D-Lab 15th Anniversary Symposium & Community Day! October 20 and 21, 2017!


D-Lab is turning 15! And we're celebrating our academic, research, and global programs with a full-day symposium and a fun-filled community day!

D-Lab 15th Anniversary Symposium

Friday, Oct. 20, 10 am-7 pm
Little Kresge Theater, MIT

  • Keynote by D-Lab Founding Director Amy Smith
  • Introduction by MIT Vice Chancelor Ian Waitz
  • Talks by students, alumni, researchers, & community partners
  • Panel discussions
  • Product and technology showcase
  • Lunch and reception following keynote

D-Lab Community Day

Saturday, Oct. 21, 12 pm-4 pm
Kresge Barbecue Pits & D-Lab MIT N51 3rd floor

  • D-Lab Charcoal burn
  • D-Lab "Olympics"
  • Picnic
  • D-Lab Tour
  • Hands-on activities!

Celebrate some of these amazing programs with us:

D-Lab Academics: 24 MIT courses developed.
D-Lab Alumni: Over 1,800 alumni of D-Lab courses!
D-Lab Scale-Ups Fellowship: 33 social entrerpeneur fellows funded working on four continents.
D-Lab Research: Six research groups including Biomass Fuels and Cookstoves, Off-Grid Energy, Mobile Technology, Local Innovation, Agriculture & Water, and Mobility.
International Development Design Summits: 22 summits, nearly 900 innovators from more than 60 countries, who have produced more than 100 innovations!
International Innovation Centers: 20 affiliated innovation centers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
International Development Innovation Network: A five-year program supporting international summits and innovators alike.
Humanitarian Innovation: Training refugees in design and bringing refugees, internally displace people, engineers, and designers together for co-creation.
Practical Impact Alliance: A unique kind of industry consortium - world-leading organizations teamed up to develop and scale technology and business solutions to global poverty.
Creative Capacity Building: The methodology at the core of D-Lab's approach to international development at MIT and in the field.

2017 MIT Water Innovator-in-Residence Application: Due August 11!


The Innovator-in-Residence program is an opportunity at MIT supported by MIT D-Lab and the MIT Water Club. An innovator from D-Lab’s global network will be selected to visit the MIT campus for two weeks to engage in knowledge exchange with MIT students and staff, use D-Lab’s workshop and resources to work on a personal project, and participate in the MIT Water Summit. The selected fellow will receive a round-trip ticket to MIT, accommodation, a materials allowance, and per diem.


An applicant to the MIT Water Innovator-in-Residence program should meet the following requirements:

  • Have attended an International Development Design Summit or Creative Capacity Building workshop
  • Be working on a project related to water in the developing world, including agriculture, treatment/filtration technology, or sanitation and hygiene
  • Be available to come to MIT’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts for two weeks in late October to early November 2017, coinciding with the MIT Water Summit on November 6-7, 2017
  • Be willing to interact with MIT students through classes, lectures, and/or trainings


Please answer the following questions and send via email (mit-water-res@mit.edu) by August 11, 2017.

  1. What is your name?
  2. Where are you from? Where do you currently live?
  3. Please briefly describe your work and any organizations you currently work or volunteer with and how they are linked to the theme of water.
  4. List any International Development Design Summit(s) or Creative Capicity Building training(s) you have attended (include location and year).
  5. List skills you have that you would bring to the MIT innovation ecosystem and its students during your time here.
  6. As an Innovator-in-Residence, we would ask you to interact with MIT students. Please briefly describe one activity, lecture, or workshop you would be interested in providing to our students.
  7. Please tell us what you would most like to work on during your time at MIT and D-Lab. Describe the project you would like to develop, the stage it is currently in, and what resources you would need for your work to be successful. (You do not need to submit a detailed budget.)
  8. What would this residency mean to you? How would it benefit you after you went back home?
  9. Are you able to commit to traveling to MIT for two weeks in late October to early November, and attend the MIT Water Summit on November 6-7?
  10. Please tell us about any special accommodations you would need during your time as an Innovator-in-Residence.

Read more about past D-Lab visiting innovators and designers!

Questions? Contact Libby Hsu or Jona Repishti at MIT D-Lab!

Assessment of user needs and preferences related to drinking water and water filters in Uttarakhand, India

by Megha Hegde, D-Lab Research Associate

D-Lab research associate Megha Hegde (right) conducting a focus group discussion with women in a village in the Kapkot block of Bageshwar district.

The MIT D-Lab team and local university student translators. 


A woman carrying drinking water collected at a natural spring on her head.


Megha Hegde conducting interviews with women in a village.

A young man carrying water collected at a natural spring. 


View of a mountainous village in Bageshwar district where the team was doing research.

I was in Uttarakhand between January 6 and 31st to oversee a team conducting an assessment to understand current needs related to drinking water and usage of water filters. Findings of this study will be used to determine the design criteria for the xylem filter as part of a current research project, "Development of Low-Cost Water Filter Using Sapwood Xylem," with MIT principal investigators Rohit Karnik, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Amy Smith, Senior Lecturer, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Founding Director, D-Lab.

Team, local partner, and location

This trip represented my first experience as a D-Lab trip leader and I couldn't have asked for a better team. I travelled with two students: Nupur Dokras, a second year student at MIT Sloan School of Management and Caroline Morris, a Wellesley junior taking D-Lab classes. We partnered with a local NGO called People’s Science Institute (PSI) for on the ground support to implement research activities. (Because Rohit and team had previously done some research in the region and had established contacts, setting up the project in the region was that much easier.) We also hired three graduate students from Uttarakhand: Chandra, Vikram, and Deepak, to help us with translation and coordination. In addition to Amy and Rohit, our technology team members at MIT include Krithika Ramchander, PhD candidate and Tata Fellow; Luda Wang; post-doctoral fellow; and Kendra Leith, Evaluation Manager at D-Lab.

We conducted our work in two districts in Uttarakhand, Almora, and Bageshwar. In Almora we focused on the town and in Bageshwar about seven villages. Both districts are in the foothills of Himalayas, in high altitudes. We decided to do this study in Uttarakhand, because the coniferous trees are plentiful in the region and the literature suggests that there is high level of bacterial contamination in drinking water in the mountainous regions, especially in the monsoon season. 

While spellbindingly beautiful, it was extremely cold! Freezing temperatures, zero indoor heating and limited hot water made our lives a bit difficult in the beginning. All three of us got sick in the first week and almost thought that we would not be able to finish the work. But we recovered and got used to the cold and everything went almost as planned. 

Research activities

Our work include nterviews, focus groups, immersion and design workshops. We interviewed a total of 269 households, and several other stakeholders such as doctors, filter vendors and NGO staff, conducted five focus group discussions, two design workshops and few immersion activities. This gave us a very good understanding of the things on the ground. We have a great deal of data that we are currently anazlyzing.

Design workshop

I conducted my first design workshop in this trip and it was a great experience! We did two of them in two different villages. In the first workshop, more than 15 women participated, and made filter prototypes with the materials we provided. It was amazing to see the level of creativity in the women with no or very little formal education. They were too shy to even say their names out loud in the beginning, but as the workshop progressed, they opened up and finally came up with some great filter prototypes. My team and I had a lot of fun and learned so much. 

The second workshop did not go as well, women in that village did not completely trust us and were not ready to spend a lot of time with us. I think it was because the local contact was a man and did not have good rapport with the women. More than 10 women participated in the workshop, but they did not take us seriously or listened to us. They did not want to wait to make filter prototypes and left early. While leaving they literally fought us and took most of the supplies such as scissors, duck tapes and so on. While it was a bit disappointing, it was a great learning too. We learned how important it is to have a good local contact who has good relationship with people and who can bring people together. In the first village, that was the case. The local contact was a very dynamic young woman who knew everyone in the village, women trusted her, and so she was able to bring them together which resulted in a great workshop. 

Major learning/initial findings

We found that most people in Uttarakhand depend on natural spring for drinking water. In towns and cities, we saw quite a bit of filter usage, but in the villages the use of filters or any water treatment method was almost nil. Though a few people have filters at home, they don’t use them regularly. From talking to so many people, it was very clear that, their mindset about spring water was the biggest reason for low adoption of water treatment methods. Affordability was the 2nd biggest reason. It’s a common belief that spring water is the purest form of water that does not need any treatment or filtration. While that was true several decades ago, increase in human and livestock population in the recent years is leading to contamination of spring water. The doctors we interviewed reported that water borne diseases are on the rise, more in children and especially in monsoon season. But they also mentioned that some adults might have developed some level of immunity to those diseases.

Our partner NGO PSI has conducted water testing in several parts of Uttarakhand, and they reported that spring water both in towns and villages have shown bacterial contamination and is not recommended to drink without treatment. While it’s clear that there is a great potential for Rohit’s low-cost filter, it also means that people’s mindset about spring water would be the biggest hurdle for adoption. Hence, we have to find creative ways to motivate behavior change while also getting the filter design and price right.

Next steps

The next phase of our work includes data entry and analysis, internal presentation and reporting, and an exploration of opportunities to do a similar study in a different area.

Uttarakhand was mesmerizing. We saw the great Himalayas and explored some very interesting places. All places we visited were in the mountains, not much connectivity to roads. So we did a lot of hiking everyday. People were very nice and welcoming as usual. Both American and Indian students got along very well, which made the work effective and enjoyable. 

Overall the trip was a success; we learned a lot and had a lot of fun. Caroline, Nupur, and the Indian students worked very hard to get things done. We were a great team! 

Investigating user needs preferences for a low-cost water filter while gaining life perspective and cultural meaning in India

by Nupur Dokras, candidate MBA and SM Mechanical Engineering, MIT

Nupur (right) and her translator Deepak Bhatt (left) interviewing a woman in a village in Bageshwar district of Uttarakhand (center).

The team hiking up to a village.


Conduting interviews.


Design workshops with women to design mock filter prototypes. 


The MIT D-Lab team and local university student translators.








The Project and its key take-aways

The purpose of the project was to gather market data for a current MIT research project Development of Low-Cost Water Filter Using Sapwood Xylem in process under Rohit Karnik, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Amy Smith, Senior Lecturer, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Founding Director of D-Lab. Our goal was to gain an understanding of the user needs and preferences of rural people in India to determine design criteria for this kind of low-cost water filter. Although Professor Karnik has found that xylem from coniferous trees could be used to filter bacteria from water, no market data was available to determine if a product would be accepted in the market and what types of needs the product needed to address. 

I traveled to Uttarahand with D-Lab Research Associate Megha Hegde as trip leader and D-Lab student researcher and Wellesley student Caroline Morris to conduct this study. We started our project in Dehradun where we met with local partner organization People’s Science Institute (PSI) representatives to review the project details and gain local and team alignment on the projects goals, itinerary, and interview guide. Over a period of three weeks in India, we travelled to Almora, Kapkot, and Bageshwar, three towns at the base of the Himalayas to conduct the research activities. 

Working with local university students as interpreters, we hiked up and down the hills into various villages in each of the towns and approached villagers to conduct interviews. After completing nearly 100 interviews and a few design workshops, I was able to use what I learned in classes such as Global Engineering and New Enterprises to develop a set of market findings. 

The interviews gave me an inside perspective on villagers and their way of life. Some people had to walk for over an hour to gather their water several times a day. For many, water quality is not a priority as providing food for their families took precedence. Filters and maintenance parts were difficult to find in local markets as the villages were so remote. 

Other learnings and experiences

Aside from bolstering my academic learnings here at MIT, this trip has absolutely changed my outlook on life. In addition to learning about water filtration and water use, I learned so much more about a simpler way of life. I saw students walking for an hour each way to attend school. I laughed with a child as he ecstatically ran across the field when we fixed his broken plastic flip flop with duct tape. I tried on a crop basket and felt the enormous weight of the mustard plants against my back as I climbed the hill to the house. I was greeted with a cup of chai in every house I went to in spite of the fact that only enough electricity to power three LEDs was available in the entire house. I watched ladies lug gas tanks from the base of a hill to their kitchens in order to cook.

Each of these experiences has made me aware of the immense world outside the bubble I live in. Despite the challenges these villagers face, they never hesitated to offer whatever they had to ensure we were comfortable. This generosity and positivity is something that resonated with me throughout the trip and I hope to live my life with that level of positivity and generosity when I get back to my everyday routine.

Having been to Mumbai and Delhi for family trips before, I did not expect to be affected by culture shock; however, being in rural India was an incredibly different experience. I realized just how much of an adventure we were on when we had to go to ten different stores to find bottled water and had to drive for another hour to find toilet paper and gasoline! The food, though incredibly spicy, was so fresh and some of the best Indian food I have ever had. When handed an orange in a village, I was promptly given salt and spices to smear on the peeled orange. The mix of tangy and spicy flavors was unforgettable!

I was very surprised at how much I had in common with the villagers. We met one of the local guides at the town center and throughout the day we chatted about our interests and families, despite my only being able to speak in terribly broken Hindi and her being able to speak in terribly broken English. I was surprised at how quickly we were able to understand one another and become friends despite being from opposite sides of the world.

I learned to not take my life for granted and to be in a constant search for how to make a positive impact on others. Being in India made me miss seeing familiar food chains and not having to watch out for cow dung on the streets when I walked outside, as well as basic amenities such as access to electricity and light for 24 hours of the day. This experience has given me a new appreciation for a simpler life and the beauty of India. Additionally, it has given me a different perspective on how to view day to day challenges, and realize how they pale in comparison to other larger issues in the world. 

As a first generation Indian American, this trip not only allowed me to get a small taste of what life was like in my country of origin, but also gave me the opportunity to give back to a country that has defined a part of who I am. After cultivating some strong relationships with PSI, the Kumauni interns and the D-Lab team at MIT, I hope to continue to work on the development of the design of this filter during the upcoming semester. Though I loved my former work as an automotive engineer and have accepted a full time position in the industry after I graduate with my MBA and MS in Mechanical Engineering, I hope to actively participate in MIT’s social impact projects as an alumna.

I’m grateful to D-Lab for this once in a life opportunity. I know I wouldn’t have been able to learn many of these life lessons solely from the classroom. I am incredibly fortunate to have had this opportunity and will never forget the relationships I made, experiences I had, and lessons I learned!

Waste plastics recycling needs assessment and more in Uganda

by Joy Lee 

Left to right: Drew Beller '18, Joy Lee '13, and Tim Mangenello '17 stand proudly by a completed charcoal grinder. Photo: Lauren Bustamante

Plastic and chemical waste polluting a stream in an industrial area of Kampala.


Plastic wasted littering a roadside in Soroti.


Traditional three-stone fire.


An example of a “honeycomb” briquette. These briquettes are named for their shape, which allows for easy channeling of flames during use. 


Cookstove in use with bread cubes at the side.


Making banana bread pudding!





During MIT Independent Actitivies Period in January, I had the opportunity to travel with a D-Lab: Development course team to Uganda. My goals were twofold – to perform a needs assessment for a waste plastic recycling project for MIT Chapter of  Engineers Without Borders (EWB), and to support the D-Lab: Development team with their projects.

ResilientAfrica Network and waste plastic recycling needs assessment

EWB's waste plastic recycling work inititally grew out of a project taken on by a D-Lab: Develpment team in Tanzania last year (see blog post). In Tanzania, they melted plastic bags and then used the resulting material for crocheting a variety of products. EWB has been running with this work since then, and had been looking to do a needs assessment with a developing world partner. Funding from a UGC D-Lab Fieldwork grant made this possible.

We spent the first few days of our trip in Kampala, the capital city. During the course of our time in Kampala, we met with young innovators working with the ResilientAfrica Network. The teams were tackling a wide range of problems from fetal monitoring in rural towns to producing reliable sources of cooking fuel using sustainable materials. In talking further with Sophie and Pamela from the sustainable fuel team, I realized that they might benefit from the work we had done for our plastics project.

The traditional method of cooking used is with a three-stone fire fueled by logs. Unfortunately, cooking with wood over an open fire poses both an environmental risk (due to deforestation) and a health risk (open flames, smoke that irritates the eyes and airways). In a city like Kampala, it is especially important to find an alternative, sustainable source of fuel. The RAN charcoal briquette team makes briquettes using organic waste material to create char that they then mix with a binder (for example, molasses thinned with water) that holds the char together and allows them to produce “honeycomb” charcoal briquettes that are essentially smokeless. Their process starts with purchasing dry organic waste matter such as leaves and other plant clippings. They then sort the material by hand, removing trash such as plastic bags or bottles. Although this is the most painstaking step of the process, they are unable to use the non-organic waste, and discard those items. 

This provided me with an opportunity to assess the feasibility of, and interest in, turing this extracted plastic waste into something useful. The current plastic melting procedure developed by EWB uses readily available items such as a large cooking pot, vegetable oil, and wooden molds. While in Uganda, I was able to build a simple wooden mold with Sophie and Pamela for them to use in testing their setup. They were able to easily purchase the other items in Kampala, and were planning to begin testing. One of their asks from the EWB team is that we partner with them to test different types of filler material to see what will bind well with the plastic. Although plastic is plentiful, other materials such as sand are cheaper and will add the volume needed to create larger items. (As a general reference point, roughly half a shopping bag will make a thin square of molded plastic about 1”x 1”x 1/4”). We look forward to seeing where the project goes from here.

Innovation workshop

I also had the opportunity to work with the D-Lab: Development team on their projects – running a youth innovation workshop and improving ventilation for a charcoal grinder machine. (See Rachel and Drew’s post for more details on these projects.) One of the more rewarding aspects of the trip for me was the chance to work with the kids and briquette factory workers in Soroti to discuss with them some ways we stimulate creative thinking and approach design solutions. It was  rewarding to see them get excited about developing their own designs and build prototypes to test them. As Drew, Tim, and I worked with them over the course of our two weeks in Soroti, we saw them build their confidence for trying out new methods and designs. I especially wanted to pass along one of the lessons that I learned as a student at MIT – it’s okay if your design doesn’t work the first time. I explained that just because something doesn’t work at first doesn’t mean that you should give up on that design concept entirely. It probably needs some tweaking and some additional testing, and perhaps you will find after some more testing that you can identify the flaw in your design. In other words, keep at it until you’ve tried everything! (And please take the appropriate safety precautions at every step!)

Health issues and working conditions

One of the things that I learned in Uganda is how easily people can develop serious health issues because of unsafe working conditions. My entire life, I’ve been told not to look at the sun, to wear close-toed shoes when working with machinery, and to be careful with wearing loose clothing around open flames. When we were in Soroti, one of the cookstove factory workers came to work in the morning with red, watery eyes. He said his eyes were hurting so badly even with sunglasses on that all he could do was to sit in the shade. He asked for eyedrops and painkillers (which we discovered are what people use frequently to treat their symptoms of extended exposure to light from welding). We explained that looking at the light from welding could cause permanent eye damage, and that treating the symptoms was not enough. It was hard to watch my new friend in so much pain – especially when it was easily preventable. One of my takeaways from this trip is that there is a need to not only improve the technological tools in developing countries, but also train people how to safely and effectively use the new technology. Improving people’s quality of life hinges not only on access to better infrastructure and technology, but also on access to information about how to live safer, healthier lives. 

Banana bread pudding!

I wish I could share more about my trip to Uganda because it was a challenging, but incredibly rewarding experience. In the limited space I have, I will share one fun experience with you – making banana bread pudding. It’s a tradition to cook dinner for the Soroti-based team on our last night in town. Our team was planning a menu and realized that with the easy access to bananas, we could bake banana bread for dessert. The only problem was that only bakeries have ovens. In an effort to improvise, I decided to make banana bread pudding. (Pictures are below. We were outside and it got dark as I was cooking so the final dish looks pretty gray.) Overall, it was fun – I had six-year-olds helping me make it, and I got to try cooking on a charcoal-fueled cookstove! The texture was similar to oatmeal in the end, but the flavor was great. It’s something I would try out here in Boston with not-crumbly bread.

I’d encourage everyone who has a chance to work on a D-Lab project to do so and I’d also like to thank the D-Lab team, the EWB team, our partners in Uganda, and the UGC for making this trip possible. 

MIT Alumni on Why They Support D-Lab in the MIT Giving Day Challenge

This Pi Day, March 14, 2017, friends of MIT from around the globe will join together to take on the university’s first-ever 24-Hour Giving Day Challenge.

If 1,500 people make a gift to MIT in just 24 hours, it will unlock a $150,000 matching gift from a generous, anonymous donor.

D-Lab is proud to be a participating partner in Giving Day, and we hope you’ll consider making a gift to support D-Lab’s work designing for a more equitable world.

 Here is what some of our alumni say about why they support D-Lab’s work:

“I loved my projects at MIT, but felt that a lot of resources went to building the next frontier of technology. D-Lab was one of the few programs that focused on innovative, simple solutions for real needs of 80 percent of the world's population living on less than $2.50 a day. This has been a huge inspiration for how I want to dedicate my time in the future.”

—   Caroline Hane-Weijman, Pivotal Labs Product Manager, (Mechanical Engineering, '11)

“Diversity. Inclusion. Community. Agency. Empowerment. Excellence. To me, this is the MIT ethos as embodied by the work that D-Lab does through the programs I know and love.”

—    Ticora V. Jones, Division Chief of the USAID Higher Education Solutions Network, (Material Science & Engineering, '00)

“D-Lab provided me a framework to assess the challenges facing those in the developing world and collaborate on solutions. I rely on this knowledge frequently in my work at edX where we work to provide access to higher education to everyone. I support D-Lab because I feel we at MIT have a duty to create a better world and society for our fellow citizens. D-Lab, and its numerous alumni, help bring the world to MIT, and MIT to the world.”

—    Clinton Blackburn, Senior Software Engineer at edX, (Computer Science, '08)

“Support D-Lab today so that some of the nation’s best and brightest at MIT will bend towards service and co-creation. But also support (Founding Director) Amy Smith because in her work at MIT, she also fuels this movement in education for institutional and academic partners all over the US and all over the world. When you contribute to something like D-Lab, you know the money is well-spent and the effect is real - and is reaching far beyond the confines of Cambridge.”

—    Nadeem Mazen, Cambridge, MA City Council Member, (Biological Engineering, '06)

“Working with D-Lab has been a very fulfilling and invigorating way for me to stay in touch with MIT. The students have a true sense of purpose and are very well aligned with MIT’s mission to create long lasting impact on the world. I truly enjoy getting to know the students at D-Lab and see their creativity and technical skills go toward solving profound challenges. If every engineering problem that the world faces was tackled with the same enthusiasm and energy that we see in D-Lab - the world would be a much better place! I am humbled and honored to work with persons that care so much about their work.”

—   Kate Bergeron, Vice President of Hardware Engineering at Apple, (Mechanical Engineering, '93)

“It is such a privilege to come into D-Lab every single day to work with a truly global community of passionate people who are all about the business of creating a more just and equitable world. That we make small, measurable steps in that direction through practical, yet inspired solutions in collaboration with practical yet inspired people is, from a personal and professional standpoint, a dream come true." 

—   Kofi Taha, Associate Director at MIT D-Lab (Masters in Urban Studies & Planning)

 This MIT Giving Day, we hope you’ll make a difference with a gift to D-Lab.

Interested in becoming an MIT Giving Day Ambassador, and telling others why you support D-Lab’s work? Please email Lauren McKown at lmckown@mit.edu and we’ll share the details.

Creating a Valuation Method to Provide Leverage for an Informal Market in Durban, South Africa

by Emma Castaños '17 & Teresa De Figueiredo '17

MIT students Emma and Teresa at the Brook Street Market.


Left to right: AeT staff member, Teresa, and Kate.


Left to right: Emma Castaños and three AeT staff members.


Murals memorializing local traders near the Early Morning Market.


A view of the taxis that travel through Warwick Junction.

MIT seniors Emma Castaños and Teresa De Figueiredo and D-Lab instructor and CREATE Executive Director Kate Mytty traveled to Durban, South Africa to work with the NGO Asiye eTafuleni (AeT). During the month of January, they worked on a Market Valuation project described in this blog post. (A second project focused on Public Lavatories). They worked in close collaboration with the AeT team including Phumelele, Nompumelelo, Tasmi, Patrick, and Richard. Emma and Teresa are both continuing these projects through a UROP supervised by Kate under the MIT CREATE program.

Emma's work was supported by a UGC D-Lab Fieldwork Grant and Teresa's by an MIT Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center Fellowship.


Smiling faces, cake, and sparkling juice greeted us at our first staff meeting. The Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) team had put together a small celebration; not for us, the newly arrived MIT group, but for the service of Lihle on her last day of work. Lihle is a trader from Warwick Junction working as a Hair Dresser, now an AeT intern alumna and a trained Markets of Warwick tour guide. The mutual thanks of the AeT team and Lihle during their goodbyes were our first introduction to the collaborative and welcoming environment that we would discover during our stay with AeT. 

On that same day, Patrick, Nompumelelo, and Phumelele, took us on a tour of Warwick. We saw a market that was bustling with activity, emanating music and energy, and brimming with friendly, hard-working, and kind people. For the rest of our stay, we could always rely on the advice from Nonhlanhla about the best route to take through the market. In the market, we listened to the hubbub around us and the interpretations of our hosts. From Patrick, we learned about the vendor organizations and their self-regulating functions. For example, Traders against Crime formed to combat crime in the highest crime area of Warwick. Today, with the Traders against Crime unit, this area is one of the safest areas of Warwick. We learned that if someone runs past the traders, the traders will stop the running person and make sure they are late for a train and not running away from a crime committed. This illuminated a belief that Richard has shared with us earlier in the day, that Warwick was a democracy in a true meaning of the word.

In the following weeks, we witnessed firsthand the AeT team’s demonstrated understanding of the complex organism that is the Markets of Warwick. Not only does the team know how to work with the stakeholders in the markets, they hold a deep respect for their autonomy and authority. Patrick constantly told us that if one gives the traders respect, they will give respect in return. This principle was shown in practice during our interviews with the vendors. Phumelele, Nompumelelo, and Patrick made sure to explain to the vendors what work we were doing and how our work would directly benefit the vendors. Furthermore, we emphasized that the vendors were the experts in our research and it was crucial we learned from their experiences and knowledge. Through AeT, we learned to foster and appreciate respect for the individual vendors and the market communities.

During our preparation for this internship, we read about Participatory Action Based (PAR) research. We learned that PAR requires including the beneficiaries of the research and ensuring equal opportunity and engagement in the research process and development. It is not simply researchers coming in, completing their work, and leaving; but rather, researchers engaging with the community and empowering the vendors to have ownership over the information and outcomes of the research. Through conversations with Tasmi, we have learned how AeT masterfully applies the concept of PAR. They engage interns that have worked in Warwick Junction, train traders with research skills, hold community meetings and workshops to solicit meaningful input in their project work, and even invite vendors to international conferences. AeT provides an excellent example of PAR and it was a wonderful experience to learn firsthand from them.

In our last week, we learned the meaning of Asiye eTafuleni which means “a seat at the table” in Zulu. This phrase epitomizes AeT’s organizational approach and thus is a perfect phrase to describe their work. In short, the values of respect permeate the AeT work culture. During our time with AeT we felt welcomed and valued, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Warwick!

D-Lab Reg Day Tour & Open House, Feb 6, 1-3 pm

D-Lab Registration Day Tour & Open House
Monday, February 6: Tour 12-1 pm;
Open House with Instructors 1-2 pm

MIT N51 3rd floor

Curious about D-Lab Spring 2017 Courses? Always wanted to come for a tour? Interested in exporing a D-Lab UROP? Have questions for a D-Lab instructor?

If so, come on over the the D-Lab Registration Day Tour and Open House!

2017 Spring D-Lab Course Listings

D-Lab: Design EC.720 (U) / 2.722J (3-0-9)
Instructor: Matt McCambridge

D-Lab: Earth EC.714 (U) (2-0-4)
Instructors: Ariel Phillips & Susan Murcott

D-Lab: Education & Learning EC.S07 (U) / EC.S11 (G) (2-2-5)
Instrutctors: Jessica Huang & Lisa Nam

D-Lab: Energy EC.711 (U), EC.791(G) / 2.651 (3-3-6)
Instructors: Libby Hsu & Amit Gandhi

D-Lab: Field Research EC.788 (G) (3-0-9)
Instructor: Elizabeth Hoffecker

D-Lab: New Economies EC.740 (3-0-6)
Instructors: Libby McDonald & Kate Mytty

D-Lab: Prosthetics for the Developing World EC.722 (2-2-5)
Instructors: Bryan Ranger & Matt McCambridge

D-Lab: Water and Climate Change EC.719 (U), EC.789 (G) (3-4-5)
Instructors: Susan Murcott & Julie Simpson

Humanitarian Innovation EC.750 (U), EC.785 (G) (4-0-8)
Instructors: Amy Smith & Martha Thompson


Design for Complex Environmental Problems  1.015
Instructors: Ari Epstein, & D-Lab's Libby Hsu!


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