MIT is known around the world for innovation and entrepreneurship. And it is becoming increasingly well known for the subset of innovators and entrepreneurs developing social ventures whose goal is poverty alleviation.
Since 2013, a subset of MIT’s informal ecosystem of classes, fellowships, and programs focused on social entrepreneurship has come together to organize the MIT Scaling Development Ventures conference. The April 1 edition of the conference will feature more than 40 speakers and panelists from around the world to address issues, challenges, and models for success in scaling social enterprise in developing countries. Registration for the conference is open to members of the MIT community and to the general public.
Hannes van Rensburg will be the morning keynote speaker. Van Rensburg is best known as the founder of Fundamo, the leading supplier of mobile banking and payment solutions — acquired by Visa, Inc. in June 2011 for $110 million. Having launched the first mobile banking solution in 1999, van Rensburg is often seen as the pioneer of mobile banking. At the time of acquisition, Fundamo was the global leader in the provision of mobile banking solutions in emerging markets. Fundamo platforms processed 3.5 billion transactions annually in 34 countries for millions of account holders.
Additional morning sessions will feature “vision talks” by three entrepreneurial leaders working to scale their ventures and accelerate social and economic progress in the developing world. Vision talk speakers include Kenfield Griffith PhD ’12, CEO and founder of MSurvey in Kenya; Michael Wilkerson, CEO and founder of Tugende in Uganda; and Angela Nzioki, founder and country manager of PlusPeople Kenya. Next up on the agenda will be a conversation between MIT Sloan School of Management senior lecturer Anjali Sastri and Javier Lozano, former MIT Legatum fellow and founder of Clínicas del Azúcar. The morning will wrap up with lighting pitches by 20 MIT students who will present posters during in the lower lobby of the Wiesner Building.
The conference’s afternoon guest speaker will be Ann Mei Chang, chief innovation officer and executive director of the U.S. Global Development Lab, a bureau at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which aims to transform global development through science, technology, innovation, and partnerships. (Two initiatives at MIT, D-Lab-based International Development Innovation Network and Department of Urban Studies and Planning-based Comprehensive Initiative on Technology Evaluation are funded under the Global Development Lab.) Chang has served as chief innovation officer at Mercy Corps and as the senior advisor for women and technology in the Secretary's Office of Global Women's Issues at the U.S. Department of State, where she became a public voice on leveraging technology to improve the lives of women and girls in developing countries. She conceived and launched the Alliance for Affordable Internet, a public-private partnership, which aims to provide Internet access to the next billion. She served as a senior engineering director at Google for eight years, where she led worldwide engineering for Google's mobile applications and services.
Following Chang’s talk, conference attendees will fan out for two hour-and-a-quarter breakout sessions on 10 different topics:
- Scaling Financial Inclusion;
- The Right Path to Last-Mile Distribution;
- Knowing Your Market: From There — Lived There — Been there;
- From Problem Framing to Mass Production: Best Practices in DIY Product Evaluation;
- Scaling Innovation Ecosystems;
- To Co-Design or Not to Co-Design;
- Entrepreneurship, Science, and Technology as Bridge-Building and Solution-Making Tools for Cultures in Conflict;
- The Marketing Roadmap in the BoP;
- Scaling Knowledge, Team, and Networks; and
- Smart Villages and Slowing Down Urban Migration.
The conference location is in and around the Wiesner Building (Building E15) on the MIT campus at 20 Ames Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
This year's conference is made possible by the MIT Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship and has been organized by the Legatum Center, MIT D-Lab, MIT Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center, MIT Media Lab, MIT Practical Impact Alliance, International Development Innovation Network, Comprehensive Initiative on Technology Evaluation, the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI), and the MIT Reagional Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program.