Health Equity

Social Entrepreneur Spotlight: Katie Thiede and Kai Tao of Illinois Contraceptive Access Now (ICAN!)

September 29, 2022

Illinois Contraceptive Access Now (ICAN!), one of eight organizations in New Profit’s first Health Equity Cohort, believes that every person should have the ability to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to be pregnant and parent. ICAN! is a statewide initiative to advance reproductive health equity by improving the quality and coverage of contraceptive care at community health centers.

Below, Executive Director Katie Thiede and Principal of Impact & Innovation Kai Tao share more about their work and collaborative leadership. 

Q: What is the one thing you wish more people knew about the issue your organization is working to solve?

A: Despite the fact that Illinois has been a leader in advancing progressive reproductive health policies, profound disparities in access to high-quality contraceptive care exist. There are sustainable solutions to address these disparities and ensure all people can access the birth control of their choice without financial barriers. We are working to address a persistent problem at a crucial moment. Reproductive rights are in peril and the time is now to make access to birth control universal.

Q: What has been the most fulfilling part of the work that you do?

A: Driving policy and systems-level change amongst partner organizations including state agencies and providers.

Q: What would have to be true for the work that you do to not be needed?

A: Universal access to high-quality contraceptive care without financial barriers for all people.

Q: How would you describe your leadership style?

A: We are highly collaborative, transparent, fast-paced, with high expectations, and lots of energy. We aim to exude gratitude and appreciation.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share that might help people to feel closer to you or your work?

A: This work is deeply personal for both of us. We consider pursuing the fulfillment of ICAN!’s vision to be our life’s purpose and work. With millions of women and people who can become pregnant robbed of their right to reproductive autonomy, it is more important than ever that they can easily obtain the birth control method of their choice. 

To get closer to ICAN! visit their website, and read about their work in the American Journal of Public Health , their op-ed in Heartland Signal, and Katie Thiede’s recent interview with WBEZ Chicago Public Radio. You can stay up to date with ICAN!’s latest activities by following their social media accounts on Instagram and Twitter @ican4all . Learn more about why Health Equity is a key investment area for New Profit here.