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Carolina Represented on Panel at Consortium of Universities for Global Health Conference

March 16, 2018
Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases

Joe Tucker, director of UNC Project-China, was part of a panel on social entrepreneurship at the annual conference of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) in New York. Below is a summary of the panelists presentations.

How can the principles of entrepreneurship be used to improve health? In such cases, how do we track progress and measure success? What are the best research methods for evaluating these projects? These questions propelled a dynamic panel today at the 9th Annual Conference of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) on social entrepreneurship for health. Social entrepreneurship is defined by the OED as “the application of entrepreneurial principles to solving social problems or effecting social change; the work of a social entrepreneur.”

Social entrepreneurship is ultimately about getting the tools of business to work for health. For example, crowdsourcing has been used widely in the private sector to drive customers to purchase things. Our Social Entrepreneurship to Spur Health (SESH) team has used adapted crowdsourcing approaches to help drive patients into clinics and receive essential health services. Two of the panelists were from the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill postdoctoral fellow Allison Mathews, who leads the 2BeatHIV project, and Alice Zhang, a former Doris Duke Fellow at UNC Project-China.

Allison spoke about some of the tools that she uses as a social entrepreneur, including building close partnerships with the local community, leveraging social media to widely disseminate calls for action, and building capacity for community-led action. The 2BeatHIV project is powerful example of social entrepreneurship, drawing on the wisdom of under-served community members to form more responsive research engagement strategies.

Alice described the work she did in Guangzhou, China, as part of the SESH team. She solicited community responses to the question of “what would an HIV cure mean to me?” using qualitative methods to analyze textual data generated from the open contest. This contest had a wide range of in-person activities to help vulnerable groups contribute to the discussion. People who could not read or write joined with the assistance of a research assistant proficient in the local language.

But the world of social entrepreneurship goes well beyond crowdsourcing alone. Claire Houlihan from the University of California Los Angeles and the UC Institute of Prediction Technology provided an overview of her team’s compelling research in this field. Instead of seeing gay apps like GRINDR as the problem, they have formed close partnerships with mobile phone applications and developed innovative network-based interventions to promote HIV testing.

Finally, Ashely Gomez described exciting work at Grameen PrimaCare, a social business that serves undocumented minority women in New York. This model has reached underserved and often undocumented women who would otherwise face substantial challenges in receiving services.

The panel was co-chaired by Joseph Tucker, assistant professor in the UNC School of Medicine, and Liz Grant, assistant principal from the University of Edinburgh. Peggy Bentley, associate director of the UNC Institute of Global Health and Infectious Diseases and associate dean of the Gillings School of Global Public Health, is on the Board of Directors of CUGH and also a part of the research subcommittee who organized this panel.

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