March 17, 2017 | , ,

6 ways SXSW connects global health and innovation for social impact

We saw emerging technologies bring together artists, inventors, politicians, philanthropists, and thought leaders.

A model of the planets at SXSW.At SXSW this year, the PATH team explored and interacted with a dizzying array of technologies—many still under development. We spoke with experts and decision-makers from around the world about global trends and possibilities for the future. And we saw exciting and forward-thinking artwork and performances.

We discovered that seemingly disparate tracks—tech, social impact, and art—can come together in surprising ways to strengthen and propel each other forward.

Here are six ways we saw the intersection and fusion of global health, innovation, and impact at SXSW:

  1. New technologies, especially advances in digital technology, can improve the health of individuals in ways that transcend traditional borders and barriers. Neal Myrick of the Tableau Foundation and PATH’s David Shoultz discussed how this can work in practice.PATH's David Shoultz and Neal Myrick of the Tableau Foundation shake hands while seated next to one another.
  2. Understanding the needs of the end user is critically important in designing and deploying technology intended to improve their health and well-being. User-centered design is crucial when developing health solutions for low-resource settings.David Shoultz and Lippi Doshi show off the SE200 Community Chlorine Maker during a pop-up demonstration.
  3. Tech is an increasingly powerful enabler for the people working to raise standards of living and expand opportunities across the world, but it can’t generate social progress without strong health systems and political will.A photo collage of PATH partners at the SXSW festival.
  4. Partnerships are critical to make these efforts possible. Nonprofits, foundations, and governments must work deliberately with private companies and budding entrepreneurs to create and implement global health solutions. PATH’s David Shoultz discussed this idea with Tina Trinh of Voice of America.David Shoultz with Tina Trinh of Voice of America.
  5. Art and artists play a powerful and central role in designing, adapting, and leveraging technology, while influencing the social and cultural conversation around how it is used. Madame Gandhi described how SXSW connects with her work in ending taboos around menstruation.The PATH team with Madame Gandhi at the SXSW festival.
  6. Virtual reality is reinventing storytelling by bringing people inside the story. The Nexus Fund demonstrated how virtual reality can be used as a powerful advocacy tool with a new film exploring the concentration camps where Myanmar’s Rohingya minority are forced to live.Participants at SXSW experience virtual reality technology.

You might expect to find the work of an NGO like PATH in labs, clinics, and in communities around the globe, but we also work hard to seek out allies and discover cutting-edge innovations with great lifesaving potential. The creative, ambitious, and sometimes unorthodox thinking that SXSW showcases is the same kind of thinking needed to transform lives with global health innovation. Whether it be in Austin, Nairobi, Seattle, or Lima we’re always looking for fresh ways to develop, integrate, and scale innovation to support thriving, healthy, and self-reliant communities.

Posted in: , , , , , ,
  • Cassi Flint is as an executive and internal communications assistant at PATH.
  • Ken Anderson is a senior media relations associate at PATH.
  • Lippi Doshi is a communications and digital advocacy officer at PATH.