SwitchPoint Conference brings innovators together to improve global health

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At the first annual SwitchPoint Conference, we’ll bring together some of the best minds in innovation from a broad range of fields and ask them to apply their best thinking to the critical challenge of global health. What kinds of people? Inventors, industry greats, tech, open source, and mobile superstars, multi-disciplinary entrepreneurs, academics, crisis responders, innovators, brand makers, communication specialists, community builders, and funders—the people who can combine their skills to make a difference in global health.

SwitchPoint, to be held April 20, is being organized by IntraHealth International, a global health leader headquartered in Chapel Hill, NC with offices in Washington, DC, and many countries around the world. IntraHealth believes organizations and individuals are seeking greater alignment between bottom-line business interests and doing good in the world. Public-private partnerships and multi-industry collaborations are on the rise around the globe. Resources are being shared, local capacity is being built, and sustainable relationships are being fostered in our growing global ecosystem, where the latest article, the latest invention, the latest course, the greatest challenge, can be shared exponentially and at light speeds. In the world of global health, it’s what we might call going "viral viral."

SwitchPoint speakers are people who are doing concrete work to make the world a better place. They are doing it with inventiveness and social entrepreneurship at the core—with a sense of openness and sharing tempered by savvy business acumen and a focus on ideas that can succeed and scale, and be sustainable.

Michael Tiemann of Red Hat is the opening keynote speaker, and Andrew Zolli of PopTech will close the conference with a talk on his upcoming book, Resillience.

Presenters include representatives from Google, Red Hat, Intel, and Cisco. USAID and The World Bank will be on hand to share their goals and expertise. Award-winning and globally recognized tech entrepreneurs building the latest messaging, mapping, and communications tools will share stories about applying design thinking and responsive engineering to save lives on the ground (think Haiti, Japan, India, and throughout Africa.) Talk topics include:

  • Global engagement
  • Global business
  • Global health
  • Global gatherings
  • International competitive challenges
  • Celebrity engagement
  • Ssocial media and campaigns
  • Branding
  • Communication
  • Funding

There are 30 speakers, in one day, on one stage—so even the conference organizers had to get innovative. Expect fast-paced, compelling talks and multimedia group presentations. The conference will also be live streamed so that people all over the world can join in.

Though the focus is on global health, many of the speakers are not global health specialists—they are individuals and organizations at the cutting edge of innovation in their very diverse fields. The lessons, tools, and resources they can share are being used across many areas of focus. Whether your interest is global health or climate change, clean water, open source, mobile phones, emerging markets, development, aid, academia, or business, you’ll find value in SwitchPoint.

The event will take place in Saxapahaw’s award-winning Haw River Ballroom, a geothermal- and solar-powered music and event hall built in the former Dye House of a historic cotton mill on the banks of the Haw River just 15 minutes outside Chapel Hill. Saxapahaw offers an unusual location and proximity to Research Triangle Park, the Triangle and the Triad. Saxapahaw in itself is a nationally recognized model of unexpected collaborations and partnerships and is redefining the word “rural” with a renaissance that fuses art, music, farming, food, recreation, education, environmental sustainability and locavore ethics. This tiny community was recently featured in The Washington Post and The New York Times.

In addition to being the technical and innovation advisor at Intrahealth and one of the SwitchPoint organizers, I am co-owner of the ballroom and am very glad to merge my local and global worlds for the event.

The setting allows for a retreat atmosphere, making the conference a fuller experience, with a lunchtime riverside concert, kayaking breakouts before dinner, and a food truck rodeo. The whole event culminates in a benefit concert, featuring a host of national and local musicians coming in to play us all home, inspired, networked, informed, and eager to collaborate, develop, invent, and engage.

This is, to me, the best of what North Carolina has to offer. It is the driving entrepreneurial spirit, the opportunities, the resources, the goodwill, the beautiful countryside, and the creative people that draw so many of us to this area. And it’s innovation, new technologies, social venture, start-ups, hubs like RTP, and increasing global partnerships that are taking our state to the next level. What will it take to flip your entrepreneurial switch?

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Heather LaGarde launched the IntraHealth OPEN initiative in partnership with Youssou N'Dour and other artists, building a coalition of leaders in global health and technology focused on local leadership and innovation in open source solutions for critical global health issues. She has also worked for War Child and Human Rights Watch.

1 Comment

Switchpoint was a fantastic event. I have seen many other conferences take *years* to find their groove and really establish their relevance (if they ever do). Switchpoint was smoothly run, relevant, fun, and gave me new ideas and inspiration. I look forward to the next event!

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