On April 13th and 14th, Unite for Sight hosted its 16th Annual Global Health & Innovation Conference at Yale University. With over 2,000 professionals and students in attendance from more than 55 countries, it continues to be the largest health and social entrepreneurship conference in the world. As a former attendee, it was inspiring to see new social innovation developments as well as to hear reoccurring themes from last year’s event. These themes include strategies for highly effective leadership, backed by data and supported by the experiences of a diverse panel of international development leaders, as well as best practices for responsible and sustainable engagement in the global health field. New to this year’s conference, however, were design thinking elements and discussions that centered on how this human-centered process can be applied successfully in the social sector. Design thinking is the practice of empathizing with a target demographic, defining the problem at hand, ideating possible solutions to the problem, prototyping these solutions, and testing their effectiveness. Jessa Blades, Managing Director of IDEO.org's Health Program, spoke along with other experts on how design thinking can be applied when the outcomes result in lasting health consequences. As a current student in innovation and design thinking, it was powerful to see its application in the social sector and to hear how it is currently making a real and lasting impact on global health.
I also had the privilege of attending the Innovation and Ideas Networking Reception this year, an event which last year coincided with the launch of Enspice Nutrition. Enspice Nutrition is a social enterprise that aims to address micronutrient deficiencies in the US and that funds efforts to combat severe malnutrition in the developing world. In collaboration with Notre Dame’s IDEA Center, we will be launching our first commercially available product this summer, Enspice Cinnamon. Enspice, standing for enhanced-nutritional spice, contains 21 plant- based vitamins and minerals dosed at 100% of FDA Daily Values per serving. Through attendance at this year’s conference, I gained invaluable feedback on our product, our mission, and our vision for self-funding our foundation, the Enspice Children’s Foundation. Attending The Global Health and Innovation Conference was instrumental both this year and last in shaping our mission, and it is an event I will continue to attend for years to come.