Earlier this year I had the occasion to attend the AshokaU Exchange being held on the sunny Arizona State University campus in Tempe. The day and a half of packed conference schedule culminated in a dinner panel of three university presidents, each a giant in his field.
The dinner panel brought into sharp focus the challenges facing our higher education system and the three different but equally innovative approaches taken by each of the colleges. Continue reading →
Last year I had the opportunity to participate as a judge and mentor in the inaugural competition, MassChallenge. This is a serious business competition that has shown it can attract top quality concrete job creating ideas from round the world. Over 450 entries applied and 110 finalists were incubated for 3 months including free office space, introductions to VC, funders, customers and team resources.Sixteen finalists split $1 Million including $100,000 for the top finisher. Seeding Labs, profiled elsewhere on my blog, won $50,000 as the Social Impact finalist and also was offered free office space for another nine months.
Paul Polak is a physiatrist by training but has spent the past 25 years working to alleviate poverty in the developing world. His non-profit, International Development Enterprises, has come up with innovative low cost technologies that have improved the local livelihood of people at the bottom of the pyramid. For example the simply designed bamboo treadle pump has sold over 1.7 million copies and generated over $1.4 billion in farmer revenue in Bangladesh.
Paul has encapsulated his learnings in a book Out of Povertythatdescribes a number of these technologies. More recently, Paul has posted an interesting video on You tube that summarizes his Twelve Steps to Practical Problem Solving.
Some of the observations are commonsense ones but it is remarkable how often people forget them in their eagerness to push technology.
Yesterday I attended the final presentation of the International Development Design Summit at MIT – the brainchild of Amy Smith, MacArthur Fellow and lecturer in MIT’s Mechanical Engineering department. This, now yearly, event brought together nearly 60 students from 20 countries around the world to work together with a team of mentors and staff to tackle a number of design problems facing NGOs and non-profits in developing countries. Continue reading →