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Global health social technologies: reflections on evolving theories and landscapes

Abstract

This paper has two core purposes. First, building on Nelson and Sampat's work, we apply the social technology concept to two global health initiatives. Second, we discuss the evolution of those initiatives which we characterise as social technologies. Thus we reflect both on evolving conceptual landscapes on the one hand and organisational and institutional terrains on the other.

The first section of the paper presents an intellectual journey and outlines our understanding and adoption of the '˜social technology' conceptual framework. This framework we argue has a number of advantages over alternative theoretical approaches and perspectives. The second section describes the context in which health private and public partnerships (PPPs) and product development partnerships (PDPs) have arisen and the evolution of new social technologies in this context. The third section develops case studies of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and the Malaria Vaccines Initiative (MVI) as social technologies. We look at these social technologies as having '˜integrator' and '˜broker' roles, classifications which we argue are useful in analysing the different roles taken on by these PDPs . In the conclusion we reflect on the useful ways in which the concept of social technologies can shed light on complex and networked initiatives.

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