July 8, 2014 | The Editors

What is PATH? A longtime colleague weighs in

A lot about PATH has changed since Gretchen Shively was hired in 1988. One thing that hasn’t: our dedication to appropriate technology.

When Gretchen Shively began working at PATH in 1988, the organization had fewer than 100 employees and most everyone worked in Seattle. More than 25 years later, our staff tops 1,200 in 40 cities worldwide, and every single one of us has access to something called the Internet.

Portrait of Gretchen Shively.
PATH has changed since Gretchen Shively joined the staff in 1988, but our core values remain constant. Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.

It is safe to say that during a distinguished career culminating as associate leader of our Technology Solutions program, Gretchen has seen some change—within the organization and without.

As Gretchen prepares to end this phase of her career with PATH (she’s promised to help us out occasionally on a consulting basis), we asked her to reflect on what’s remained consistent about PATH—what it is that makes us who we are, no matter the decade. Here’s some of what she said:

I started in 1988 and the first day I remember people talking about it being the tenth anniversary of PATH and what they were going to do to celebrate. In those days, PATH was really very anonymous. We were just this little organization that happened to be in the Pacific Northwest because the founders, two of whom lived here, didn’t see any reason to locate anywhere else.

Affordable, appropriate, available

Blue moped with a cardboard box labeled "SoloShot" straped to the back.
The SoloShot™ syringe, here being transported on the back of a health worker’s motorbike, is an example of affordable, appropriate technology designed at PATH, and in this case licensed to manufacturer BD. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

So, when I joined, we were really small, we were really focused, and our name—which we used, even though it was very long—was Program for Appropriate Technology in Health. And that meant something to people. It defined us: we were an organization that did things in the background to get technologies into use and influence global health. It felt like there was a defined mission—even though at the time, we didn’t have a written mission statement. Nevertheless, we still had a consistent and driving theme.

Fast forward to now: I think we are still an organization that works to get affordable and culturally relevant and acceptable technology solutions into the hands of people who can benefit from them. We have retained that focus on appropriate technology. It’s gotten bigger and expanded to encompass more, but it’s still about identifying needs that can be met by technology and delivering on solutions. For me, there may have been changes around that mission, but PATH hasn’t changed at its core.

Thank you, Gretchen, for your invaluable service, and best wishes for all that comes next.

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