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SwitchPoint: Great Ideas with Real Impact

This blog was crossposted at The RTP Blog

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.

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 [United States Agency for International Development] 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 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?