MIT Scaling Development Ventures: Bridging innovation and impact

Ann Mei Chang of the U.S. Global Development Lab and Kevin Starr of the Mulago Foundation will deliver keynote addresses

Nancy Adams    ·    April 7, 2015    ·    MIT News

This marks the third year that international development, entrepreneurship, and public service programs at MIT have come together to organize the MIT Scaling Development Ventures conference. Each year, the conference brings together perspectives from the international development and business communities to examine the best ways to bring poverty-alleviating solutions to market at scale. This year’s conference takes place at MIT on Saturday, April 11. Registration is free for members of the MIT community.

“The conference was born out of a vision many of us here at MIT share to rally industry, government, nongovernmental organizations, and entrepreneurs around MIT’s commitment to innovate against poverty,” Saida Benhayoune, director of the Scale-Ups program at MIT D-Lab, says. “I am particularly excited about this year’s edition, as it coincides with D-Lab’s launch of the MIT Practical Impact Alliance, an initiative that fosters shared learning and collaborative action to innovate and scale market driven solutions to global poverty issues.”

Conference keynote speakers are Kevin Starr, director of the Mualgo Foundation and the Rainer Arnhold Fellows Program, and a frequent contributor to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Ann Mei Chang, executive director of USAID’s Global Development Lab.

Kevin Starr, director of the Mulago Foundation and the Rainer Arnhold Fellows Program – both of which are focused on scalable solutions to meet the basic needs of the very poor – will deliver the morning keynote address at the 2015 MIT Scaling Development Ventures conference on April 11. Photo: The Mulago Foundation

“I am excited to speak and meet young innovative minds at MIT Scaling Development Ventures,” Chang says. “Tapping into the global collective genius that partners like MIT foster is a key factor for the U.S. Global Development Lab to find, test, and scale the best development innovation break-throughs.”

The featured conference panel, “Innovation for the Base of the Pyramid, By the Base of the Pyramid,” will highlight the work of social entrepreneurs and innovators from around the world. Guest speakers include Betty Ikalany, founder and executive director of Teso Women Development Initiatives in Uganda and David Saleh, a designer, entrepreneur, and beekeeper from Colombia. David Monina Sengeh, originally from Sierra Leone and a doctoral candidate at the MIT Media Laboratory, will also join the panel along with MIT D-Lab founder and co-director Amy Smith, and Bhaskar Chakravorty, senior associate dean of international business and finance at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Afternoon breakout sessions will cover subjects ranging from distribution of energy products to “last mile” consumers; marketing with dignity to base-of-the-pyramid customers; product design for social impact; increasing access of base-of-the-pyramid customers to products and services through financing; the challenges of building a global network of innovators; and much more. Over 35 speakers and presenters from universities, nongovernmental organizations, design firms, and social enterprises will host these afternoon sessions. During the lunch break, MIT D-Lab co-director Victor Grau Serrat will host a conversation about careers in global development. And on Friday, April 10, the evening prior to the conference, attendees are encouraged to attend the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge Innovation Showcase from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at MIT’s Stata Center. The full conference program can be found on the MIT Scaling Development Ventures website.

The first MIT Scaling Development Ventures conference, in 2012, came about under the initiative of D-Lab and its then new program, D-Lab Scale-Ups, in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program, the MIT Public Service Center’s IDEAS Global Challenge, and the International Development Initiative. The organizing groups now also include the International Development Innovation Network, the Comprehensive Initiative on Technology Evaluation, and the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship.

MIT Scaling Development Ventures 2015 is made possible by support from the Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives and the MIT Practical Impact Alliance.

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