Global health social technologies: reflections on evolving theories and landscapes

Chataway, Joanna; Hanlin, Rebecca; Mugwagwa, Julius and Muraguri, Lois (2010). Global health social technologies: reflections on evolving theories and landscapes. Research Policy, 39(10) pp. 1277–1288.



This paper has two core purposes. First, building on Nelson and Sampat’s work, we outline the social technology conceptual framework and explain why we favour using it to explore two global health initiatives.Second, we discuss the evolution of those initiatives through the lens of the interaction between social technologies, physical technologies and general institutions. 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 product development partnerships (PDPs), a type of global health initiative based on a public–private partnership (PPP), have arisen. The third section develops case studies of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and the Malaria Vaccines Initiative (MVI) as social technology experiments and looks at the complex dynamics between organisation, management, scientific and R&D success and general institutional environments.Welook 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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