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Legatum Center at MIT awards IAP 2010 seed grants

The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT awarded Independent Activity Period (IAP) seed grants to 14 teams pursuing innovative, enterprise solutions to development challenges in low-income countries.

Grantee teams include MIT undergraduate students, graduate students, PhD candidates and professors from several schools and departments. The 14 teams comprise more than 40 members who are affecting change in Honduras, Paraguay, Tanzania, Ghana, India, Kenya, Peru, and China. During IAP 2010, the teams used these grants to fund market research, project scoping and pilot studies, with many team members spending all or part of IAP in the field.

Shayna Harris, an MBA candidate, is working with political science student Gustavo Setrini on team Karu Pyahu, which aims to create a mission-based trading company that supports local farmers and promotes sustainable agriculture in Paraguay. Harris and Setrini are using their IAP seed grant to build connections with Paraguayan farmers and government officials.

“Winning the seed grant is our opportunity to decisively start down a path toward sustainable agriculture in Paraguay that [Setrini and I have] both envisioned for a long time. It is a chance to begin putting our values and our training into practice,” Harris wrote.

Fellow grantee team Sanergy, made up of MIT Sloan School of Management students David Auerbach, Ani Vallabhaneni and Jeff Zira, has developed an innovative model that utilizes local entrepreneurs to create access to sanitation and generate both energy and fertilizer. “Our long-term goal at Sanergy is to build a profitable business that combats the challenges of sanitation, energy and food production while generating local employment and improving living conditions in the communities we work,” explains Vallabhaneni. The team is using its IAP seed grant to conduct crucial hands-on research in Kenya, following months of extensive research and development at MIT.

All teams will present their projects during a poster session early in the spring 2010 semester. Read more about the teams at

To learn more about the Legatum Center Seed Grant program and to apply for a summer 2010 grant, please visit

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