Finding the SwitchPoints: Events that Spark Connections

In Features12, Health Tech, News by Lisa Cole

Partnership and innovation go hand-in-hand. That’s why IntraHealth International’s moonshot division, SwitchPoint, works to build the kind of unexpected partnerships that can advance health and social good around the world.

IntraHealth’s annual SwitchPoint conference brings together hundreds of leaders from all over the globe and from all backgrounds to share their humanitarian work and stories. As the SwitchPoint organizers, we are unwaveringly committed to authenticity. We want to hear testimony from the front lines—stories from health workers, humanitarian innovators, and program implementers who see a problem, care enough to find a solution and have the tenacity to succeed.

Outside of the main conference, we work throughout the year to forge new connections, both locally and globally, through lead-up events and side sessions at sister conferences. Last summer, SwitchPoint hosted a side session at the Extreme Affordability Conference in Ghana. The conference organizers had invited the SwitchPoint team to help infuse this academic conference with the creativity, artivism, humanitarian tech, and entrepreneurial energy the annual SwitchPoint conference is known for. To do this, we brought together some of the people and switchpoints that are transforming West Africa’s health and tech landscape.

Participants at SwitchPoint 2018 gather for an Artivism Microlab

Ghanaian Jerry Sam of Pensplusbytes spent years developing effective communication technology platforms for citizen engagement to promote free and fair elections across West Africa. Jerry took on the problem of poor-quality health care by applying these same proven technologies to create an integrated SMS, voice, and web-based tool that enables citizens to report problems directly to the authorities responsible for these services and to use civil society pressure to ensure problems are addressed. His team was able to leapfrog over the design challenges typical in creating new tools and show results faster and cheaper.

Another SwitchPoint microlab at the Extreme Affordability conference featured Kafui Prebbie, founder and chief executive officer of TECHAiDE. He showcased the health uses for ASANKA, a system that compiles and delivers rich content in a user-friendly, easy-to-access format hosted on low-cost, low-powered durable devices. TECHAiDE has been working in Africa for over ten years using information and communication technologies to improve education, support youth development, and facilitate health delivery through appropriate technologies and developing human capacities that unleash the potential of individuals, communities, and institutions. Tech + education + health = SwitchPoint.

One of the SwitchPoint organizers, Heather LaGarde (center) with microlab presenters from left to right: StelooLive, Nana Kofi Acquah, Jerry Sam, and Kafui Prebbie at the Extreme Affordability conference in Ghana.

In March 2019, SwitchPoint will host a sidebar session at the Africa Health Agenda International Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, featuring artists, activists, and global health professionals who are expanding the definition of health and the players who can help make universal health coverage a reality. Just like at the annual SwitchPoint conference, attendees will first hear from a series of dynamic presenters before breaking into smaller groups. The session with conclude with an activity that showcases the importance of art, advocacy, and innovation in finding solutions to diverse health challenges. Presenters include local Rwandan artists, community health workers, and ICT4D data experts.

There’s phenomenal potential in interdisciplinary collaboration and SwitchPoint brings people together to make it happen. Our hope is to engage participants—at side events, at our main conference, or anywhere in-between—by immersing them in a petri dish of potential innovative projects and partnerships.

Meet the Author:

Nola Paterni is a SwitchPoint producer and serves as the Senior Officer of Strategy and Development at IntraHealth International. Her professional focus encompasses communications, event management, employee engagement, and development. She has a unique ability to infuse events with creativity, clarity, and authenticity. Her passion for doing meaningful work is a launching point for future projects, collaborations, and partnerships.