About the Center

Solving the world's biggest problems in

The Blum Center for Developing Economies leverages the talent, enthusiasm, and energy of the University of California, Berkeley 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 initiatives, education and research. 

Development Engineering & Innovation Initiatives

Development Engineering is an interdisciplinary field to address the challenges posed by the United Nations Sustainability Goals. The field integrates engineering, economics, business, natural resource development, and social sciences to develop, implement, and evaluate technological interventions that address the needs of low-income communities around the world. Engineering was created as an applied science; Development Engineering takes the field a step further by broadening the potential applications of engineering to address 21st-century inequities. Innovation initiatives connected to Development Engineering include: InFEWS (Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems), a National Science Foundation-supported program that trains PhD students working at the critical juncture of food, energy, and water; and the Development Impact Lab, a USAID-supported  global consortium of researchers, nongovernmental organizations, and industry partners committed to advancing international development through science and technology.

Global Poverty & Practice Minor (GPP)

The Global Poverty & Practice Minor, one of the largest and most popular minors on the UC Berkeley campus, gives students an opportunity to examine contemporary forms of poverty, wealth, and inequality through academic coursework and practical experience. Through GPP, students from across academic disciplines come together to think critically about issues of poverty and inequality, and investigate ways in which the minor can supplement their major field of study. To date, 17,550 students have taken GPP courses and 910 have graduated from the minor. 

Big Ideas Contest

Big Ideas is an annual innovation contest that provides funding, resources, mentorship, and validation to student-led social ventures. Based out of the Blum Center at UC Berkeley and open to all 10 University of California campuses, Big Ideas seeks out novel ideas and offers targeted training and support to social entrepreneurs as they navigate the earliest stages of the ideation process. In doing so, the contest not only fosters a diverse pipeline of thousands of young innovators committed to social impact, but also ensures promising teams develop the skillsets necessary to build successful start-ups. Since 2006, over 7,000 students have participated from over 100 majors, collaborating on 2,400 proposals. Big Ideas has awarded $2.6 million in prizes across more than 500 winning teams. These teams have used this seed funding to collectively secure over $662 million in additional investment. 

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…

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