the community. Their willingness to trust the process, rely on each other, and pay-it-forward to share data and mentor other companies, including industry peers, is what brought the project to life. This recognition celebrates the generosity, hard work, and creativity of our community. Over 2,000 organizations participated in the consortium — together, we were one team.”
“Rapid antigen screening was an important part of a layered public health response to COVID-19. Workplaces were a key site of COVID-19 transmission, and implementing measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission among employees and their families was pivotal in contributing to safer workplaces,” says Laura Rosella, associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Population Health Analytics, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, who was CDL RSC’s public health expert. “CDL RSC’s success at reach and scale meant that chains of transmission were broken across Canada. Implementing such programs is always challenging, and this project demonstrated the impact and population benefit you can have when you bring together people with complementary expertise and a common goal.”
The effort brought together experts from across the University of Toronto, the Canadian business community and guidance from Canadian federal and provincial health officials. Among the twelve founding companies who participated in the CDL RSC was Scotiabank.
“I am proud to have been a part of the CDL Rapid Screening Consortium and cannot think of a more impactful project over the past several years. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and safety of our employees has been our top priority. We viewed rapid screening as an additional layer of protection that complemented existing workplace safety protocols and supported re-entry in line with local public health guidance,” says Michael Zerbs, Rotman MBA’89, Group Head, Technology & Operations at Scotiabank. “Implementing screening as part of a public-private partnership through the CDL RSC allowed us to move faster, leverage others’ learnings, and generate insights and playbooks that now benefit many other organizations. By screening asymptomatic employees, businesses and other organizations were able to break the chain of transmission and enhance everyone’s safety while working to reopen the economy.”
“At a critical time in our country's history, we designed an unprecedented collaboration among the private, public and not-for profit sectors to enable workers who could not work from home to continue to work safely,” added Prof. Stein. “The collaboration broke new ground on how the private sector in Canada can work in partnership with all levels of government.”
About Creative Destruction Lab
Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) is a nonprofit organization that delivers an objectives-based program for massively scalable, seed-stage, science- and technology-based companies. Its nine-month program allows founders to learn from experienced entrepreneurs, increasing their likelihood of success. Founded in 2012 by Professor Ajay Agrawal at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, the program has expanded to 12 sites across six countries. Participating ventures have created $24 billion (CAD) in equity value. For more information, visit https://creativedestructionlab.com/
The Rotman School of Management is part of the University of Toronto, a global centre of research and teaching excellence at the heart of Canada’s commercial capital. Rotman is a catalyst for transformative learning, insights and public engagement, bringing together diverse views and initiatives around a defining purpose: to create value for business and society. For more information, visit www.rotman.utoronto.ca
For more information:
Manager, Media Relations
Rotman School of Management
University of Toronto