We’re always eager to share news on events and initiatives that make RTP and our region a neat place to live and work. The following blog post details an event on April 20 that seeks to bring together innovators across a number of industries and disciplines from more than 20 countries to focus on how the latest inventions, entrepreneurial ideas and real-world experiences can be applied to address global health challenges. It’s another great example of the spirit of innovation and cross-collaborations of our State and region.
Guest blog post by Heather LaGarde, IntraHealth International
Imagine bringing together thought leaders, inventors, industry greats, tech superstars, multi-disciplinary entrepreneurs, academics, crisis responders, innovators, brand makers, communication specialists, community builders and funders from all over the world and asking them to apply their best thinking to the critical challenge of global health. That is what we are doing April 20 at the first annual SwitchPoint Conference.
SwitchPoint is organized by IntraHealth International, a global health leader headquartered in Chapel Hill with offices in Washington, DC, and many countries around the world. Why is IntraHealth organizing a global gathering on entrepreneurship and innovation? Because we believe 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.
Presenters are coming in with affiliations to such corporations as Google, Red Hat, Intel, and Cisco. Representatives from 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.) Specialists in global engagement, global business, global health, global gatherings, international competitive challenges, celebrity engagement, social media and campaigns, branding, communication, and funding are among the speakers.
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 multi-media group presentations. We made a ‘dynamic presentation’ using the great tool Projeqt to give conference goers a more visual schedule and a better sense of the day. The conference will 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, mobile phones, emerging markets, development, aid, academia or business we believe you will 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 an historic Cotton Mill on the banks of the Haw River just 15 minutes outside Chapel Hill. We chose Saxapahaw because of its unusual nature, its proximity to Research Triangle Park, the Triangle and the Triad and also because in addition to being the Technology and Innovation Advisor at IntraHealth and one of the SwitchPoint organizers, I am the co-owner of the Ballroom and very glad to merge my own local and global worlds for this event. 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.
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. And 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?
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. On a local level she runs a music series and a farmer’s market in partnership with her husband Tom LaGarde, and is a co-owner of the award winning Haw River Ballroom. She has lived in NYC, London, Geneva and Lome, Togo and now spends much of her non-traveling time on an old dairy farm in Saxapahaw, NC. Twitter @heatherlagarde