MIT D-Lab made public today the 10 founding members of the Practical Impact Alliance (PIA), a new initiative based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology designed to foster shared learning and collaborative action among a network of corporations, non-governmental organizations, and social enterprises with a demonstrated commitment to scaling solutions to global poverty.
PIA’s founding members include multinational corporations Ajinomoto, Danone, Greif, Johnson & Johnson, and Unilever; nongovernmental organizations the Grameen Foundation, the Melton Foundation, and World Vision International; and social enterprises Community Enterprise Solutions and Greenlight Planet.
“The Practical Impact Alliance embodies MIT’s strong commitment to collaboration in order to solve the world’s greatest challenges,” stated Professor Claude Canizares, MIT’s vice president responsible for international partnerships. “By working together with these far-sighted corporate and non-profit partners, we can significantly amplify our collective impact on the alleviation of poverty.”
PIA membership provides organizations the opportunity to access a network of leaders working across industries and geographies on market-driven solutions to poverty. In addition, PIA membership facilitates access to experts at MIT and partner institutions who are advancing thinking in fields such as appropriate design, market and user research, technology evaluation, and business models for the developing world. Through a suite of activities organized throughout the year, PIA aims to inspire shared learning and collaborative action among the members of this network.
Greif is an industrial packaging manufacturer with operations in more than 50 countries. Greif has funded D-Lab research related to water transport and storage in East Africa, and is enthusiastic about participation in PIA. “The vision of the Practical Impact Alliance aligns well with Greif’s focus on innovation that serves our customers and our purpose, keeping people and products safe,” commented Kyle Shen, Greif’s vice president for Commercial Excellence and New Product Development. “We look forward to working with MIT and other leading companies that share a similar passion for improving the world in which we live.”
The initiative will be led by D-Lab’s Scale-Ups program, which was established in 2011 to identify and support technologies with potential for large-scale poverty alleviation. PIA is the latest and most ambitious addition to the program’s portfolio, which also includes an accelerator for social entrepreneurs, a technical assistance program for agricultural waste charcoal enterprises in East Africa, and a research and development program with current projects in Morocco and Kenya.
“The idea of PIA emerged when D-Lab started engaging large organizations in scaling up MIT innovations against poverty,” explained D-Lab Scale-Ups program director Saida Benhayoune. “We saw the opportunity for much greater impact if those organizations were to share and collaborate not just with institutions like MIT, but with each other.”
Members of the Practical Impact Alliance will self-select into working groups organized around areas of intersecting interests. These working groups will provide the foundation for PIA’s activities throughout the year, which include themed workshops, an innovation challenge for MIT students, internship placements within member organizations, and case study development. These activities are anchored by two in-person meetings. In a one-week co-design summit, facilitated by D-Lab and hosted by community partners in Ghana, PIA members will be given the opportunity to participate in hands-on design projects through on-the-ground community engagement. The annual MIT Scaling Development Ventures conference — taking place on April 11, 2015 — will provide members with a venue to showcase their work while engaging with a broader community of international development and business practitioners interested in scaling up market-driven solutions to poverty.
D-Lab will work with PIA members to harvest their collective knowledge and experience in order to capture shared learning and create resources for dissemination across the broader community of organizations focused on international development and the creation of shared value at the Base of the Pyramid.
Michael Moscherosch is the director of external innovation and alliances within Johnson & Johnson’s research and development group, and was among the first to sign on to PIA. “We’re thrilled to be a founding member of MIT D-Lab’s Practical Impact Alliance,” said Moscherosch. “Collaborations that bring industry partners, NGOs and academia together help make real solutions that address the needs of underserved populations accessible.”