Working with people around the world, MIT D-Lab develops and advances collaborative approaches and practical solutions to global poverty challenges.
The program’s mission is pursued through interdisciplinary courses, field-engaged research, technology development, and community initiatives — all of which emphasize experiential learning, real-world projects, community-led development, and scalability.
Founded in 2002 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.
D-Lab classes, research groups, and programs are connected to communities around the world in countries including Botswana, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Haiti, Ghana, Mali, Morocco, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and others.
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 Research Program
D-Lab research including needs assessment, market research, product evaluations, and sector-specific applied research, cuts across all programs. Undergraduates, graduate students, and research scientists are all engaged in applied research projects. D-Lab research groups, initiatives and resources include the following:
International Development Innovators Network (IDIN)
Through design summits, innovation centers, business incubators, and a growing network of over 800 innovators in 61 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.
Since its launch in 2011, D-Lab Scale-Ups has grown to include a fellowship program for social entrepreneurs (open to alumni of MIT and the International Development Design Summit), a technical assistance program for agricultural waste charcoal social enterprises in East Africa (Uganda and Tanzania), a research and development program with projects in El Salvador, Mali, Morocco, and Kenya, and a new initiative—the Practical Impact Alliance. D-Lab Scale-Ups is also the founder of the MIT Scaling Development Ventures conference, annual since 2013.
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.
The D-Lab workshop is a place where D-Lab students bring technologies for the developing world to life. An average of 150 students use the shop each year to test ideas, build prototypes, and refine technologies intended to improve the lives of some of the poorest people in the world. Dozens of prototypes are developed in the shop each year.
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.