Tackling the Global Poverty Challenge
D-Lab is building a global network of innovators to design and disseminate technologies that meaningfully improve the lives of people living in poverty. The program’s mission is pursued through interdisciplinary courses, technology development, and community initiatives, all of which emphasize experiential learning, real-world projects, community-led development, and scalability.
Founded by Amy Smith, Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, D-Lab has developed a range of technologies and processes, including community watertesting and treatment systems, human-powered agricultural processing machines, medical and assistive devices for global health, and clean-burning cooking fuels made from waste.
All D-Lab classes and projects are connected to communities around the world, including partners in Brazil, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Haiti, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Cambodia, and India.
D-Lab Courses at MIT
D-Lab challenges and inspires new generations of talented students to use their math, science, engineering, social science and business skills to tackle global poverty issues. Many D-Lab courses are cross-listed with academic departments and provide credit toward a variety of minor and major courses of study.
D-Lab academic offerings include design courses focused on health, energy, waste management, agricultural, and assistive technologies, as well as courses that cover the principles of creativity, collaborative design, cross-cultural dialogue, supply chain management, and business venture development. Most courses provide an option for fieldwork.
D-Lab Technology Development
D-Lab engages community partners, students, staff, faculty members, and corporate partners in developing technologies that have the potential to make significant impact in the lives of people living in poverty. Current projects include low-cost methods for environmental sensing, diagnosis with microfluidics and microscopy, grain processing and oil production, biometric data collection, energy production, refrigeration, and water purification.
D-Lab Beyond the Classroom
D-Lab is building programs to support and deepen its engagement in the fullcycle of design, development, dissemination, and impact assessment. D-Lab field activities include the following:
Creative Capacity Building (CCB)
CCB is a methodology that encourages people living in poverty to become active creators of technology, not just recipients or users of technology, through a hands-on curriculum that is accessible at any educational level. Activities include village-level training and support for innovation centers in Tanzania, Uganda, Guatemala, and Haiti.
International Development Innovators Network (IDIN)
Through design summits, innovation centers, business incubators, and a growing network of over 200 innovators in 20 countries, IDIN seeks to create low-cost, high-impact technologies and ventures, while simultaneously documenting and evaluating approaches to international development that value local ingenuity and innovation.
Comprehensive Initiative for Technology Evaluation (CITE)
D-Lab, in partnership with the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, is leading an effort to develop rigorous methodologies for evaluatingtechnological solutions to challenges in the developing world. This methodology, and the evaluations CITE generates, will help donors and policy makers to identify and invest in the most effective solutions.
Through a fellowship program for MIT graduates, technical assistance to developing-world social entrepreneurs, and targeted technology development, Scale-Ups helps bring technologies to market for largescale social impact.
D-Lab’s Youth Outreach Program focuses on Hands-on Invention Education and works with primary and secondary school teachers to develop curricular materials that build the confidence and skills needed by the next generation of innovators from around the world.