On April 3, MIT Vice President for International Partnerships Claude Canizares and a team from MIT’s D-Lab travelled to New York for the launch event of the U.S. Global Development Lab — which MIT recently joined.
“MIT is extremely proud to be a Cornerstone Partner with USAID in the new Global Development Lab,” Canizares said. “Our students and our faculty are passionate about making a real impact on the world, and the Global Development Lab connects us to like-minded teams at other universities, in USAID, and in the private sector.”
The new lab, created by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will foster science- and technology-based solutions to help end extreme poverty by 2030. MIT is among the 32 inaugural Cornerstone Partners of the Lab, which include nongovernmental organizations, corporations, and universities. “The Lab will engage a global community of inventors, academics, researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, and corporate leaders in science and technology to invent, test, and scale the most promising and cost-effective solutions to end extreme poverty,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said in a press release.
In addition to a welcome from Shah, the launch featured presentations by representatives from government, academia, and industry, as well as a keynote address by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has been a strong supporter of the use of science, innovation, and partnerships to further U.S. development goals.
Following Clinton's remarks, D-Lab Founder and Co-Director Amy Smith shared her experiences with her various projects in African communities and what can be achieved when local stakeholders engage in designing solutions to the development challenges. She later led a hands-on design workshop, where participants worked in teams to create inflatable lights. The aim was to help participants experience first-hand how innovation can be used as a tool for community empowerment.
D-Lab Co-Director Victor Grau Serrat expressed his excitement at hearing Hillary Clinton state that the Global Development Lab intends to foster collaboration and creativity with practitioners on the ground every day. “Collaboration with local innovators and creative capacity building are key to D-Lab’s mission. That Amy [Smith] was invited to lead a hands-on technology co-creation session at the launch demonstrated great alignment with Clinton’s sentiments," he said.
MIT's involvement consists of two related programs, Canizares said. “First, the International Development Innovation Network (IDIN) is reaching around the globe to build a network of local innovators dedicated to exploiting suitable technologies to address issues of poverty. And second, the Comprehensive Initiative on Technology Evaluation (CITE) is establishing and applying advanced methodologies for assessing the suitability, scaleability, and sustainability of technological solutions.”
These two USAID-supported programs are funded under USAID’s Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN), a multidisciplinary research and development effort launched in 2012 that includes MIT and six other universities working directly to evaluate and strengthen real-world innovations in development. The HESN network is one of seven teams that make up the new Global Development Lab.
Based at MIT’s D-Lab, IDIN is currently gearing up for the annual International Development Design Summit in Tanzania which will begin July 7. The month-long, bilingual summit will bring together participants from many disciplines and nationalities and feature hands-on sessions led by partners from the University of California at Davis, Colorado State University, the United States International University in Nairobi, MIT, and a group of highly skilled local innovators.
Headquartered at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, CITE is finalizing its first research report evaluating the use of solar lanterns in Uganda. A CITE team recently returned from a two-week trip to India where they were laying the groundwork for a study of point-of-use water treatment products in the Indian marketplace. While in India the team also took the first steps toward establishing a partnership among Berkley, Harvard University, MIT, and the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad.
CITE Director Bish Sanyal, the Ford International Professor of Urban Development and Planning, said the newly established Global Development Lab “will serve as a catalyst facilitating a synergistic relationship between technological innovations, rigorous evaluations and commercializations of products, which will enhance the quality of lives of people around the world.”
In addition to MIT, the lab's Cornerstone Partners include a large cross-section of corporations: Cargill, Cisco, Citi, Coca-Cola, DuPont, GlaxoSmithKline, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Nike, Syngenta, Unilever, and Walmart; civil society organizations and foundations: Care, the Bill & Melinda Gates, Catholic Relief Services, Global Impact Investing Network, Plan, Save the Children, the Skoll Foundation, World Vision, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Smithsonian Institution; universities: The University of California at Berkeley, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, Stanford University, Texas A&M University, and the College of William and Mary; and a bilateral donor: Sweden.
These partners bring cutting-edge technologies, deep expertise, advanced research and development capabilities, far-reaching networks of customers, suppliers and community organizations, and more than $30 billion in independent investments in emerging markets through science, technology, innovation and partnerships.