About the Center

Solving the world's biggest problems in

The University of California, Berkeley has a vital role to play in finding solutions to complex problems that require the collective expertise of many disciplines and the energy of committed individuals. The Blum Center for Developing Economies leverages the talent, enthusiasm, and energy of the University community to address the grand challenge of global poverty. Our interdisciplinary problem-solving approach draws on students and faculty dedicated to facing this challenge through innovative technologies, services, and education. 

Innovation Initatives & Development Engineering

We catalyze the efforts of the university community, in partnership with for-profit and nonprofit entities, to develop scalable and sustainable solutions. Our multidisciplinary approaches are built around new technologies with great potential for low-income regions. We invest in promising efforts and shepherd them to the next stage, engaging partners outside the university interested in bringing these innovations to millions. 

The Center has pulled together a spectacular coalition of technologists, development economists, and business strategists to launch a new field of research: Development Engineering. This revolutionary approach to creating viable, scalable solutions has been pioneered at the Blum Center.

Whether it’s technology to deliver better health care, expand access to safe water, or deploy smart grid options in rural areas, our faculty and students are intent on making meaningful and lasting impact.

Global Poverty and Practice Minor (GPP)

The Global Poverty & Practice Minor is a unique program providing a rigorous understanding of the sources and consequences of poverty as well as direct engagement with poverty action fieldwork.  Students come from nearly every major—economics to engineering, anthropology to architecture. GPP alumni are now tackling urgent and complex problems as entrepreneurs, scholars, activists, and global citizens. The Center has a continuously evolving portfolio of courses designed to educate undergraduates from all across the campus about global poverty, while providing them with basic skills and experiences so that they can take action. The efforts of a multidisciplinary faculty committee have yielded a wide variety of new courses taught by both distinguished Berkeley faculty and practitioners from the field.

Big Ideas

Big Ideas is an annual contest that provides funding, support, and encouragement to students who have “big ideas.” Seeking fresh, innovative ideas with high potential for social impact, Big Ideas is open to undergraduate and graduate students at UC Berkeley and 15 other campuses. Since the first contest in 2006, Big Ideas has provided a kick-start to 1,900 early stage ventures and funded nearly 435 organizations, with teams going on to leverage an additional $450 million in funding. Some Big Ideas have evolved into social enterprises, businesses, or international nonprofit groups; others have created impact on campus and in neighboring communities.

The Blum Center offers the following academic programs and initiatives:

BIG IDEAS is one of the oldest university-based student idea contests. In a rigorous, yearlong process, the contest provides funding, support, and mentoring to students seeking to have real-world impact in the areas of clean energy, global health, and food security, among other global challenges. Learn more…

GLOBAL POVERTY AND PRACTICE (GPP) is one of the most popular academic minors at UC Berkeley. GPP trains undergraduates to critically analyze the history and sources of poverty and inequality, and prepares them to engage with poverty alleviation in communities all over the world. Learn more…

DEVELOPMENT ENGINEERING is an interdisciplinary training program launched in 2014 for UC Berkeley graduate students who aim to use technology to address the needs of people living in poverty. The program is the first of its kind in the country. Now featuring InFEWS, a food-energy-water concentration of Development Engineering. Learn more…

IDEALABS are multidisciplinary collaborations between UC Berkeley graduate and undergraduate students working on developing a common application, product, or service. Learn more…

THE SOCIAL INNOVATOR ONRAMP helps students grow their ideas for social impact while still in school. The OnRamp course and its online resource guide are designed to bridge the gap between early stage ideation and off-campus implementation. Learn more…

DEVELOPMENT IMPACT LAB (DIL) was founded in 2012 with a $20 million investment from USAID and is a global consortium of researchers, nongovernmental organizations, and industry partners committed to advancing international development through science and technology. Learn more…

© 2017 Blum Center for Developing Economies

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