Kurtis Heimerl Named MIT Technology Review Innovator Under 35

By Tamara Straus

August 19, 2014 | When Kurtis Heimerl applied for the PhD program in computer science at UC Berkeley, he didn’t intend to focus on technology for developing countries. But several experiences propelled him in that direction.

In Eagles River, Alaska, where he grew up, he said he “spent a lot of time in rural areas and saw how the lack of access to technology affected people’s lives, especially during emergencies.” Heimerl excelled early at math, and his parents urged him to pursue work and money at the big tech companies. So while an undergraduate at University of Washington, he interned at Google and Amazon. But he didn’t love the work.  “Computer programming is tedious,” said Heimerl. “That’s why companies like Google pay us so much.”

After graduation, Heimerl landed a job at Microsoft Research India, which took him to Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh in the summer of 2007. He said he went not for altruistic reasons, but because he wanted to see India. The project, called the Digital Study Hall, put him to work developing long-distance learning software for children in slums and rural schools. To Heimerl’s surprise, he said, it was “super fun. I saw the work was useful and I could help people.”

That fall when he matriculated at Cal, Heimerl went hunting for people doing technology for development. He soon found Computer Science Professor Eric Brewer, who runs a lab called TIER, short for Technology and Infrastructure for Emerging Regions, and managed to jump through the programming hoops Brewer presented him. “I came in with a strong technical background,” said Heimerl. “What I needed were stronger social science skills, ways to connect technological advancements to the needs of people.”

Heimerl related all this background from a small schoolhouse built by Dutch missionaries in the remote highlands of Papua, Indonesia, where he is monitoring the cellular network he installed last year for the area’s 1,500 residents—and where last week he received the news that MIT Technology Review  named him one of the Innovators under 35 in the “Humanitarian” category.

Heimerl deserves the label. He is among a growing number of top-notch computer scientists and engineers who are turning away from the big money of technology companies to pursue humanitarian tech work—or what’s increasingly being called Development Engineering. Heimerl’s graduate and post-doctoral work has focused on how to provide cellular communications to some of the estimated 1 billion people worldwide who live outside the range of cellular carriers.

At its core, he explained, the challenge is not about technological innovation, but about how to apply existing and low-cost cellular network advancements to places with regulatory and economic barriers. The highland villages of Papua are just too remote and the people too few and poor for a big phone company to have interest. As Heimerl and his UC Berkeley colleagues explain in a recent paper, the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network may be the largest communications network on earth, but it is full of “whitespaces”: places off the grid and without cellular coverage, which limit people’s economic advancement and quality of life.

To fill the whitespaces, Heimerl and his colleagues at TIER have created, with support from USAID’s Development Impact Lab and the Blum Center for Developing Economies, a GSM cellular tower that can be powered by sun or wind and that provides villagers with local calls, text messaging, and web surfing. The project, called Community Cellular Networks, is essentially an outdoor PC in a waterproof box that uses an open-source technology (called OpenBTS) to implement a GSM base station. Heimerl says it takes one to two people to set it up, and no one to maintain it. “You get a pole, run it up a big tree, rope the box into place, and it’s done,” said Heimerl.

But the community cellular network, which has been running in Papua for 18 months under the tacit approval of various government officials, is technically illegal. The reason? GSM uses licensed spectrum, and gaining access to licensed spectrum is nearly impossible for small, rural operators. “But shutting it down doesn’t help anyone, and no one is going to do it,” said Heimerl. Also, the revenue from this “pirating” is insignificant; what’s significant is the social benefit. Heimerl’s five-month-old social enterprise Endaga charges $0.09 per outbound SMS, $0.02 per minute for local calls, and $10 for a SIM card. It is making about $1,000 a month from a few hundred customers, and expects to break even on its $10,000 investment in a year. Verizon and AT&T are not calling.

Besides sitting in the school and monitoring the system, Heimerl said he deals with the network’s billing issues and interviews people about their cell phone experiences. One story from the local hospital is illustrative. For the latter part of the summer, the only two doctors went to Jayapura, the capital of Papua, leaving the nurses in charge. Starting in July, many villagers came down with a tropical disease. No one knew what to do. With Heimerl’s cellular network, nurses were able to reach the doctors using SMS to help with diagnosis and treatment. For the nurses—and the sick villagers—the savings in terms of travel costs and lost workdays were considerable.

“It’s exciting to build a system like this and to solve a problem,” said Heimerl, who also admits development work is not all travel and excitement. But Heimerl seems to take advantage of his boredom. When the power goes out, which happens from to 2 pm to 6 pm everyday in Papua, he plays basketball and mingles with the villagers, who often tell him how useful and life-altering it is to communicate with the outside world. “That’s what gets me up in the morning,” he said.

“There are so many things to love about Heimerl’s work in Indonesia,” said Professor Brewer of his student. “But my favorite is that he is delivering complex technology to rural users in a way they want and can control.”

Blum Center Lecturers Receive Chancellor’s Public Service Awards

ACES Awardees Sean Burns and Khalid Kadir
Sean Burns (left) and Khalid Kadir (right) were awarded Chancellor’s Public Service Awards for their community-engaged teaching.

This past May, two Blum Center affiliated lecturers, Dr. Sean Burns and Dr. Khalid Kadir, were each awarded Chancellor’s Awards for Public Service for their innovative, community-engaged teaching.

Burns, who serves as the Blum Center’s Director of Student Programs, received the Faculty Civic Engagement Award for his Bay Area social movement history course “Social Movements, Urban History, and the Politics of Memory” (IAS 158 AC / PACS 148 AC). The course partners students with a wide range of East Bay community organizations, to develop historical documentation of the organizations’ efforts to contribute to social and environmental justice movements, ranging from affordable housing to indigenous land struggles to advancing disability rights.

Kadir received the award for Service Learning Leadership for his course on engineering and social justice.

In “Engineering, The Environment, and Society” (E 157AC / IAS 157AC), students worked on projects with local and regional organizations to address drinking water contamination, air pollution, and urban environmental pollution. Each of these projects enabled students to apply their engineering education to problems that affect traditionally underserved communities.

Both award-winning courses were designed and supported within the American Cultures Engaged Scholarship (ACES) program.

Generation Innovation: Gardner Fellow Kati Hinman Fights for Community Empowerment

By Andrea Guzman and Rachel Voss

Through UC Berkeley’s Alternative Breaks program, Hinman volunteered at the community garden at the Alameda Point Collaborative, a supportive housing community that helps families break the cycle of homelessness and poverty.
Through UC Berkeley’s Alternative Breaks program, Hinman volunteered at the community garden at the Alameda Point Collaborative, a supportive housing community that helps families break the cycle of homelessness and poverty.

Kati Hinman, a recent graduate of the Blum Center for Developing Economies’ Global Poverty and Practice (GPP) Minor, is a 2014 recipient of the John Gardner Fellowship – a stipend given to graduating seniors pursuing careers in public service.

Hinman, who grew up in a small town in Connecticut where public service was the norm, spent her time at UC Berkeley exploring how to better understand and address the needs of underserved communities.

“I was raised with the mentality that being part of a community is donating your time. Both my parents volunteer regularly and love being active in our town,” explained Hinman. “However, I also come from a fairly isolated community with access to resources and power. At Berkeley, I have been able to explore the powers and privileges that are at play when one volunteers and how to use my time to better act for social justice.”

Hinman, who initially planned a career in medicine, spent her early undergraduate years shadowing and interning in healthcare facilities. She said what struck her most was the immensity of the social and environmental constraints to public health. The field’s purview, she found, goes well beyond treatment.

Hinman’s growing interest in the inequalities that contribute to structural and physical violence against people—as well as her passion for exploring different cultures and the often untold histories of those who are marginalized— led her to change her major to Peace and Conflict Studies and declare the GPP Minor. She said GPP faculty and Blum Center staff helped her explore the contradictions in development work, particularly the history and current approaches to humanitarian aid and intervention. For her GPP practice experience, she traveled to Cochabamba, Bolivia, where she worked with the Instituto Para el Desarollo Humano, an HIV/AIDS prevention program. Hinman said she found the experience unexpectedly challenging, and was frustrated by her inability to make a substantive difference.

Hinman’s GPP practice experience at the Instituto Para el Desarollo Humano in Cochabamba, Bolivia, challenged her assumptions about development work. She appears here with her Bolivian coworkers at a Sexual Violence Prevention fair.
Hinman’s GPP practice experience at the Instituto Para el Desarollo Humano in Cochabamba, Bolivia, challenged her assumptions about development work. She appears here with her Bolivian coworkers at a Sexual Violence Prevention fair.

“Upon returning, I questioned what my role was in the world of international development,” said Hinman. “My GPP 196 critical reflection course was instrumental in helping me work through some frustrations. I found that I am really inspired by organizations that are driven by local people and the issues that affect them directly, but I am still trying to figure out what my place can be in those spaces.”

At Cal, Hinman kept herself busy outside the classroom. She served as the community partnerships director and a trip leader for Alternative Breaks, director of public internships at Berkeley’s Public Service Center, and as a corps member in AmeriCorps’ Jumpstart literacy program. She also became involved with the women’s clinic of the Suitcase Clinic, a student organization dedicated to providing underserved and homeless people with free healthcare and social services. She worked to improve services for children in the women’s shelter, and went on to serve as a community resource advocate.

Hinman’s interests in public service have been wide ranging. The summer before her junior year, she began working with UC Berkeley alumna and anti-trafficking champion Minh Dang. Through their research, Hinman explored human trafficking and modern day slavery in the U.S. and joined the student abolitionist movement on campus. She later co-founded the Berkeley Anti-Trafficking Coalition, an IdeaLab supported by the Blum Center and Big Ideas that encourages interdisciplinary collaboration around the issue. Hinman worked with two peers from the IdeaLab to develop the East Bay Youth Trafficking project, which won an honorable mention in the 2013-14 Big Ideas@Berkeley contest.

More and more, Hinman’s perspective on social change has shifted in favor of bottom-up development. The Gardner Fellowship will allow her to explore challenges faced by communities in the Bay Area as well as sustainable solutions that come directly from the people affected. Hinman is considering working with a mental health and trauma recovery program for homeless youth, focusing on participants’ influence in shaping those programs.

Eventually, Hinman plans to pursue dual Master’s degrees in public health and social work to prepare her for a career in mental health programs for underserved youth. She hopes to build programs that combine recovery and therapy, creating opportunities for children to develop as leaders and agents of change. Meanwhile, her legacy will live on at Cal through the IdeaLab, her work with the Public Service Center, the Suitcase Clinic, and the many other programs she has touched.

GPP Students Engage With Challenges of Poverty Action at Home and Abroad

By Abby Madan and Rachel Voss

Student Stephanie Pardi completed her summer practice experience with Threads of Peru, a fair trade group which works with indigenous artisans in Cusco to sell their traditional woven textiles. Here, members of the organization meet with the Chaullacocha community. Photo credit: Threads of Peru

This summer, 49 UC Berkeley undergraduates in the Global Poverty and Practice (GPP) Minor applied their classroom learning to real-world issues of poverty and global development across California and around the world. These “practice experiences,” the signature component of the GPP Minor, enable students to work with nonprofits, government agencies, social movements, and social enterprises. Through self-selected fieldwork, students come to understand how the issues they’ve studied take shape outside of the classroom. This allows students to transform abstract concepts into practical reflections rooted in the realities of poverty and inequality.

Many students’ practice experiences take them abroad, often to locations or causes that have UC Berkeley connections. Third-year student Estrella Sainburg is spending a second summer with Fundacion Cantaro Azul, an organization co-founded by another UC Berkeley student that works to address contaminated and unsafe water in underserved regions of Mexico.

“I feel that preparing to work and research with the organization through my Development Studies courses and Global Poverty and Practice courses allows me to understand the organization, the need, and my family’s home country a bit better,” said Sainburg of her return to the project.

The practice experience is a transformative part of students’ undergraduate education. GPP sophomore Stephanie Pardi will complete her fieldwork with Threads of Peru, a fair trade group which works with indigenous artisans in Cusco to sell their traditional woven textiles, helping them build a greater online presence. She is grateful that her practice experience will give her a chance to apply the theories she has studied and develop an understanding of her own abilities, limitations, and responsibilities for changing the world.

“Through the minor, I have realized that the hardest confrontation is with myself and where I fit in the greater scheme of the global order,” Pardi reflected.

Some GPP students, recognizing the dramatic effects of poverty and inequality in their own communities, choose to work locally. Emily Rehberger worked in Oakland with Food Shift, an organization that collects wasted food and redistributes it. “Despite the fact that we have romanticized the idea of volunteering abroad, the fact of the matter is that poverty exists right here in our own backyards,” said Rehberger. “I would rather get involved here in a community that I am dedicated to and familiar with, and I believe it is important confront these issues locally.”

Lucy Sundelson, a third-year student majoring in Urban Studies, joined the GPP Minor after founding a Kiva microfinance club at her high school. This summer, she will be interning with Kiva in the Bay Area.

“For me, working at Kiva for my practice experience feels a little bit like coming full circle: I have the chance to work with the organization that first made me feel excited about poverty action,” said Sundelson. “What feels most exciting, though, is that I have a better sense of the ethical issues surrounding microfinance. I’m excited to be able to approach my time at Kiva more thoughtfully and critically than I could a few years ago.”

After returning from their fieldwork this summer, students will enroll in a group seminar that encourages deep critical reflection about their experiences. This chance to explore the challenges and contradictions they encountered is invaluable to students.

“I am grateful for my peers who are each embarking on their unique journey to come face-to-face with different sectors of poverty,” Sundelson said. “Taking on global poverty is as daunting as it sounds, and the peers in my classes have provided moral support and guidance.”

To read students’ practices experience blogs, visit our Student Stories page.

GPP Graduates Leave Berkeley with New Inspiration & Critical Perspectives

GPP 2014 cropped smThe 2014 Global Poverty and Practice (GPP) Minor graduation ceremony hosted by the Blum Center for Developing Economies was a celebration of students’ successes, a chance for students and their families to express appreciation for one another, and an opportunity for the GPP Class of 2014 to pledge their shared commitment to poverty action across the world.

This year, seventy-one students representing twenty-five majors graduated from the Minor. At the GPP commencement ceremony on May 21st, Professors Clare Talwalker, Cecilia Lucas, Khalid Kadir, and International Area Studies Director Max Aufhammer distributed certificates to graduating seniors. Faculty and student speakers stressed the need for graduates to challenge deeply rooted assumptions and structures of power, recognize the privilege a college education affords, and ensure that poverty action be firmly rooted in the communities it seeks to serve.

“The work we have done is exhausting, and I hope that it will continue to be, for true change is a process,” shared Bernadette Rabuy, a Political Economy major selected to be the 2014 student commencement speaker. “It is a process that comes about through the countless everyday actions of numerous individuals, everyday actions that are a commitment to a lifestyle that is less comfortable than ignorance or apathy.”

It is this commitment to social change that unites the diverse GPP Class of 2014 as they pursue varied career paths. While some students will be traveling as far as Honduras, China, and Bangladesh to apply their studies through research, teaching, and microfinance work, others will be serving local communities in sectors like public health, labor rights, and food justice. Many others are pursuing traditional careers in business, law, or healthcare, carrying with them the critical perspectives on poverty and inequality that GPP has helped them develop.

The graduates’ dedication to public service and global change-making has garnered numerous accolades. Rebecca Peters, who double majored in Society and Environment and Interdisciplinary Studies, was awarded the University Medal as UC Berkeley’s top graduating student and will pursue graduate studies at the University of Manchester and University of Oxford as both a Marshall and Truman Scholar. Peace and Conflict Studies major Kati Hinman has been named a John Gardner Fellow and will spend the coming year working with an organization focused on community mental health and treatment for trauma survivors. Priyanka Athavale, a double major in Molecular and Cell Biology and Public Health, has been awarded a Fulbright Research Fellowship to continue her studies of barriers to improved nutrition and health practices in urban slum communities in Mumbai, India.

As the newest GPP graduates – members of a new generation of poverty activists and conscientious citizens – leave UC Berkeley behind to face the greatest global challenges of our time, the Blum Center wishes them continued courage, compassion, and humility.

For more photos, visit the GPP Minor Facebook page.

UC Berkeley Students Leave Their Mark at CGI-U 2014

By: Abby Madan, 2nd Year Political Economy Major

The students behind social impact projects Kanga Kare and Energant took home prizes from CGI-U’s Resolution Project Social Venture Challenge pitch competition. Pictured from left to right: Jacqueline Nguyen (Energant) and Ian Shain, Asad Akbany, and Gary Duan (Kanga Kare).
The students behind social impact projects Kanga Kare and Energant took home prizes from CGI-U’s Resolution Project Social Venture Challenge pitch competition. Pictured from left to right: Jacqueline Nguyen (Energant) and Ian Shain, Asad Akbany, and Gary Duan (Kanga Kare).

April 29, 2014 – Last month’s Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI-U) 2014 conference offered Berkeley student attendees enriching experiences that strengthened their passion, sharpened their analysis, and encouraged their hard work in pursuit of a better world.

The 3-day conference is an invitation-only event that brings together ambitious young leaders dedicated to solving pressing global challenges. This year, 1,300 students representing more than 300 universities and 80 countries participated. 28 of Berkeley’s own – the highest number of Berkeley students ever accepted – attended the gathering with support from the Blum Center for Developing Economies. The Blum Center, UC Berkeley’s lead representative within the CGI-U Network, supports students who travel to the event and offers year-long advising to help students accomplish their project goals.

Two UC Berkeley student teams, Kanga Kare and Energant, were named winners of the Resolution Project’s Social Venture Challenge, a pitch competition between aspiring student entrepreneurs with sustainable social ventures. The two groups, which are also finalists in this year’s BigIdeas@Berkeley contest, were awarded seed funding that they will use to advance their projects toward implementation.

Represented at CGI-U by UCB undergrads Asad Akbany (bioengineering), Gary Duan (economics) and Ian Shain (mechanical engineering), Kanga Kare won $7500 to further their mission to provide low-cost baby incubators to hospitals in developing countries in order to prevent neonatal deaths. The team plans to use the money to conduct pilot trials of their product, IncuPack, in collaboration with local clinics and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

Energant, co-founded and represented at CGI-U by Jacqueline Nguyen (molecular toxicology), uses an energy-harvesting rocket stove called KleanCook that will allow individuals in developing countries to use the waste heat from their cooking fires to produce at least 10W of power, pasteurize water, and reduce smoky biomass emissions. Since receiving their $3,500 award, the Energant team has been hard at work optimizing their prototype. “It’s so exciting to see that what was once a flat idea on paper will become a tangible, life-changing device for the global communities that need it the most,” Nguyen said.

The CGI-U experience offers more than just an opportunity for funding; the gathering invited students to tread new ground and engage more deeply with the passion and creative energy that attendees collectively bring.

“CGI-U was an unparalleled learning, networking and growth opportunity personally and for my team,” shared Vrinda Agarwal, UC Berkeley student and member of 100 Strong. “I met more influential people in the span of three days than I have in a lifetime.”

The highlight of Agarwal’s weekend was her question to Hillary Clinton during the conference’s closing event. Agarwal eloquently spoke on the underrepresentation of women in politics and asked Secretary Clinton who would represent women in politics if not she. Agarwal’s passion for gender equality in America is what inspired her to create the project 100 Strong, which works to empower underprivileged high school women by providing them with mentors and leadership training.

CGI-U also provided students an opportunity for mentorship and guidance. The team members behind Kanga Kare, which has a partnership with Ashoka Thailand, exchanged business cards with Ashoka’s CEO, Bill Drayton. 100 Strong received advice on expanding their project from North Carolina School District Superintendent Austin Obasohan, among others.

“It was phenomenal to meet like-minded leaders from across the globe who have the same strong will to make a positive impact on the world,” reflected Nguyen. “We’re all very lucky to be happy and healthy, and we as global change-makers are in a prime position to make the world a more habitable place for everyone.”

Economist Bill Easterly Speaks at Blum Center, Calls for Individual Rights in Development

By: Andrea Guzman, 3rd Year Media Studies and Political Science Major

Economist Bill Easterly addressed UC Berkeley students, faculty, and community members on April 11, 2014. He stressed the importance of political and economic rights in development, calling for greater emphasis on individual freedoms and an end to technocratic approaches to development challenges.
Economist Bill Easterly addressed UC Berkeley students, faculty, and community members on April 11, 2014. He stressed the importance of political and economic rights in development, calling for greater emphasis on individual freedoms and an end to technocratic approaches to development challenges.

April 18, 2014 – Renowned economist and New York University professor William Easterly addressed a packed audience at UC Berkeley’s Blum Center for Developing Economies to discuss his latest book, The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor.

Co-sponsored by the Blum Center and the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA), the event drew more than 100 faculty and students. Easterly’s work and the issues he raises about foreign aid and global development are part of the introductory curriculum in the Blum Center’s Global Poverty and Practice Minor.

In his lecture, Easterly focused on the dangers of addressing global development with a solely technical approach and ignoring the role of politics and individual rights and freedoms.

Ted Miguel, Oxfam Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics at UC Berkeley and Faculty Director of CEGA, moderated the event. He began the event by introducing Easterly and some of his greatest works, noting Easterly’s unique ability to bridge the world of academia and public debate.

Easterly began the talk by criticizing technocratic approaches to development which seek to address poverty and development challenges through technical solutions. While development actors may have good intentions in doing so, Easterly argues that these efforts may have detrimental consequences as well.

“You get a long list of technical solutions, and you think that is development. That is the technocratic misconception,” Easterly said.

He gave the example of the World Bank, which has often provided economic aid without taking into consideration the government structures in place. This was exemplified in Uganda in 2010, when a World Bank loan aimed to convert a piece of land from fruit crop production to higher-value forestry. The project required the relocation of some villagers. However, because the villagers lacked political and economic rights and had no voice in the project, the relocation effort was ultimately botched, resulting in the villagers’ forceful removal, burning of their homes, and the death of a young boy.

“Clearly something has gone badly wrong here,” Easterly said. “What seemed like a straightforward technical solution was not a technical solution precisely because political and economic rights were not respected.”

Instead of pursuing strictly technical solutions, Easterly said we should consider the role of economic and political rights in development. Individual rights can create a problem-solving society that encourages development.

This transition will be difficult, however, because the technocratic methodology—which was a particularly convenient approach during the colonial era—has become entrenched. Easterly insisted that uprooting this approach is critical.

“Poverty is not about a shortage of experts, it is about a shortage of rights,” he pointed out.

Easterly does see an important role for continued research in public institutions like UC Berkeley, however. When asked by the audience about the role of engineering students in global poverty alleviation, he said that they can continue developing products that can later be used for achieving these types of rights.

“In a well-functioning political system that does gives political and economic rights, technology works marvels,” Easterly said. “You are part of the solution when you, as a free individual, are able to offer new choices to individuals in poor societies who didn’t have those technical choices before.”

Despite the many development challenges at hand, Easterly remains optimistic. Technologies can spread in spite of oppressive governments, most of which are becoming less oppressive with time.

“Freedom is spreading around the world, and so the future is bright with hope,” Easterly said.

Watch a recording of Bill Easterly’s lecture:

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9mN7fZ_GnY”]

Generation Innovation: Global Poverty & Practice Alumna Nikki Brand Returns to Community Development in Latin America

By: Andrea Guzman, 3rd Year Media Studies & Political Science Major

Alumna Nikki Brand’s GPP Practice Experience in Panajachel, Guatemala, inspired her to pursue a career in community development in Latin America. Here, Brand (seated, center) listens as her Guatemalan co-worker, Juana, tells students and interns her incredible life story while Juana’s sister Marcela demonstrates traditional backstrap weaving. Photo credit: Nikki Brand
Alumna Nikki Brand’s GPP practice experience in Panajachel, Guatemala, inspired her to pursue a career in community development in Latin America. Here, Brand (seated, center) listens as her Guatemalan co-worker, Juana, tells her incredible life story while Juana’s sister Marcela demonstrates traditional backstrap weaving. Photo credit: Nikki Brand

April 17, 2014 – As a freshly-minted Cal grad starting her first job in rural Guatemala, Global Poverty & Practice (GPP) Minor alumna Nikki Brand stumbled into two old friends and realized that her UC Berkeley experiences had come full circle.

Originally from Washington, D.C., Nikki came to Berkeley hoping to explore her interests in international relations. In her first year, she attended a talk by President Bill Clinton on student engagement in global development that was sponsored by the Blum Center, inspiring Brand to take Ananya Roy’s GPP 115 class entitled Global Poverty: Challenges and Hopes in the New Millennium.

“I was an idealistic young freshman who was trying to figure out what an appropriate career path is in international relations, and I took Ananya’s class and was so inspired by it and decided to declare the minor,” Brand said.

Although she majored in Peace and Conflict Studies and also minored in Spanish, Brand describes the GPP Minor and Blum Center as a defining part of her experience at Berkeley. Brand served as a peer advisor and conducted research at the Center, and describes being very engaged in the community.

“It [the GPP Minor] is more than just classes. You become part of an amazing peer group and become engaged in a community where everyone is interested in the same things you are,” Brand said. “For me, the Blum Center became a home away from home.”

In the summer of 2012, Brand conducted her practice experience—a mandatory fieldwork component of the Minor—with the organization Thirteen Threads in Panajachel, Guatemala. The organization supports cooperatives of indigenous Mayan weavers, empowering them to sustain themselves and their families. This experience was fundamental in cementing Brand’s desire to work in Latin America.

During her practice experience, she conducted field research in Panajachel and the surrounding communities. One of the most memorable experiences during her formative time in Guatemala was five days she spent with two of her Guatemalan co-workers, indigenous young women near her age. She was able to connect with them on a personal level despite their different cultures and backgrounds. Instead of just being co-workers, they became close friends.

Brand (front right, holding sign) poses with student volunteers from a local high school at "Un Dia Con el Agua" (A Day With Water) in Panajachel – an educational event about the importance of water and to promote water filters. Brand made many lasting friendships during her Practice Experience that she rekindled while working with Community Enterprise Solutions. Photo credit: Nikki Brand
Brand (front right, holding sign) poses with student volunteers from a local high school at “Un Dia Con el Agua” (A Day With Water) in Panajachel – an educational event about the importance of water and to promote water filters. Brand made many lasting friendships during her Practice Experience that she rekindled while working with Community Enterprise Solutions. Photo credit: Nikki Brand

After graduating, Brand returned to Panajachel to work as a Field Consultant for Community Enterprise Solutions, a non-profit social entrepreneurship organization that trains local “microentrepreneurs” to market and distribute products with social and environmental utility, such as eyewear, water filters, solar lamps and chargers, and improved wood burning stoves. The organization provides the training and products to the microentrepreneurs free of charge, eliminating the usual need to take on a large financial risk to start a micro-business.

Brand says that it was her previous work with Thirteen Threads and the skills she learned in the GPP Minor that helped her find the job. Moving to Guatemala just four days after graduation, Brand found the transition to be less difficult because of her background in critical poverty studies. She was the only member of the Community Enterprise Solutions team with a direct academic background in development, so she brought a unique contextual understanding and critical perspective to the work. Despite being new to the job and having to lead student interns just one or two years younger than herself, Brand felt comfortable thanks to her strong academic knowledge and previous experiences working in community development.

“That allowed me to hit the ground running when I arrived here and contextualize the work that I am doing,” Brand said.

In her first week back in Guatemala, Brand had an unexpected but joyful reunion with the two young women she befriended during her practice experience and is now training them to work with Community Enterprise Solutions as microentrepreneurs, an experience she describes as her journey coming “full circle.”

Brand advises students in the Minor or those who are interested in declaring to take advantage of all the opportunities and mentorship that the Blum Center offers.

“The most important thing that you get out of the Minor outside of the classes is the network,” Brand said. “Being part of the GPP and Blum Center community, there are so many amazing speaker events, opportunities to network with current GPP students and alumni, professors and practitioners, and for me, that was the best part.”

Inter-American Development Bank and UC Berkeley Blum Center Co-host Discussion of Water Issues in Haiti

By: Abby Madan, 2nd Year Political Economy Major

A panel of experts from the Inter-American Development Bank and UC Berkeley shared insights into water management in Haiti at a screening of the IDB’s Water Everlasting?. Extensive poverty and the destructive 2010 earthquake have coupled to leave millions of Haitians without access to clean water.
A panel of experts from the Inter-American Development Bank and UC Berkeley shared insights into water management in Haiti at a screening of the IDB’s “Water Everlasting?”. Extensive poverty and the destructive 2010 earthquake have left millions of Haitians without access to clean water.

April 1, 2014 – On March 10th, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), UC Berkeley’s Blum Center for Developing Economies, and the Berkeley Water Group hosted a screening of Water Everlasting?, a documentary produced by the IDB that details issues of poor water administration in Haiti. The screening was followed by a panel discussion led by IDB representatives from Haiti and water experts from the Blum Center, and gave rise to important dialogue regarding ways to address water issues in Haiti.

As the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, Haiti’s water and sanitation has been marred by chronic underfunding, leaving millions without access to a clean and reliable water source. The IDB, in collaboration with the Spanish government, has provided an $86 million dollar grant that aims to enable Haitians to build and maintain a sustainable water administration system that reaches its entire population. The Haitian government agency DINEPA (Direction Nationale de l’Eau Potable et de l’Assainissement) is using this grant to build necessary infrastructure to create water sector reform through institutional capacity building.

The IDB’s effort to strengthen DINEPA’s initiatives is a step in the right direction, as it aims to strengthen existing state agencies instead of privatizing the supply of water. According to Water Everlasting, approximately 70% of Port-au-Prince’s population of 3 million now gets their water from DINEPA kiosks located throughout the city.

In a discussion moderated by Fermin Reygadas, Executive Director of Fundacion Cantaro Azul and UC Berkeley PhD candidate, a panel of experts considered aspects of water issues that took the audience beyond the documentary. The panel included Thierry Delaunay, Water and Sanitation Specialist for IDB’s Haiti Country Office; Jose Irigoyen, IDB’s Haiti Country Coordinator; Imran Ali, Global Poverty and Practice Postdoctoral Scholar; and Rebecca Peters, Founder and Director of the Pachamama Project. Each of the panelists brought their respective insights on water issues in developing countries.

The dialogue included a discussion on important indicators for project success, as well as ways in which a human rights framework for water can be applied to economic cost recovery. When applying a human rights framework, the panelists engaged in a debate about the practicality in charging Haitians for water, a universally recognized public good. Peters, a 2012-2013 Big Ideas@Berkeley winner, shared the importance of gender equity in the water sector, emphasizing that women are disproportionally impacted.

The IDB’s Water Everlasting? viewings at universities around the country are helping to democratize development issues in Haiti by making them legible to the public. The events have created a public sphere conducive to valuable discussion and student involvement in this partnership. The screening at UC Berkeley was part of a West Coast series of screenings, with the final screening at the UCLA Blum Center on Poverty and Health in Latin America.

Since 2013, the Blum Center has supported a formal and robust partnership with the IDB. The Blum Center and the IDB co-host Demand Solutions, an annual gathering that brings together innovators to discuss and share solutions for addressing development issues in Latin American and the Caribbean. The partnership is also highlighted by the Berkeley-IDB Impact Evaluation Collaborative (BIC), which brings IDB representatives to UC Berkeley for executive training programs on the role of impact evaluation in policy-making. The IDB’s partnership with UC Berkeley marks the Bank’s first partnership with an American university.

Twenty-eight Ambitious Changemakers from UC Berkeley Set Out for Clinton Global Initiative University

By: Abby Madan, 2nd Year Political Economy Major

“What I’ve found at Cal is that the greatest wealth of knowledge is our peers,” emphasized 100 Strong team member and CGI-U attendee Ruhi Nath (pictured above with teammates Vrinda Agrawal and Julie Brown), who is looking forward to networking with socially-minded peers from across the country and around the world. “The Blum Center and Big Ideas@Berkeley have been really supportive of 100 Strong, not in just the funding but with all of their guidance and advice, too,” Nath added.

March 21, 2014 – This weekend, twenty-eight UC Berkeley student innovators are headed to Arizona for the annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI-U) conference. The students, who were selected on the strength of their “Commitment to Action,” are eager to explore how they can make a difference in the world.

CGI-U 2014 will host the largest cohort of passionate UC Berkeley students ever to attend. Hosted annually by former President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, the conference gathers over 5,000 students from 135 countries.

The Blum Center for Developing Economies, UC Berkeley’s lead representative within the CGI-U Network, supports students who travel to the event and offers year-long advising to help students accomplish their project goals. Since its founding in 2006, the Blum Center has been a campus hub for social impact, inspiring and fostering an ecosystem of change-makers. This year, nearly three-fourths of the Berkeley projects featured at CGI-U have a Blum Center affiliation – either as participants in the BigIdeas@Berkeley contest, the Global Poverty and Practice Minor, or the Development Impact Lab.

Students attend CGI-U with a specific challenge and a defined one-year plan called a “Commitment to Action” that addresses a global issue in education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, public health, or a related field. The weekend conference is packed with workshops and plenary sessions for students to build relationships, share ideas and solidify their action plans.

Junior Asad Akbany is looking forward to the opportunity to engage with CEOs of companies that aim to address social problems. His project, “Kanga Kare,” aims to prevent pre-natal deaths by providing rural hospitals in developing countries with safe, low-cost baby incubators. “Working with people you’ve never interfaced with before, working with a team that’s based remotely, or learning how to make sure people stay motivated — hearing speakers address these things will be very helpful,” says Akbany, a member of a team of seven.

Cal students Matt Pavlovich and Connor Galleher had an opportunity to share their project, PlasMachine, with President Clinton at last year’s CGI-U gathering. This year, the team returns to CGI-U before traveling to South Africa for the next phase of their work. Photo credit: Barbara Kinney / Clinton Global Initiative

Matt Pavlovich and Connor Galleher, CGI-U veterans from 2013, received recognition from Bill Clinton himself for their project “PlasMachine” at the conference last year. The PlasMachine team constructs atmospheric pressure plasma devices that address water and sanitation needs in developing countries. Pavlovich and Galleher spent the past year revamping their prototypes and are ready to move closer to the implementation phase. “I think it really helped us in learning how to market what we’re doing in a way that makes sense to the average person, so that someone who’s not in plasma physics can approach it and understand it,” Pavlovich shared about last year’s conference. “It also lent our project a certain credibility.” The two will be traveling to South Africa on a Development Impact Lab Explore Grant to build partnerships and assess consumer needs.

Teammates Ruhi Nath, Vrinda Agarwal, and Julie Brown will attend CGI-U and represent their initiative, “100 Strong,” which aims to empower local women to maximize their leadership potential. 100 Strong was a 2013 winner of the BigIdeas@Berkeley contest; the team members now look forward to joining CGI-U’s diverse student community. “Having a community of really different people who are interested in changing the world for the better in their own specialty — I think that energy and excitement is really powerful,” reflected Brown.

For updates about the CGI-U gathering and the student attendees, read our CGI-U 2014 student wrap-up or follow #CGIU and the @Blum_Center on Twitter and Facebook.

Development Engineering Seminars Explore Technology-Based Solutions to Poverty

By: Abby Madan, 2nd Year Political Economy Major

March 20, 2014 – UC Berkeley’s Development Impact Lab (DIL) is forging a new, interdisciplinary field of academic and applied research – Development Engineering (DevEng) – housed at the Blum Center.

Development Engineering seeks to train a new cadre of experts to tightly integrate social and economic insights in the development of technology and services to address the problems of poverty. DevEng’s inaugural “Research in Action” speaker series explores current scientific and technological efforts to address global development issues, bringing experts together in an interdisciplinary space.

“Too often, a great idea is tested and approved before its effectiveness on a larger scale can be evaluated,” explains Alice Agogino, UC Berkeley Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “It takes many aspects and disciplines that involve technology, impact analysis and economics. We want to engage the academic community to test and refine our approaches to development.”

The seminar series features weekly talks from academics and professionals who contribute to the intellectual sphere that constitutes DevEng. Speakers come from a wide variety of disciplines, including computer science, economics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, bioengineering, civil and environmental engineering, information management, public health, and business. All of the expertise is required to solve the big challenges facing society.

DIL partner Gaetano Borriello, Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at University of Washington and creator of Open Data Kit (ODK), addressed a packed audience on the functions and processes of his technology at the inaugural seminar. ODK is an open-source toolkit that has simplified the ability for users to build forms, analyze, transfer and share data on various platforms. ODK is being used by thousands of people in a wide variety of ways. In Tanzania, ODK works with the Jane Goodall Institute to map unsafe areas for chimpanzees using data submitted over mobile phones; in the Congo, a visual version of the software enables illiterate Pygmies to track poachers’ locations; and in dozens of other countries, the tool is used to conduct public health and socioeconomic surveys.

The “Research in Action” events create a forum where faculty and practitioners with extensive applied expertise can engage with intellectually curious students who bring their own innovative ideas.

“We’re all coming together to this with different perspectives, different backgrounds, different biases,” said UC Berkeley bioengineering professor Dan Fletcher during a “Research in Action” seminar on CellScope, a smartphone-enabled microscope technology used for remote diagnosis in developing countries. CellScope, a student innovation, uses consumer technology to extend access to health care; it is being used to detect corneal diseases in Thailand, tuberculosis in Vietnam, oral cancer in India, and to image worms in Cameroon. The CellScope case study particularly resonated with the audience. According to Dr. Fletcher, its materialization was heavily dependent on the collaboration of technologies, ideas, and disciplines.

The speaker series is helping build momentum toward the launch of a formal designated emphasis (DE) graduate program, which would be available to UC Berkeley doctoral students who have an interest in DevEng. The program is co-directed by UC Berkeley faculty Alice Agogino, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Clair Brown, Professor of Economics. The intention for this DE rests on the belief that the most powerful advances in development can be propelled through interdisciplinary collaboration and analysis of development solutions.

“Specifically,” explained Brown, “the goal of a Designated Emphasis in Development Engineering is to facilitate and formalize an intellectual community to use advanced science, economics and technology for potential solutions to complex global issues.”

The DE will require one main course, one research seminar, and a series of electives relevant to students’ research interests. It will focus on human-centered design along with participant feedback, impact evaluation, econometrics, automated data collection, and sustainability of new technologies. The program will be offered to doctoral students from the natural sciences, engineering, mathematics, computer science, information management, quantitative social sciences, and business programs.

Weekly DevEng “Research In Action” seminars are held on Wednesdays at 4pm in B100 Blum Hall and will run through April 23, 2014. All students and faculty who wish to learn more about the program are welcome.

Students and faculty at UC Berkeley are also encouraged to submit feedback and get involved in the creation of the DE. For more information, visit http://dil.berkeley.edu/students/designated-emphasis/ and subscribe to the DevEng listserv.

Blum Center Hosts Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for Discussion on Foreign Policy Megatrends

By: Andrea Guzman, 3rd Year Media Studies & Political Science Major

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Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright drew hundreds of UC Berkeley students, faculty, and community members for a discussion of megatrends in foreign policy. Former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm moderated the program.

February 4, 2014 — Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright addressed a packed audience last Thursday, sharing her perspective on the issues facing the nation and world today.

Sponsored by the Blum Center for Developing Economies, founder Richard Blum began the evening by introducing Albright as one of his three favorite women in politics today and described how he enjoyed working with her in The National Democratic Institute.

In a discussion moderated by former Governor of Michigan Jennifer Granholm, Albright focused on two emerging megatrends: the rise of globalization and interdependence, and the evolution of technology and its role in politics.

Albright discussed the importance of nations’ involvement with others in the global community, stating that growing interconnectivity binds countries’ political and economic fates. In the U.S., she said, foreign aid advocates struggle to win Congressional support, but it is both possible and prudent for Americans to support economic development domestically and abroad.

When addressing the evolution of technology, Albright emphasized its power in fostering both political engagement and development. She noted, however, that channeling public opinion through social media can also lead to the disaggregation of social movements.

“Tahrir Square came together with social media, but how do you get that to government?” she asked.

In addition to the megatrends, Albright stressed the need for more representation in government, including that of women.

“I do believe the world would be better if there were more women in leading positions,” she said. When Albright was appointed the 64th Secretary of State by President Clinton in 1997, Albright became the highest ranking woman in the history of US government.

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Secretary Albright, pictured here with Blum Center Founder Richard Blum and former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, shared insightful and candid reflections on topics such as Syria, foreign aid, women’s leadership, and technology’s role in development.

Albright later took questions from the audience, ranging from her views on the Syrian conflict to her thoughts on basketball diplomacy’s usefulness in North Korea.

“I appreciated her honesty about the balancing act diplomats must engage in,” said Veena Subramanian, a student in the Global Poverty & Practice Minor who attended the event. “They have to manage a genuine respect for human lives against the political games of DC.”

To close the evening, Blum presented Albright with a Campaign for Berkeley bear pin, jokingly promising her an even more honorable award during her next visit with the assistance of Chancellor Dirks.

When asked what she would like to be remembered for, Albright said she would like it to be for something other than just being the first female Secretary of State. Quoting her granddaughter, she said, “What’s the big deal? Only girls are Secretary of State.”

Instead, she said she would like to be remembered for her initiative to take U.S. action in Kosovo in 1999, making her a popular figure in the area.

“There’s a whole generation of little girls in Kosovo with the name Madeleine,” she said.


Watch “Megatrends in Foreign Policy”

FINCA International: A Case Study in Social Entrepreneurship

Blum Center Hosts FINCA International President & CEO Rupert Scofield for Talk on Building A Global Microfinance Network

By: Abby Madan

FINCA International's President and CEO, Rupert Scofield, shared his experiences in microfinance and development work with UC Berkeley students.
FINCA International’s President and CEO, Rupert Scofield, shared his experiences in microfinance and development work with UC Berkeley students.

February 21, 2014 – Last week, Rupert Scofield, President and CEO of FINCA International, visited UC Berkeley’s Blum Center for Developing Economies to share his personal journey and the remarkable story of the FINCA microfinance network, which has provided much-needed financial services to low-income entrepreneurs around the world since 1984.

Frequently referred to as the ‘World Bank for the Poor,’ FINCA is credited as being one of the pioneers of modern day microfinance. Under Scofield’s leadership, the organization has grown to serve over 1 million low-income entrepreneurs in 21 countries. Key to the organization’s success was a willingness to take chances and a commitment to building solid partnerships.

Scofield’s involvement with FINCA dates back several decades. After graduating from college, Scofield took a chance and deferred his military draft to Vietnam to work in Guatemala with the Peace Corps. It was while working on an agricultural project in rural Guatemala that Scofield witnessed how small-scale loans could transform lives and contribute to social good.

It was an experience that would define the rest of his life.

Memory of the successful lending initiative in Guatemala stayed with Scofield through several subsequent jobs, eventually inspiring him to co-found FINCA, which began as a small NGO serving communities in Latin America. After years of pitching their vision to investors and development agencies, FINCA secured their first major backer. USAID awarded FINCA $10 million to implement their innovative village-banking model, which relies on a system of social pressure and support and requires clients to build credit by saving 20% of their profits.

The village-banking model has since been replicated by many organizations, as it is seen to help transform how the poor find a foothold in local, national and global economies.

During his talk, Scofield described the resistance that often challenges the pursuit of innovation. Although FINCA’s efforts were successful in Latin America, any attempt to expand their initiatives to other developing regions was met with skepticism. Uncollateralized lending was thought too risky and region-specific to be successfully implemented elsewhere. But Scofield followed the advice of his long-time friend Muhammad Yunus: stick to what you know has worked.

Scofield partnered with socially responsible investors and pushed ahead to test the model in new regions, resulting in FINCA’s successful expansion to communities in Africa and Eurasia in the 1990s, and to the Middle East and South Asia in the 2000s.

FINCA is now launching FINCA+, an initiative to identify scalable and sustainable human and social development interventions. In Uganda, for example, FINCA has introduced a low-cost solar lighting device that can also charge cell phones.

FINCA’s story is an uplifting one, particularly at a time when the microfinance industry has struggled with allegations of loan sharking and reaping profits from poverty. “Not everyone who calls themselves a microfinance organization is like FINCA,” Scofield acknowledged. Many of the major microfinance groups, including FINCA, are now banding together to establish rules that protect clients.

Scofield also cautioned against treating microfinance efforts as an end-goal in global development and poverty reduction.

“This is not a solution to poverty for everyone,” he said. “This is a solution for survival.”

For more about FINCA International, visit FINCA.org or follow @FINCA and @rupertscofield on Twitter.

Meet the URAP Team!

For the last year, Abby, Professor Roy and the Blum Center staff have been running the #GlobalPOV show. In order to expand to the project, Abby and Professor Roy recruited seven undergraduate students to join the team earlier this fall through UC Berkeley’s Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (URAP), which allows students to gain research experience and gather a few units while they’re at it. The students have been helping with outreach, tweeting, blogging (i.e., writing this blurb), storyboarding, and providing general assistance with video production. Adding youth, vigor, sass, and extra hands to shake their smart phones in the “Who Sees Poverty?” video, the URAP students have been hard at work throughout the semester and are excited to help the project continue growing. Read on to learn more about what each of them have been up to!

Ailen Vega

Ailen is a Political Economy and Geography major, with an overall focus on rural development policy as well as a regional focus on Latin America. She is part of #GlobalPOV’s video production team, helping with everything from creating visual representations of the script to working with sound effects. Ailen is interested in the way global development and poverty issues are presented to the public and is excited to join the #GlobalPOV team to encourage alternatives way of thinking about and reflecting upon conventional understandings of poverty. For the past three semesters, Ailen has been a member and an Administrative Vice President for Delta Phi Epsilon, Cal’s Foreign Service/International Affairs Co-Ed Fraternity. Apart from academics, Ailen enjoys traveling, kayaking with her family, and eating empanadas.

My favorite “aha” moment was from a brainstorming session, when we figured out that there’s “a need for patience in a world of seeming urgency.” Poverty action cannot be reactionary, but must evaluate the relationship between varying social, cultural, historical, economic, and environmental influences upon a region.

Alex Berryhill

Alex is a Political Economy major and Public Policy minor. She is working with the outreach team, tweeting and blogging on current events, poverty issues and updates on all the awesome things the Global Poverty and Practice (GPP) Minor community is up to. Alex has a strong interest in the social movements, women’s rights and refugee law. For the last two years she’s worked at UC Berkeley’s student newspaper, The Daily Californian, where she’s helped publish several GPP students’ op-eds. Alex also is president of a non-profit on campus called FeelGood that sells grilled cheese sandwiches to help end world hunger. She’s studying in Nicaragua in the Spring to research youth advocacy, and is excited to apply the themes presented in the #GlobalPOV videos to her studies in Central America. Alex says her “hero” in the fight to end poverty is Eleanor Roosevelt, due to her independence, strength and influence in advocating for poverty programs and international human rights. Alex is currently looking for an I-heart-E-Roose tee-shirt.

My favorite ‘GPP line’ is: “ideas, too, can be weapons.” That’s what the #GlobalPOV Project does — it gives Millennials around the world access to the world’s most powerful weapons against inequality: knowledge, a lens for critical analysis, and a foundation for new ideas.

Shrey Goel

Shrey is an Environmental Science major, minoring in Global Poverty and Practice and on the Pre-Med track. Aside from helping out with the #GlobalPOV project on the Outreach Team, he is the Under-Secretary-General of External Relations for Berkeley Model United Nations (BMUN), a non-profit educational organization which runs an annual high school MUN conference on the Berkeley campus. For the past two years, Shrey has served as a hall staff member in the Berkeley residence halls, serving as a Residential Assistant last year at Clark Kerr and a Program Assistant this year at Unit 2. Shrey’s intellectual passion is learning about the complexities of how human health, environmental health, and poverty overlap and intersect. This upcoming summer, Shrey will be completing his GPP Minor Practice Experience in India for an organization called the Urban Health Resource Center. In his free time, he enjoys watching movies and listening to Arcade Fire all day.

Doling out prescriptions to global poverty is easy — engaging in a critical conversation about the complexities and deep-seated contradictions inherent in poverty action, on the other hand, is more meaningful to me. That’s what I like about the #GlobalPOV Project: it doesn’t just claim to have the answers, but instead gives people the questions that need to be asked.

Nathan Nguyen-Le

Nathan is a Political Economy major and Creative Writing minor, and is working with Abby to create a short video describing her weekly schedule and all the processes involved in making the #GlobalPOV videos. He says that many would be surprised how many hours and days and weeks Abby must work to put out a quality product. Living in the information age, Nathan said it has become increasingly difficult to capture people’s attention, especially when education is thrown in the mix. Here is where he says the #GlobalPOV Project becomes very interesting: it blends the two, education and entertainment, into one seamless entity and keeps the audience’s attention through its creativity and visual effects.

Although many volunteer in developing countries helping to feed the hungry, house the homeless, and give jobs to the jobless, #GlobalPOV brings light the economic and social cleavage between the poor and the rich, here in the USA.

Rebecca Peters

Rebecca is a senior in the Global Poverty and Practice minor, studying Society & Environment and Interdisciplinary Studies. She is working with the Outreach Team and focusing on creating a unified platform for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other multimedia for #GlobalPOV. She is working with Alex to create a blog that will connect students, faculty, and the global community to the #GlobalPOV Project. She hopes to further critical engagement with the ideas behind #GlobalPOV and create interactive ways for students to share their thoughts and learn from each other. She will continue critical engagement with these issues next year as a Marshall Scholar studying Poverty and Development at Manchester and Environmental Policy at Oxford.

#GlobalPOV defies definition because it pushes the artificial boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, voice and dispossession, oppression and resistance with actors whose lines of identity — student and professor, microfinance donor and recipient, 99% and 1% — are mutable and always in motion.

Julia Higgins

Julia is a Political Economy major and Public Policy minor with an interest in international human rights, global development, and education reform and policy. She is working with the Outreach Team to help package the videos in a way that accurately conveys the project’s message and outlines the suggested use for the different types of people and groups who can use the work that the team has done to help raise awareness about global poverty. She is also going to be in contact with several GPP-oriented organizations that can help the #GlobalPOV Project “get the attention it deserves!” Julia has had an interest in poverty alleviation ever since she saw Professor Roy’s Ted Talk about un-knowing poverty and changing the public’s perspective on the poor. She is excited to help with the #GlobalPOV Project since it is a way to catalyze real, relevant change on a global scale.

One of my favorite things about #GlobalPOV is that it challenges much quoted proverbs and age-old adages that have become clichés in the world of development…the videos do a great job of providing education about global poverty and alleviation strategies by pinpointing the real issues that need attention and calling Millennials to action to catalyze change in every way they can.

Kelly Leilani Main

Leilani is an Interdisciplinary Studies major with a focus on Art, Politics and Society. She intends to study Architecture and Urban Planning for her Master’s Degree with a concentration in post-conflict reconstruction and community planning in the Middle East. She also facilitates the “Art For Social Change” DeCal and is continuously inspired by the drive and creativity of the Berkeley campus. She thinks that the #GlobalPOV Project is the essence of the future of education because of its interdisciplinary approach and analysis, and because she is passionate about the potential of the arts as a powerful educational tool. She is part of the creative team because of her critical eye and enthusiasm for the creative process. She also is program coordinator and education director for The Olive Tree Initative at UC Berkeley, a conflict-resolution and educational initiative, as well as an intern at the Berkeley Art Center, where she seeks to empower community action through cultural production and exchange.

Poverty action isn’t about taking your camera to an underprivileged neighborhood on the other side of the world. Poverty action is recognizing the faults and flaws of one’s own neighborhood and one’s own self. It is working to make concrete, long-lasting changes by challenging everything.

Blum Center’s Laura Stachel, Creator of Solar Suitcase, Named One of Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2013

Dr. Laura Stachel
Dr. Laura Stachel, creator of the solar suitcase and founder of We Care Solar, has been named one of CNN’s Top 10 Heroes of 2013.

Dr. Laura Stachel (MD, MPH), a researcher with the UC Berkeley Blum Center for Developing Economies, has been named one of CNN’s Top 10 Heroes of 2013 for her work to bring life-saving “solar suitcases” to hospitals and clinics in developing countries.

While on a graduate student research trip to rural Nigeria, Stachel, a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist, was shocked to observe obstetric care in a Nigerian hospital with unreliable electricity. She watched as nurses struggled to deliver babies by kerosene lantern, surgeons worked in near darkness, and critically ill mothers were turned away at night. These conditions put mothers’ and babies’ lives at risk, contributing to the 300,000 maternal deaths estimated each year globally—99% of which occur in the developing world.

Stachel saw a challenge and an opportunity to help. With funding from Big Ideas@Berkeley and the Blum Center, she and her husband, Hal Aronson, developed solar electric systems for the Nigerian hospital. With stable lighting, mobile communication, and a blood bank refrigerator, the maternal deaths at the hospital decreased. Stachel and Aronson next developed a “solar suitcase”—a portable, compact version of the hospital solar electric system—that could scale to rural hospitals and clinics. Together, they founded We Care Solar with the goal of providing simple, reliable light and power sources to healthcare facilities in developing countries.

Since 2009, more than 400 “solar suitcases” have served mothers and babies in over 20 countries. The Blum Center and its USAID-funded Development Impact Lab (DIL) are supporting on-going efforts to scale the initiative. The user-friendly, mobile and nearly maintenance-free suitcases, which cost around $1,500 and take only an hour to install, have proved an important innovation in the fight against maternal mortality worldwide. Stachel’s goal is to light up 10,000 clinics in the next five years, serving 2 million mothers and babies.

“We are thrilled that Laura has received this recognition and believe she deserves to be CNN’s Hero of the Year,” said Shankar Sastry, Blum Center Faculty Director and Dean of the UC Berkeley College of Engineering. “Her work has saved the lives of many women and newborns and shows the power of engineering for development, which is the hallmark of our new initiative with USAID, DIL.”

Solar suitcase
Over the last four years, Stachel and We Care Solar have brought over 400 solar suitcases to clinics and hospitals in developing regions. They hope to distribute thousands more.

Stachel is one of CNN’s Top 10 Heroes of 2013, which recognizes everyday people who are changing the world. Each of the Top 10 CNN Heroes will receive a $50,000 grant, and one of the honorees, as voted by fans around the globe, will be named the CNN Hero of the Year, receiving an additional $250,000 grant to further aid their cause. Online voting for the “CNN Hero of the Year” ran from October 10 to November 17.

 


About the Blum Center for Developing Economies: The Blum Center for Developing Economies links world-class research, education, and innovation to create sustainable solutions to global poverty. Its mission is to improve the well-being of the world’s poor by designing and developing sustainable solutions to the toughest development challenges and educating a new generation of innovators, activists, and scholars to engage global poverty and inequality in imaginative and effective ways. The Center brings a rigorous multi-disciplinary approach and real-world applications to the classroom, lab, and into the field. Combining an unrivaled disciplinary depth and breadth, cutting-edge thinking, and the University of California’s unique culture of global engagement, the Center translates and applies innovative research to address the world’s most pressing problems. For more information, visit http://blumcenter.berkeley.edu

About Big Ideas@Berkeley: Big Ideas@Berkeley is an annual innovation contest aimed at providing funding, support, and encouragement to interdisciplinary teams of UC undergraduate and graduate students who have “big ideas.” Since its founding in 2005, Big Ideas@Berkeley has inspired innovative and high-impact student projects aimed at solving the world’s most pressing problems. Winners have leveraged more than $25 million in additional funding as they’ve used the initial results generated with Big Ideas support to mobilize other resources. For more information, visit http://bigideascontest.org

About the Development Impact Lab: The Blum Center for Developing Economies leads the USAID-funded Development Impact Lab headquartered at Berkeley, with other academic, industry and non-profit partners, to source, evaluate and scale technologies for development. The Lab is supporting an pipeline of innovative projects, building an evaluation platform for data collection to speed rapid prototyping, and training the next generation of development engineers. Learn more at http://dil.berkeley.edu.

# # #

Press contact:

Rachel Voss
(510) 643-5316
rvoss[at]berkeley[dot]edu

YouTube and Twitter Bring Poverty Debates to Life Inside and Outside the Classroom

By: James Zhao

November 8, 2013 – Dr. Ananya Roy’s animated voice resonates throughout Wheeler Auditorium as the projector displays a constant stream of tweets from students. A hand is raised on the left side of the lecture hall, then another on the right. Roy hastily walks around, making sure voices are heard. These are the sights and sounds of Roy’s class of 700 students on “Global Poverty: Challenges and Hopes in the New Millennium,” a core course in the Global Poverty and Practice Minor.

#GlobalPOV allows students and engaged citizens around the world to join public debates around poverty and inequality. Tweets from students in Ananya Roy's Global Poverty class caught the attention of influential economic Jeff Sachs.

These are not the typical lectures your parents remember from their college days. On select days, students in GPP 115 are invited to react to readings, videos, and provocative questions over Twitter, labeling their comments with #GlobalPOV. “Tweeting allows students to participate in the public dialogue around poverty issues—something that classroom discussions don’t usually allow them to do,” said Roy, a Professor of City and Regional Planning, Distinguished Chair in Global Poverty and Practice, and the Education Director for the Blum Center of Developing Economies. As a matter of fact, earlier this fall, class tweets caught the attention of economist Jeffrey Sachs, who sent back words of encouragement to Roy’s students.

Twitter also allows students to express honest and controversial opinions with some degree of anonymity in a class that deals directly with poverty, race, and gender. “Personally, I’m terrified of talking up in a class. 700 is a lot of people,” said Alex Berryhill, a student in Roy’s class. “Through Twitter, students who are not as comfortable with speaking out in class can simply tweet what they would have said anyways.”

Roy strategically schedules tweeting sessions on days when she believes a particular topic will generate a lot of debate. As the tweets come pouring in, it’s clear that students find real freedom of expression in this space. “If the point is gender empowerment why are all the chairmen and CEOs of the Grameen Bank MEN?” demands ‏@madisongordon24. “Why is it that Starbucks is thriving yet the part of Ethiopia where they get their beans from is in famine?” asks @ivn_lo.

With the help of artist Abby Vanmuijen, one of Roy’s former students who had filled her class notebook with drawings of the discussion topics, Roy has launched the #GlobalPOV Project and brought her lectures to life in thought-provoking live-action sketch videos that are posted on YouTube. Each of the videos begins with a question focused on a social or political issue. Will hope end poverty? Who profits from poverty? Can we shop to end poverty?

The #GlobalPOV videos explore challenging questions about poverty, inequality, and development through breathtaking live-action art. These new media tools engage Millennials in familiar spaces like Youtube and Twitter.

Roy is now screening these videos in class as a way to connect class readings with real-world controversies and to engage the Millennial Generation, who are used to consuming information this way. The #GlobalPOV Project videos are more than just supplementary material to the class, however; available online for anyone to view, they engage viewers around the world on real, pressing, and controversial issues. The videos invite viewers to join the conversation and help democratize discussions of poverty and inequality. As Matt Wade, one of Roy’s Graduate Student Instructors, puts it, “[#GlobalPOV provides] a moment to speak directly to power, an opportunity of becoming-public, not heretofore available to students and people outside of the circles of development expertise.”

The use of social media does not come without nuisances and problems, however. Students are barraged with words and visuals, which makes it more challenging for some to process information. In addition, although Roy spends plenty of time curating content, anonymous tweeting can add irrelevancy. In spite of occasional smart comments about her choice of clothing or shoes, Roy and her teaching assistants are pleased with the freedom of speech students exercise. “One can absolutely use Twitter to ridicule incompetent public officials, bad ideas, injustice, moments of inhumanity, with all due vitriol,” said Wade. Students’ candid and provocative comments outweigh the nuisances.

Despite the availability of YouTube and Twitter to engage a large auditorium full of students, Roy is dissatisfied with existing in-classroom technology. The iClicker, used in many large lecture settings to ask students multiple choice questions, is extremely irrelevant for a class like “Global Poverty” that dives into complex and controversial issues. Twitter allows students to express opinions, but restricts them to 140 characters. The videos may capture the attention of the students, but they don’t make it possible for everyone in an auditorium to have a thoughtful discussion.

Roy hopes that in the future, new technology will allow more reflective interaction with a large group of students. For now, she will continue pioneering the use of social media in traditional classroom settings to explore how far she can take it.


Join the discussion on Twitter and watch the videos on the #GlobalPOV YouTube channel!

IdeaLabs Reach Across Disciplines to Solve Global Problems

What we’ve found at Berkeley about how to get people to work together is that you define some kind of very big problem that needs to be solved, and attack it from a range of viewpoints.

— Richard Newton

IdeaLabs, a component of the Big Ideas@Berkeley program, are student-led hubs for discussion and idea-sharing around issues that are important to students—anything from climate change and health to safe water, nanotechnology, or household energy. The groups are multi-disciplinary gatherings of undergraduate and graduate students designed to bring out a range of viewpoints, ideas, and strategies.

Each IdeaLab is unique, reflecting the goals and passions of the students behind it. The groups host regular discussions and events where students can gain new perspectives, share ideas, and work together with peers they might never meet in a classroom—engineers, aspiring entrepreneurs, and science buffs talk over a common interest with anthropologists, health experts, and public policy majors.

Estrella Sainburg, student Director of the Berkeley Water Group IdeaLab, said the most rewarding part of leading the IdeaLab was hearing a new member’s excitement at finding a place on campus where other students shared her passion for water issues.

The Visualizing Urban Data IdeaLab students held a hackathon on the BART strike in October 2013, producing interactive visualizations on salaries, ridership, traffic, and more. The IdeaLab’s student director, Lewis Lehe, produced the above graphic.

IdeaLabs are more than just discussion groups, however—they are geared toward connecting students who can together explore real solutions to critical challenges. The Visualizing Urban Data IdeaLab recently hosted a hackathon to make sense of data related to the impending BART strike, including BART employees’ salaries, traffic, and ridership. “It was a challenge to work on an event transpiring in real time,” said VUD IdeaLab Director Lewis Lehe. The resulting projects have spurred online discussions and attracted attention from students across disciplines. “Coders want to see our visualizations. Planners and civil engineers want to experience urban spaces in a fresh way,” Lehe shared.

“We’re excited to see the ideas and projects that these IdeaLabs continue to produce,” said Phillip Denny, Manager of the Big Ideas@Berkeley program at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. “You can find real innovation at the intersection of so many different perspectives. The interdisciplinary Big Ideas@Berkeley projects we see every year are a testament to that.”

Students in the Climate Change and Health IdeaLab have benefited from the chance to exchange ideas with peers from other disciplines.

IdeaLabs have shown the benefits of bringing together diverse groups of students. Zoe Chafe, the student Director of the Climate Change and Health IdeaLab, described a visiting researcher’s recent presentation on the health “co-benefits” of climate change mitigation strategies in China. At the end of her presentation, a public health student asked about her health methodologies. Participants from the China Energy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab asked about her collaborations with institutions in China. Other students wanted to know more about the economic valuation she used when presenting trade-offs. “This is exactly the type of intellectual exchange we are hoping to support: an open forum where there are no stupid questions and everyone is encouraged to share their knowledge,” said Chafe.

IdeaLabs operate under the umbrella of the Big Ideas program. All IdeaLabs invite new undergraduate and graduate student members from across campus.

Visit bigideascontest.org/idealabs to join an active group or learn how to start your own!

Blum Center Innovation Director Lina Nilsson Named One of MIT Technology Review’s Innovators Under 35

Lina NilssonAugust 21, 2013 – Dr. Lina Nilsson, Innovation Director of the Blum Center for Developing Economies, has been named one of this year’s Innovators Under 35 by the MIT Technology Review. For more than a decade, the global media company has recognized a list of exceptionally talented technologists whose work has great potential to transform the world.

“We’re proud of our selections and the variety of achievements they celebrate, and we’re proud to add Lina to this prestigious list,” says MIT Technology Review’s editor in chief and publisher Jason Pontin. “Over the years, we’ve had success in choosing women and men whose innovations and companies have been profoundly influential on the direction of human affairs. Previous winners include Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the cofounders of Google; Mark Zuckerberg, the cofounder of Facebook; Jonathan Ive, the chief designer of Apple; and David Karp, the creator of Tumblr.”

Dr. Nilsson is being recognized for her work at the Blum Center as well as Tekla Labs, which works to enable scientists in the developing world to construct their own high- quality lab equipment using readily available, off-the-shelf items. Her selection highlights UC Berkeley’s strength in cultivating not only researchers and entrepreneurs, but also ambitious social innovators working across disciplines to meet global challenges head-on. One of 10 women on this year’s list, Dr. Nilsson also illustrates the growing influence of women in the fields of technology and innovation.

“Lina is an extraordinarily talented researcher. Her work combines the best of innovative technology and a commitment to the alleviation of poverty in a new construct of development engineering. She is a ground-breaking thinker who truly embodies the Blum Center’s spirit of innovation and social engagement,” said Shankar Sastry, Dean of the College of Engineering and Faculty Director of the Blum Center. “We are delighted that she has been recognized for her pioneering achievements.”

A biomedical engineer by training, Dr. Nilsson believes that global challenges in health, environment, and development require grassroots contributions from the entire global scientific community. While completing her MSc at the University of Washington, Dr. Nilsson received a Bonderman Fellowship to travel throughout resource-scarce areas in Asia and South America. She visited labs and met with scientists whose research was significantly hindered by a lack of standard lab equipment. Subsequently, she founded Tekla Labs as a platform for “thinking creatively about ways to sustainably improve access to equipment and other physical infrastructure” so that “more researchers around the globe will have access to the tools they need to act on their insights and transformative ideas.”

Dr. Nilsson and this year’s other honorees are featured online at TechnologyReview.com and in the September/October print magazine, which hits newsstands worldwide on September 3. They will appear in person at the upcoming EmTech MIT conference from October 9–11 in Cambridge, MA.

About the Blum Center for Developing Economies

Established in 2006, the Blum Center for Developing Economies educates the next generation of global citizens to be agents of change in the struggle against global poverty. Its mission is to improve the well-being of three billion people in the world who live on less than two dollars a day by designing and developing sustainable solutions to tackle the toughest poverty challenges. The Center brings a rigorous multi-disciplinary approach and real-world applications to the classroom, lab and into the field. With its combination of unrivaled disciplinary depth and breadth, cutting-edge thinking, and the University of California’s unique culture of global engagement, the Center translates and applies innovative research to solving the world’s most pressing problems.

About MIT Technology Review

MIT Technology Review leads the global conversation about technologies that matter. An independent media company owned by MIT, it produces publications read by millions of business leaders, innovators, and thought leaders around the globe, in six languages and on a variety of platforms. The company publishes MIT Technology Review magazine, the most respected technology magazine; daily news features, analysis, and opinion; and Business Reports, which explain how technologies are transforming industries. It produces live events such as the annual EmTech MIT, international EmTech conferences, Summits, and Salons. The company’s entrepreneurial community organization, MIT Enterprise Forum, hosts 400+ events a year around the world.

# # #

For MIT Technology Review:

David W.M. Sweeney
617-475-8018
press[at]technologyreview[dot]com

For Blum Center:

Fred Muir
310-278-9321 Office
310-600-8954 Cell
fred[at]fredmuir[dot]com
Christie Ly
917-617-2437
christiely3[at]gmail[dot]com

Former U.S. Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu Rejoins Board of Trustees of Blum Center for Developing Economies at University of California, Berkeley

Distinguished scientist, Cabinet secretary and Nobel Prize winner brings national, global policy perspectives to next generation of global citizens

Steven Chu

Berkeley, Calif. (August 1, 2013) — The Blum Center for Developing Economies, a leading center for global poverty studies and innovative global development solutions, today announced that Dr. Steven Chu, former U.S. Energy Secretary and co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics, is returning as a member of its Board of Trustees. The distinguished scientist will provide important perspective and guidance on the future of the Center and its role in shaping future changemakers to address challenges faced by the world’s poor.

“We are very pleased to have Dr. Chu rejoin our board,” said Richard C. Blum, Founder of the Blum Center. “To have someone of his stature and his level of scientific achievement will be a tremendous asset as we develop and offer world-class programs and innovative courses to this generation, who feel compelled to confront issues of global inequality.”

Dr. Chu served as Trustee for the Blum Center from 2008 to 2009. He is currently Professor of Physics and Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University. Prior to his appointment, he served as the U.S. Secretary of Energy from January 21, 2009, to April 22, 2013, during which time he was charged with helping implement President Barack Obama’s agenda to invest in clean energy, reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil, address the global climate crisis and create millions of new jobs.

“Dr. Chu brings a wealth of experience working on sustainable energy solutions and novel technologies,” said Shankar Sastry, Dean of the University of California Berkeley College of Engineering and Faculty Director of the Blum Center. “His knowledge will greatly enhance the Blum Center’s work in leveraging the talent of faculty and students—particularly those in the STEM fields—toward global development, and will help us build up the innovative field of development engineering at UC Berkeley.”

Prior to his Cabinet post, Dr. Chu was the Director of the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, where he led the pursuit of alternative and renewable energy technologies. He also taught at UC Berkeley as a Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology. Previously, he held positions at Stanford University and AT&T Bell Laboratories. The award-winning scientist is the co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics (1997) for his research for the cooling and trapping of atoms in laser light.

The Blum Center’s Board features many dignitaries, including former U.S. presidents, Cabinet members and senators; former government officials from foreign nations; and global business leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs. In addition to Dr. Chu and Mr. Blum, the list includes Board Chair Laura Tyson, Professor in the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business and Former Chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors; Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich; Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz; Caio Koch-Weser, Vice Chairman, Deutsche Bank Group and Former Deputy Finance Minister of Germany; Former U.S. Senator Thomas A. Daschle of DLA Piper, LLP; and Vinod Khosla, President of Khosla Ventures, among others.

About The Blum Center for Developing Economies

Established in 2006, the Blum Center for Developing Economies cultivates and educates the next generation of global citizens to be agents of change in the struggle against global poverty. Its mission is to improve the well-being of three billion people in the world who live on less than two dollars a day by designing and developing sustainable solutions to tackle the toughest poverty challenges. The Center brings a rigorous multi-disciplinary approach and real-world applications to the classroom, lab and into the field. With its combination of unrivaled disciplinary depth and breadth, cutting-edge thinking, and the University of California’s unique culture of global engagement, the Center translates and applies innovative research to solving the world’s most pressing problems. More information at http://blumcenter.berkeley.edu/

# # #

Media Contacts:

Fred Muir, For Blum Center
310-278-9321 Office
310-600-8954 Cell
fred[at]fredmuir[dot]com
Christie Ly
917-617-2437 Cell
christiely3[at]gmail[dot]com

 

#GlobalPOV=Doing Good Responsibly, Reports NextBillion

NextBillion, an initiative of the World Resources Institute’s Markets and Enterprise Program in partnership with the William Davidson Institute (WDI) at the University of Michigan, is a web forum for the community of business leaders, social entrepreneurs, NGOs, policy makers and academics who want to explore the connection between development and enterprise. NextBillion recently highlighted The #GlobalPOV Project as part of its “NexThought Monday” coverage. Regarding the third video in the #GlobalPOV series, “Who Profits From Poverty?,” NextBillion writes:

Taking on directly the idea of the “fortune at the bottom of the pyramid,” [Prof. Ananya] Roy and Abby [VanMuijen] illustrate with words and pictures the opportunity, risk, and history of creating markets for the poor. Not all of that history has been good for the poor, in fact much of it has been very costly for them while generating plenty of profits for the privileged and wealthy.”

Regarding the #GlobalPOV audience—undergraduate students at the start of their careers, NextBillion quotes Roy:

Most centers focused on global poverty in America are focused on cutting edge research for graduate level, and that is very important, but we felt they were very disconnected with this larger generation of undergraduates who are really the most passionate about poverty action,” Roy says. “We recognized that our goal wasn’t to turn them into development specialists; they could do that in graduate school and they could do that in work after college. The main idea of the program has been the ethics of global citizenship—not global leadership, but global citizenship, to produce a different kind of architect or engineer or lawyer.”

To read the full article, click here.

2013 GPP Graduates Look to Careers of Social Engagement

On May 23rd, sixty-nine students representing thirty majors accepted certificates in the Global Poverty and Practice (GPP) Minor from Professors Ananya Roy, Clare Talwalker, and Max Aufhammer, as well as Richard Blum, founder of the Blum Center for Developing Economies. Faculty and student speakers stressed the complexity of global challenges as well as the imperative of creatively combating those challenges each and every day.

“We can’t let the limitations we face bring us down or be intimidated by the magnitude of the work,” said student commencement speaker Sarah Edwards. “We can’t think things will never change. We can’t stop trying. Really, we can’t be stopped.”

GPP Class of 2013
Photo credit: Jim Block

The diversity of intended career paths in the GPP Class of 2013 is a testament to the program’s interdisciplinary nature. Students are bound for many destinations and types of work, from studying housing struggles in post-Katrina New Orleans, to working locally as an emergency medical technician while pursuing a graduate degree in humanitarian engineering design, to helping design a cultural center in a Samoan community nearly 5,000 miles away.

While many graduates intend to work locally, others in the class remain focused on global-scale interventions. Edwards and fellow student commencement speaker Nikki Brand will both be working overseas—Brand in Guatemala with the social entrepreneurship organization Community Enterprise Solutions, and Edwards as a Peace Corps Forestry and Agroforestry Extension Agent in Cameroon.

Nikki Brand speaks at GPP Graduation
Nikki Brand, GPP Class of 2013, encouraged fellow graduates not be innocent bystanders, but to reach further and use the tools given to them at Cal to work toward change. Photo credit: Jim Block

This diversity of student interests is unified through a shared commitment to community engagement. This year, three members of the GPP community were honored with prestigious Chancellor’s Awards for Public Service in recognition of their service to communities both local and global. The Chancellor’s 2013 Service Learning Leadership Award was given to Dr. Genevieve Negron-Gonzales, who taught the GPP capstone course as well as an enrichment course on educational justice and undocumented students.  The 2013 Mather Good Citizen Award, which recognizes one graduating senior who has demonstrated a high standard of conduct and service to the campus, was awarded to Abhinaya Narayanan. In addition to her GPP studies and internships in the community, Narayanan served as Project Coordinator of Asha, a student-run organization providing education to underprivileged children, and as Student Director of Oakland Community Builders, connecting UC Berkeley students with internships at social justice organizations in the East Bay. Gardenia Casillas, another GPP student, received an Undergraduate Student Award for Civic Engagement.  Casillas completed service work in Ecuador providing dental care to poor communities and plans to work in Ethiopia this summer, funded by a Harvard Fellowship in Public Health, before pursuing advanced degrees in medicine and public health.

As the GPP Class of 2013 disperses to all corners of the globe, the Blum Center is confident that this new generation of poverty action scholars is prepared to face the challenges, questions, and complexities of global development work.  Dr. Negron-Gonzales bid farewell to her GPP students with an inspiring quote from Antonio Machado, reminding them: “Journeyer, there is no path. The path is made by walking.”


For more photos, visit the GPP Minor Graduation 2013 Facebook album.

Café Impact Gives #GlobalPOV A Nod

Café Impact, an online hub for witty, thought-provoking videos featuring no-crap conversations between host Jonathan Lewis and a cohort of successful social change agents, recently added a shout-out to The #GlobalPOV Project on its website:

The #GlobalPOV Project (UC Blum Center for Developing Economies) makes the smartest and most entertaining videos about poverty on the Internet.

Café Impact produces online leadership development videos for young millennials seeking “careers of conscience.” The organization was founded by serial entrepreneur Jonathan Lewis, who uncoincidentally teaches a social entrepreneurship class in the Global Poverty and Practice Minor. For more on Lewis, visit his website; read his latest thoughts at The Huffington Post; and get to watching those Café Impact videos already! (If you’re as talented, ambitious and utterly flawed as we, here’s a video recommendation to get you started.)

GPP Students Set Out for Summer Practice Experiences

By: Javier Kordi  and Sean Burns

Family Planning Organization of the Philippines
Student Lorraine Mosqueda will work with the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines, a reproductive health service provider and an advocate of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Photo credit: FPOP

May 16, 2013 – Each summer, Global Poverty and Practice students travel to communities all over the world to engage in poverty alleviation work.  By giving students on-the-ground exposure to the complex challenges of poverty action, these ‘practice experiences’ put classroom learning into new perspective. The Blum Center’s Student Fellowship program helps to fund a majority of these GPP students as they seek to collaborate with a variety of NGOs, government agencies, social movements, and businesses to turn their studies into tangible community work.

Guided by their own interests and questions, students are challenged to define a practice experience which advances their academic goals and aligns with their passions. For Zahra AbouKhalil, a third year student majoring in Public Health and fluent Arabic speaker, this means traveling to Lebanon in mid June to begin an internship with the Amel Association in Beirut—an organization working for the rights of Syrian refugees. Over 350,000 Syrian refugees have crossed into Lebanon since the start of the civil unrest in Syria. AbouKhalil’s practice experience will entail running health and sanitation workshops in the Amel’s refugee camps.

Each year, many GPP students view the practice experience as an opportunity to ‘give back’ to their home communities. Lorraine Mosqueda will travel to the island of Iloilo in the Philippines to complete her practice experience. Mosqueda, a third year majoring in Microbial Biology, will work alongside the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines to conduct community outreach and spread contraceptive awareness. A native of the island of Iloilo, she aspires to engage with her community on topics of women’s and family health that have been central to her studies at UC Berkeley.

International practice experiences such as AbouKhalil’s and Mosqueda’s have proven invaluable to student’s perspectives and professional goals. However, as GPP’s Professor Ananya Roy articulates in the foundational course of the Minor, students must also foster a “Politics of Locality”—that is, understand that poverty does not exist ‘out there’, but is instead a phenomenon with both local and international dynamics. Understanding this relationship between the local and international manifestations of poverty encourages students to not forgo the importance of poverty action in their own backyards.  This year, the Blum Center witnessed a significant increase in students seeking local practices. Thirteen students will stay in California—ten of whom will be in Berkeley or Oakland—working on issues ranging from affordable housing and community health to food security and women’s economic rights.

Karem Herrera, a Public Health major, will complete her practice with Don’t Sell Bodies, an anti-human trafficking organization led by Cal grad Minh Dang that seeks to spread awareness through the telling of narratives.  There are millions of individuals coerced into forced labor or sexual exploitation in the US, and the San Francisco Bay Area is considered by the FBI to be one most prominent locations for these illegal activities. Herrera’s practice experience will focus on assisting Don’t Sell Bodies in organizing conferences to increase survivor participation. The inclusion of survivors’ stories is central to the organization’s mission to empower vulnerable populations through education and awareness—a mission Herrera hopes to forward.

City Slicker Farms
Hillary Acer will intern this summer with City Slicker Farms, which works to empower West Oakland community members to meet their need for healthy organic food by creating high-yield urban farms and backyard gardens. Photo credit: City Slicker Farms

Local practices enable GPP students such as Hillary Acer to work on issues impacting UC Berkeley’s neighboring communities. Acer, a third year majoring in Integrative biology with a minor in Dance, will spend her summer in West Oakland interning with the well-known food justice organization City Slicker Farms. By assisting the organization with the expansion of their home and community gardens program, Acer will be working to increase access to healthy food in one of America’s largest ‘food deserts.’ This practice experience reflects her broader interests in community health and will give her exposure to food and nutrition challenges with an emphasis on social justice.

Capturing the essence of the practice experience, the Blum Center’s GPP Program Coordinator Chetan Chowdhry enthusiastically states: “The practice experience is a vital aspect of the GPP Minor because it allows students to directly engage with the political and ethical challenges that are inherent in efforts to address global poverty and inequality.  As a result, it pushes them to think critically about what meaningful global practice entails.”

VIDEO UPDATE: #GlobalPOV’s Ananya Roy At TEDxBerkeley

[youtube id=”pKASroLDF0M”]
Are you there, Bono? It’s me, Ananya Roy, and I live in public housing. I’m an educator, a professor at the world’s greatest public university, and I live in public housing…”

So began the first draft of Roy’s TEDxBerkeley talk, titled “(Un)Knowing Poverty.” She eventually cut the Bono reference at the top of the talk when we convinced her it was a bit much, but then she added another Bono reference somewhere in the middle. We win some, lose some. Here are a few (non-Bono) highlights:

I can say the home I live in is public housing because the tax deduction my partner and I enjoy on our mortgage is a more substantial handout than any money spent by the U.S. government on what has come to be stereotyped and vilified as public housing, and there are millions of other families that have enjoyed the same benefit . . . I start with this example because it forces us to (Un)Know Poverty, to call into question the familiar frames through which we know poverty, especially the frames of dependency and welfare.”

. . .

“The always snarky and smart William Easterly, in his influential critique of foreign aid, The White Man’s Burden, has this line: “The rich have markets, the poor have bureaucrats.” On this one, Easterly is wrong, very wrong. The rich have state help, the poor have self help.”

. . .

“To (Un)Know Poverty is to make a shift from asking how we can help the poor to asking how poverty is produced, to asking how wealth, power and privilege are maintained. To (Un)Know Poverty is to make a shift from tinkering with a charity that can do good to transforming the policies that enable wealth but impoverish poverty. To (Un)Know Poverty is to find the impossible space of poverty action.”

For more coverage of Prof. Ananya Roy’s TEDxBerkeley talk, click here.

Photos below by HalinaV Photography.

UC Press Blog Asks “Who Profits From Poverty?”

University of California Press, publisher of the forthcoming Encountering Poverty Point-of-View book, featured the #GlobalPOV’s latest vid (“Who Profits From Poverty?”) on its blog. In the post, UC Press writes:

Watch the video to learn about the surprising ways microfinance companies take advantage of the poor, how society tends to criminalize opportunism and innovation only when it comes from the lower classes, and why [Prof. Ananya] Roy is skeptical about the time-worn maxim, “If you teach a man to fish…”. Roy looks at what it takes to build a “pro-poor” economy—one that doesn’t profit off the labor, consumption, and debt of the poor. It’s a complex problem, and this project is a great start.”

To visit the UC Press blog, click here.

Generation Innovation: Luis Flores, 2013-14 Stronach Prize Winner, Takes on Cross-Border Economic and Social Justice

Luis Flores in Imperial Valley
Flores in Southern California’s Imperial Valley, where he will research transnational dynamics impacting social and economic conditions in the border region. Photo credit: Ericka Veliz

Luis Flores, a Blum Center student writer and soon-to-be first generation university graduate, has recently been awarded the prestigious Judith Lee Stronach Baccalaureate Prize for the 2013-14 school year. Below, Flores shares how his family history has inspired his pursuit of global economic and social justice. The Stronach Prize, celebrating the life and work of art historian, activist, and poetry teacher Judith Lee Stronach, offers generous grants of up to $25,000 for UC Berkeley undergraduates looking to heighten awareness of issues of social consciousness and the public good.

I am happily surprised to have been awarded a Judith Lee Stronach Baccalaureate Prize for the 2013-14 school year, which I will spend along the southern border with Mexico. My intended project straddles the line between community engagement and academic inquiry—or rather, proposes that they can (and must) be one and the same. Using different modes of community engagement, I hope to reveal the fundamentally transnational dynamics that made California’s southern border region particularly vulnerable to the Great Recession (the region now ranks the highest in national unemployment and embodies a series of other painful superlatives).

I was raised in a small desert town along the southern border convinced that my upbringing occurred in a bubble, disconnected from the cosmopolitan modern world. The education I received at UC Berkeley revealed the opposite. My native region, like all localities, is deeply interconnected with the “outer world” through a web of economic and social linkages. In fact, the tensions built into these relationships are particularly visible in border regions—where the irony of American economic power is a visible part of everyday life. It is these historical interconnections that my project seeks to uncover. A result of faulty immigration policy, World Bank-influenced economic policies, increases in free trade production, among other dynamics, residents on both sides of the border entered lives of credit dependency as early as the 1980s. It will be the effect of these economic histories that my project of community engagement will take on. The result will hopefully be the “denaturalization” of credit dependency and the opening of credit relationships as a new arena for political and social contestation.

While this project’s direction owes much to personal observation and experience, it is visibly imprinted by my time at UC Berkeley, where I’ve had the fortune of being a part of multiple communities. Enrolled in degree programs in History and in Political Economy, I benefited from the kindness and generosity of professors in geography, history, and global poverty and practice. Particularly, Khalid Kadir and professors Gillian Hart, Catherine Cole, and Ananya Roy have been formative mentors—constantly reminding me of the political stakes of academic research. I learned a great deal from the team of writers at the Berkeley Political Review, and have been perhaps most profoundly changed by my time living in the Berkeley Student Cooperative.

It is ironic that while I did not minor in Global Poverty and Practice, the Blum Center has become a sort of educational home. After two years of working as a staff writer, I’ve had the opportunity to meet dozens of GPP students, been exposed to the Big Ideas@Berkeley contest, and became involved with the center’s growing Global Poverty and Inequality Scholarship, like the Territories of Poverty conference and book. The administrative and educational staff members at the Blum Center are kind and supportive friends. The center attracts people passionately devoted to development—though from different perspectives. I’ve learned a great deal from these encounters and experiments within development practice.

While I am thankful to my mentors, family, and friends, I am aware that studying at UC Berkeley was the result of a series of incidental generational events and actions. This makes it problematic to congratulate myself. But whom or what should I thank? Should I go as far back as to thank the turbulent disagreements that compelled my grandmother and then-toddler dad to move from central Mexico to a town along on the Mexican side of the Arizona border—later facilitating my dad’s move to Baja California? Should I thank the low-paying municipal programs that made the prospect of illegal work in the U.S. more lucrative to my parents that their legal government jobs in Mexico? Surely I can thank the coincidental passing of an amnesty law in the 1980s, for granting my parents legal resident status and allowing for my privileged birth in a U.S. hospital. My point is that, particularly in moments of celebration, one can lose sight of how much an individual’s accomplishments are the result of the efforts of communities and generations, as well as of the random procession of history. There seems no difference in capability between many of my cousins in Mexico and me, who due to a different chance history are restricted from the opportunities that allowed me to apply for the Judith Lee Stronach Prize.

It is this sense of undue relative privilege that fuels what must be a life of social engagement. I encourage students interested in poverty research or social and economic justice to foster friendships with mentors and to seek out campus resources, but to never lose sight of the perspective and voices of the marginalized.

Flores is eager to assist students interested in applying to the prize or in projects of economic justice. He can be contacted at jr.luisf AT gmail DOT com.

#GlobalPOV On Mediabistro’s “AllTwitter”

AllTwitter, a Mediabistro website devoted to breaking Twitter news, highlighted The #GlobalPOV Project as part of its “Pay It Forward Friday” coverage. Regarding the #GlobalPOV video series, AllTwitter writes:

And the online videos they’re creating are intended to help “crystallize the nuanced teachings of Berkeley’s biggest minor, Global Poverty and Practice, offered by the Blum Center for Developing Economies.” The videos are posted online so those outside of the school can benefit (and learn/help) as well.

To read the full article, click here.

Students Draw Inspiration, Lessons from Weekend at Clinton Global Initiative University

By: Javier Kordi

Ngan Pham and Mohammad Yunus
UC Berkeley student Ngan Pham met microfinance pioneer Mohammad Yunus, one of her heroes, at the CGI-U conference.

In early April, eighteen UC Berkeley students attended the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI-U) conference in St. Louis, Missouri, eager to make progress on their “commitments to action”—student-led projects which aim to tackle the most pressing challenges facing humanity. With $500,000 available for investment in student projects—in addition to funds and support from the institutions in the University Network—and an all-star line-up of keynote speakers, this year’s event provided an unprecedented atmosphere of collaboration, innovation, and networking.

Ngan Pham, a student in the Global Poverty and Practice (GPP) Minor, described CGI-U as refreshing because it brought together a “group of ambitious and humble individuals” all aspiring to create a positive change. Pham’s project, “ServeFund,” prepares low-income students to be competitive and financially eligible for internships and public service opportunities—experiences that employers value highly in today’s job market. Because CGI-U brings together prominent public figures and private sector leaders, student attendees are often able to network with their idols. Pham recalls one serendipitous morning at CGI-U when she met and exchanged contact information with Professor Mohammad Yunus, an economist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient specializing in microfinance.

CGI-U supports a diverse spectrum of student commitments, from social service projects to science-driven solutions to local and global challenges. The conference gave Connor Galleher and Matt Pavlovich an opportunity to unveil their first venture in global poverty alleviation. Utilizing their knowledge of plasma physics and chemical engineering, the duo constructed a device that generates plasma as an affordable and low-input sanitation agent for water and surfaces. Requiring only electricity and air, their device has immense potential to curb infection and disease when used in developing countries. Galleher and Pavlovich were one of two teams to present on-stage in the “Solving the Global Sanitation Crisis” session.

Matt Pavlovich & Connor Galleher CGIU Display
Students Matt Pavlovich & Connor Galleher display their project poster at CGI-U. The experience taught them valuable lessons in marketing technology solutions to the public.

Pavlovich emphasized how easily it was to build partnerships with other attendees. The eerie glow of their prototype on display attracted many at CGI-U, including Stephen Colbert, who described the event as “a science fair for noble causes.” Even CGI-U host President Bill Clinton casually walked over to their booth, and—after listening to their pitch—picked up their business cards and mentioned the possibility of providing solar panels for their power needs.

Beyond networking, Galleher and Pavlovich’s exposure in the CGI-U space encouraged the team to rethink the way they presented and marketed their idea. Galleher recalled that “people were in pain when reading our [poster]” because few attendees were familiar with the language of plasma physics. The project team was compelled to “recalibrate [their] message” in order to make it more accessible. They now have a website and a pending project title—“PlasMachine”—that they hope will make the seemingly esoteric topic more understandable and accessible for the general population.

Karem Herrera, also a GPP student, described the three day CGI-U conference as “empowering” because it spoke to all aspects of the poverty challenge—including the inevitable failures and obstacles that aspiring change-makers encounter—and provided opportunities for collaboration. Herrera’s commitment is to organize a youth empowerment program in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Working with a team of approximately fifteen UC Berkeley students through MEND (an on-campus organization), her program will extend educational resources to economically disadvantaged youths in Aguascalientes. During the event, she met the directors of a similar project, Union De Jovenes Por Mexico (Union of Youth for Mexico), and may work closely with the group in the near-future.

Rajika Jindani and Chelsea Clinton
UC Berkeley student Rajika Jindani was excited to meet Chelsea Clinton at CGI-U and share her Commitment to Action, a microfinance project with Jaipur Foot.

Sean Burns, Director of Student Programs at the Blum Center, feels the conference offered an important experience for UC Berkeley students on a number of levels. “Students were able to analyze the vision and strategy of their projects,” he remarked. “They were able to meet and converse with dozens of experienced leaders in social change and innovation, and return to campus with a bolstered sense of enthusiasm and confidence for carrying forth their project commitments.” Burns, who serves as the UC Berkeley campus representative in the inaugural year of the CGI-U University Network, looks forward to continuing to work with these students as they seek to fulfill their commitments to action.

Read more about the Blum Center’s role in the CGI-U University Network.

Malaria-fighting “Faso Soap” Wins Global Social Venture Competition Grand Prize, People’s Choice Award

Faso Soap team at GSVC
The Faso Soap team accepts their awards at the Global Social Venture Competition Global Conference. Photo credit: GSVC/Bruce Cook Photography

Congratulations to Faso Soap, Grand Prize winner of the 2013 Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) and winner of the Blum Center People’s Choice Award! At the April 12th GSVC Global Conference, the team behind the anti-malaria initiative was awarded $26,500 in prize money to jump-start their business. Faso Soap is the first non-American team to win GSVC.

Faso Soap team members Moctar Dembélé and Gérard Niyondiko, students from Burundi and Burkina Faso, have developed an innovative mosquito repellant solution made with natural ingredients that are available locally in Burkina Faso. This solution, added to locally manufactured soap, provides a very accessible, low-cost anti-malarial tool.

With upwards of 300 million malaria cases each year globally, the mosquito-borne disease remains a significant—but preventable—health threat. In sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria is a leading cause of death, many families living on only a few dollars a day are unable to afford mosquito repellants and anti-malarial drugs. For this reason, Faso Soap is an incredibly important innovation in the ongoing fight against malaria.

The Global Social Venture Competition provides aspiring entrepreneurs with mentoring, exposure, and $50,000 in prizes to transform their ideas into businesses that will have positive real world impact. Founded by MBA students at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, the GSVC culminates each year with the Global Finals and Conference at Berkeley in April, gathering teams from around the world and Bay Area professionals for a day of learning and networking. GSVC has evolved into a global network supported by an international community of volunteer judges, mentors and student organizers and a partnership of premier business schools in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

The Blum Center applauds Faso Soap and the other GSVC winners and wishes them well in their exciting social ventures! Watch their pitch videos at the links below.

Full list of 2013 GSVC winners:

Center for Responsible Business Quick Pitch Award ($1,000):  Jorsey Ashbel Farms – Nigeria

Blum Center for Developing Economies People’s Choice Award ($1,500):  Faso Soap – Burkina Faso

Third Place ($7,500): Pulp Works – USA

Second Place ($15,000): Carbon Roots International – Haiti

First Place ($25,000): Faso Soap – Burkina Faso

FASO SOAP GSVC Pitch Video from Check-in films on Vimeo.

#GlobalPOV’s Ananya Roy At TEDxBerkeley

Since Bono delivered a TED talk about poverty earlier this year, Prof. Ananya Roy had to follow suit. (“Bono, Bono, Bono…”) Roy delivered a talk at this year’s TEDxBerkeley event, which explored the theme “Catalyzing Change.”  Roy’s talk rounded out the “Create” session and featured clips from U2’s 360 Degree World Tour The #GlobalPOV Project video series. According to the Daily Californian:

Ananya Roy, a professor of city and regional planning and founder of the global poverty and practice minor at UC Berkeley, concluded the “Create” session with her piece entitled “(Un)knowing Poverty,” disputing the common yet inaccurate notion people have of poverty. Her work addressed the question, “Why do we see the dependent in this way, and why is our own dependency so unknown to us?”

She also addressed what she believed to be a common hole in the motives of many philanthropists who are empathetic to those suffering in developing countries yet “squirm with their encounters with the homeless panhandler of Berkeley.”

To read the full Daily Cal article, click here. Video of the talk is forthcoming!

Blum Center Applauds Newly Appointed Chancellor’s Public Scholars

New Courses Will Link Scholarship and Community Action

ACES Awardees Sean Burns and Khalid Kadir
Sean Burns (left) and Khalid Kadir (right) have been named 2014 Chancellor’s Public Scholars. Each will design and teach a course emphasizing public scholarship and community engagement.

By: Luis Flores and Rachel Voss

April 18, 2013 – Dr. Khalid Kadir, Blum Center Lecturer, and Dr. Sean Burns, Blum Center Director of Student Programs, have been honored as 2014 Chancellor’s Public Scholars by the American Cultures Engaged Scholarship (ACES) Program.  Each will design and teach a new course in Spring 2014, emphasizing public scholarship and student engagement in community-based projects. These courses will be cross-listed as enrichment courses in the Blum Center’s Global Poverty and Practice (GPP) Minor.

ACES, a collaborative program between the American Cultures Center and the Cal Corps Public Service Center, aims to transform how community-engaged scholarship is valued on campus. Much like the GPP Minor, ACES seeks to enhance student learning through a combination of teaching and practice, encourage innovative thinking that impacts communities, and transform how the academy approaches ideas relevant to communities in struggle. ACES courses satisfy a campus-wide American Cultures requirement, exposing the entire undergraduate student body to important social histories and issues.

“It is wonderful to have the core faculty of the GPP Minor also actively involved in ACES,” said Dr. Ananya Roy, Education Director at the Blum Center and Professor of City and Regional Planning. “This breaks down the divide between critical poverty studies and practice—often imagined to be concerned with the Global South—and American cultures—often imagined to be concerned with ‘home,’ not ‘elsewhere’.”

Kadir’s and Burns’ awards solidify the Blum Center’s place at the forefront of efforts to transform the relationship between UC Berkeley and the local—and global—community. Working in collaboration with ACES and the Public Service Center, the Blum Center aims to stretch and invigorate Berkeley’s commitment to community-relevant scholarship and impactful community-campus partnerships.

Kadir’s and Burns’ selection follows Blum Center Lecturer Dr. Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales’ participation as a 2013 Chancellor’s Public Scholar. Negrón-Gonzales, whose ACES course focused on “Educational Justice: Undocumented Migrant Students & Struggles around ‘Citizenship’,” has also received the Chancellor’s Service-Learning Leadership Award for her work on this course.

Kadir, who received his PhD in Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley, first linked social science perspectives with technical problems while writing his dissertation on waste water projects in developing countries. Kadir now teaches a course in the International Areas Studies program on political economy and is a core faculty member in the GPP Minor. Kadir’s new course—among the first ever at UC Berkeley to combine technical and social perspectives with community engagement—sits at the intersection of environmental justice, social justice, and engineering. He hopes it will build engineering students’ understanding of both the possibilities and limitations of technically-based solutions.

“The goal is to help students look beyond the technical orientation of engineering approaches and learn to recognize the ways in which problems that may appear technical are at their roots deeply embedded in social justice,” said Kadir. By partnering with community groups addressing air pollution and soil contamination in Richmond, California, as well as drinking water contamination in unincorporated townships in the Central Valley, Kadir’s course will encourage students to combine interventions with local community engagement. “This class should contribute new scholarship and help shape a cadre of engineers who view problems through a more holistic lens,” he added.

Burns, who holds a PhD from UC Santa Cruz’s History of Consciousness program, published a biography on Bay Area activist Archie Green that was awarded the 2012 CLR James Award for Best Book from the Working Class Studies Association.

Burns’ new course, “Social Movements, Urban Histories, and the Politics of Memory,” examines a range of national and transnational progressive social movements which have had a prominent and influential impact in the San Francisco Bay Area. “The course will not only analyze what others have written and said of these movements, it will also organize community-based documentation projects which seek to expand public understanding of these histories, their legacies, and the contemporary experience of these communities and struggles,” explained Burns.

Making student engagement central to his course, Burns stressed that the class “will encourage students to see themselves as both history makers (people with political agency) and historians (people committed to and skilled in the practice of historical documentation). These skills and sensibilities are essential for engaging in poverty action and, like Khadir’s course, importantly complement the range of work we are taking up in the Global Poverty and Practice Minor.”

Generation Innovation: Rebecca Peters, 4th Generation Cal Student, 2013 Truman Scholar

Rebecca Peters, 2013 Truman Scholar
Rebecca Peters, a Blum Center student and the fourth woman in her family to attend UC Berkeley, was named a 2013 Harry S. Truman Scholar last week. Sixty-two college juniors received the prestigious award on the basis of their academic achievements, leadership accomplishments, and their commitment to becoming a leader in public service. The Scholarship provides leadership training, post-graduate opportunities in Washington, DC, and $30,000 for graduate study. Peters reflects on her winding journey to the Truman Scholarship and her future beyond the Blum Center and UC Berkeley.

April 17, 2013 – My path to the Truman Scholarship began to take shape generations ago, when my great grandmother frequented UC Berkeley’s hallowed grounds while pursuing degrees in Spanish and history. My grandmother, currently 96 years old and still reflecting fondly on her time at Cal, similarly began her studies here only to leave to take a job at Lawrence Berkeley Lab as an engineering designer. My mom also began to pursue a degree here before decamping to take a job in the city. I was born in San Francisco and grew up hearing about UC Berkeley, but it always seemed like a distant institution that belonged to my ancestors. As a graduating high school senior I was certain that I wanted to study environmental science and engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to begin a career in Californian river restoration work.

However, my path radically shifted when I enrolled in an Appropriate Technology course that included fieldwork in rural Guatemala. Bearing witness to abject destitution profoundly refocused my perspective, and I began to understand the problem of poverty for the billions of people living without safe water, education, and health care. Learning how to negotiate the complex divides between poverty and wealth helped me develop my own solidarity in the context of inequality, and this experience learning to bridge cultural difference and seek transnational similarities inspired me to apply to transfer to UC Berkeley to enroll in the Global Poverty and Practice Minor.

Once at Berkeley, I declared majors in Society and Environment (B.Sc.) and International Development and Economics (B.A.) through the interdisciplinary field studies program. For my GPP practice experience, I sought to unite these fields by working on rural water projects with the Foundation for Sustainable Development and Water for People in Cochabamba, Bolivia from May to August 2012. Many of my days consisted of visiting communities without connections to the municipal water supply and discussing the role of water cooperatives in improving access. Through this work, I found a significant component missing from the work of the organizations: addressing the asymmetrical impacts of a lack of water on women and girls. I am now leading the expansion of gender sensitive water programs in twelve rural schools in Bolivia this summer, and am a finalist for the Human Rights category of the BigIdeas@Berkeley competition to support these efforts.

Rebecca Peters in Chiapas, Mexico
Peters examines the bottling mechanisms for community distribution from a safe water kiosk in Chiapas, Mexico, in March 2013. Three fellow GPP students will complete their practice experience at the site in Summer 2013.

While at Cal, I have participated in two Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (URAP) projects with Blum Center associated faculty and am currently working with Professor Isha Ray to generate a literature review on the current state of water treatment models in Latin America. My first honors thesis, a formative component of my research engagement at Cal, analyzed the formation of current conditions of water access, control, and management in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The municipal government in Cochabamba theoretically incorporated civic participation as an element of their planning system through the conduits of varying levels of administration. However, a 2004 report by the United Nations RISD found clear evidence that elements of class-based discrimination and resulting inequalities in access to water existed in the residential peri-urban spaces of Cochabamba, with such inter-urban spaces becoming places where the population is an indicator of processes of social differentiation (UNRISD 2004). The insurgent urbanization of Cochabamba resulted in the rise of numerous squatter settlements, zones of informal housing, and distinctively “peri-urban” regions on the outskirts of the city. Asymmetrical political power distribution is most obviously manifested in the noticeable absence of municipal services that are provided to the wealthier districts of the city, including water and sanitation. In this way, I came to understand water as not just an environmental, economic, social, or cultural resource, but also the site of considerable politicized inequity. These diverse research experiences that often cross into advocacy have collectively reinforced my belief in the importance of working across disciplines to achieve the goals of reducing poverty, improving global health, and increasing equality in water and environmental resource distribution.

Over the past two years, I revitalized the Water IdeaLab, co-founded a DeCal on water and international human rights, and collaborated with faculty to create an undergraduate curriculum to improve water related student opportunities. I also lead the Nuestra Agua student group, and alongside fellow students introduced a social justice and human rights perspective to the organization which was previously narrowly focused on the role of UV technology and health outcomes for reducing water borne illness in rural Mexican communities. The program in Chiapas will be the summer practice experience for three GPP students to contribute to safe water programs.

While I am thrilled that my efforts thus far have helped engage students in water issues on campus, in the community, and around the world, there are still miles to go. The Truman and Udall scholarships, along with the Berkeley Law Human Rights Fellowship, are honors that I take very seriously as long-term investments to foster my commitment to water, social justice, and human rights work. My roots at Berkeley, beginning with my great grandmother, instilled in me a deep sense of history and appreciation for the educational experience here. I am still awed by the sheer physical beauty of the architecture, inspired by the intellect of my peers, and humbled by the opportunities I have as a student at Cal.

After graduating from Cal and working in Washington, DC with the State Department through the Truman Scholars Institute, I intend to pursue dual masters degrees in Water Science, Policy, and Management (M.Sc.) and International Development (M.A.) which will enable me to contribute to the design of meaningful policies that will shape the future role of the United States in water and the environment. In the future, I hope to work with the State Department’s new US Water Partnership to define its direction as a leader in US foreign policy related to issues of environmental sustainability and water security. My vision is to address inequitable water consumption practice while targeting the improvement of strong civil societies able to hold their government representatives accountable to the social, economic, and cultural demands of water. Through designing policies that empower governments to fulfill their obligation to provide affordable and accessible safe water to their people, I hope to make access to and control of water resources a more inclusive, transparent, and equitable process.

Some advice I would offer students looking for ways to get involved in poverty action are to utilize campus resources like the Blum Center, the Scholarship Connection, the Center for Effective Global Action, and Cal Corps. The mentorship and support I have received from the faculty and staff at the Blum Center have been critical to my activism, research, and advocacy for poverty and water issues. The lasting friends I have made through the Global Poverty and Practice minor – the other peer advisors, my classmates, and my Bolivian partners – inspire me every day with their creative brilliance, thoughtful innovations, and deep compassion. The Blum Center has effectively created a space to allow for a new vein of student driven and institution supported work that facilitates the millennial generation’s mission to theoretically and practically engage with the challenges of global poverty and inequality. Effective poverty action requires informed actors, and the millennials at Berkeley are capable of critically engaging to end the inequality that drives pressing economic, environmental, and social problems. Go Bears.

Visit Peters’ blog for more about her research and travels.

Read more about Peters in ‘Fourth-generation Berkeley student lands prize for water work’ via UC Berkeley NewsCenter.

UCB NewsCenter: Art, Vids & Twitter Take #GlobalPOV Curriculum To The World

The UC Berkeley NewsCenter recently sat down and interviewed the #GlobalPOV team to discuss the theory behind the project, the production process, and the fact that Prof. Roy would have had a much easier time writing and publishing a book already. (But then where would that leave Graham, VanMuijen…and Bono?) According to the article:

The project is a groundbreaking alternative to dominant forms of online education, a hot topic that’s on the minds of campus leaders as well as the University of California as a whole, the state and educators everywhere.

. . .

“What Twitter did for celebrity culture,” says Graham, “we think it can do in the academic world by making professors and scholarship more accessible.”

. . .

“There’s something about making one’s ideas accessible in this format that, to me, is quite important,” says Roy. “And I really think that’s partly what we must do as a public university: We have to invent new genres of public scholarship.”

To read the full article, click here.

UC Berkeley Students Head to St. Louis for Clinton Global Initiative University

Blum Center Joins Partnership to Bolster Student Action on Global Poverty

By: Rachel Voss and Javier Kordi

This year, eighteen UC Berkeley students will attend the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI-U) annual gathering, hosted by President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton from April 5th-7th in St. Louis, Missouri.  The conference will include knowledge-sharing and networking opportunities for students committed to tackling the world’s most pressing problems and will feature keynote speakers such as Muhammad Yunus, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jack Dorsey, and Stephen Colbert.

CGI U 2012 Opening Plenary Session: The Power of Public Service
Credit: Adam Schultz / Clinton Global Initiative

Each year, thousands of students from around the world submit applications to CGI-U outlining a “Commitment to Action”—a concrete one-year plan to address a critical challenge in one of five categories: Education, Environment and Climate Change, Peace and Human Rights, Poverty Alleviation, or Public Health.  Finalists are invited to the CGI-U gathering, which provides attendees inspiration and guidance.

“The CGI-U conference and community helped me to carry out my commitment to increase access to financial education for microfinance borrowers in Nairobi, Kenya, by providing me with the opportunity to learn from professionals around the world and network with other like-minded student,” emphasized UC Berkeley alumna (’11) and previous CGI-U attendee Lauren Herman. “With the evaluation, leadership and fundraising skills that I gained, I made my commitment to global change a reality.”

CGI U 2012 EDUCATION WORKING SESSION - Public vs. Private: Who Decides and Who Provides?
Credit: Casey Wood / Clinton Global Initiative

The UC Berkeley students invited to the CGI-U conference were selected for their passion, energy, and the strength of their Commitments to Action, which address a wide range of social and environmental challenges.  For example, graduate students Javier Rosa and Todd Duncombe are expanding their “Build My Lab” project within the Tekla Labs initiative, a global on-line community to connect scientists, educators, and hobbyists who design and use home-built laboratory equipment.  Senior Caitlin Francoisse has been invited to present her locally-focused project, “Sexual Health for Youth,” which she started in the women’s section of the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center after receiving the prestigious Strauss Scholars Award in 2012.  Francoisse has committed to expand her project to the male detention center by building the base of Berkeley students volunteering within the program.

In addition to this year’s strong UC Berkeley student participation, the Blum Center for Developing Economies will this year represent UC Berkeley in the inaugural year of the Clinton Global Initiative University Network.  Colleges and universities in this new nationwide partnership will provide support and guidance to their respective students who have made CGI-U Commitments to Action. As CGI-U spokesperson Ragina Arrington explained, “Our hope is that these students will be better equipped to carry out their Commitments to Action, as they will have both more formal, fiscal university support for their projects, as well as greater access to on-campus university mentors who are ready to serve as a resource to them.”

Since 2007, the Blum Center at UC Berkeley has inspired and supported student engagement in issues of global development, aiming to educate and empower the next generation of poverty scholars through curriculum, field practices, mentorship, and partnership initiatives like CGI-U.  “CGI-U grows out of a set of urgent concerns and aspirations which also motivate the Blum Center’s work with Big Ideas@Berkeley, the Global Poverty and Practice Minor, and the Development Impact Lab,” noted Sean Burns, Director of Student Programs at the Blum Center.  Burns feels this new partnership will be an opportunity for the Blum Center to extend its well-known mentorship and networking capabilities to the greater UC Berkeley student community.

Junior Ngan Pham’s CGI-U initiative exemplifies this campus ecosystem of support.  Pham is part of the Global Poverty and Practice Minor and is currently a finalist in the Big Ideas@Berkeley contest. Her project, “ServeFund,” prepares low-income students to be competitive and financially eligible for internships and public service opportunities—experiences that employers highly value in today’s job market.  Pham will attend the CGI-U conference just days after the American Youth Summit in Washington, DC, where she will help the Obama Administration draft a National Young Americans Report.

“We are incredibly proud of the impact Cal students are making through our programs and opportunities like CGI-U.  For us at the Blum Center, the aim is to integrate and align these opportunities so we can boost the impact and significance of our students’ work,” Burns said.

Stay tuned for updates on Build My Lab, ServeFund, and other CGI-U commitments through the Blum Center’s Facebook and Twitter.

Design for Sustainable Communities Course

Author:
Brittany Schell

Professor Addy also teaches a course at UC Berkeley, Design for Sustainable Communities. The class gives students hands-on experience in the design and implementation of projects meant to improve the sustainability of communities in developing countries.

The students work in teams throughout the semester on practical projects, with guidance from professor Addy and other experts. The class, a mix of graduate and undergraduate students from various majors at Berkeley, meets twice a week to discuss their own projects as well as explore the methods of successful innovators.
“One of the most pressing challenges of the new century is to harness the extraordinary force of technological innovation…and make
its benefits accessible and meaningful for all humanity,” professor Addy said to begin class, quoting former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Cost effective, creative solutions to problems like unemployment and the lack of water and electricity in villages—like professor Addy’s ECAR water initiative—provide a new area of opportunities for businesses and social entrepreneurs. It’s innovation for the 90 percent, she told her students.

ECAR Safe Water Initiative: A New Solution to an Old Problem

Author:
Javier Kordi

Abandoned arsenic water filters 
litter the village of Amirabad, India like archaic ruins. For years, the community has seen foreigners come and go, bringing the promise of clean water and leaving behind hollow philanthropic gestures. Arsenic- contaminated ground waters have created the largest mass poisoning in human history. In Bangladesh alone, 40 million people are exposed to arsenic through their tube wells. From Latin America to Asia, arsenic-laden water has plagued the lives of millions.

Working in conjunction with
 the Blum Center for Developing Economies and the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, professor Susan
 Addy and her team of scientists have brought something new to the water table: a sustainable model for water purity— the Electrochemical Arsenic Remediation project (ECAR).

ECAR differs from its predecessors in its mode of arsenic extraction. The elusive arsenic particles cannot be removed with traditional filtration— they will not settle or get retained. ECAR works by literally grabbing these particles and dragging them to the bottom of a water basin, separating them from the clean H2O. It is a simple procedure.
First, a steel plate is placed into a tub of water. Then an electrical current
is passed through the steel, creating millions of rust particles. As the rust expands, it electrochemically binds
to arsenic. The rust-bonded arsenic settles to the bottom of the basin and the final step—adding Alum, a water coagulant—allows the amalgamation and separation of the poison. The 100 liter prototype produced clean water that was indistinguishable from bottled water, using only as much energy as a CFL light bulb.ECAR 1

But even the most brilliant of technologies cannot succeed if they are not embraced and maintained
 by the local community. “The technology is maybe 20 percent of
the problem,” professor Addy said. “The social situation, making it work sustainably, is maybe 80 percent of the problem.” Often times, water projects fail because they are a one-time gift from a donor. Working with financial institutions, a social marketing firm and local governments, the ECAR project will make the delivery of clean water part of the community’s livelihood. The product of ECAR (clean water) will become a good, to be sold and profited from in an open market, thus creating an economic incentive for continued production.

Professor Addy explained the plan
 for this year: “We’ve got two pilot projects planned this year that will serve water to about 2,500 students, maybe one to two liters per day, operating for several months.” As children learn about water safety in their classrooms, the neighboring water plant will transform the school into a community center—a nexus for health and education. Ultimately, the plant will provide jobs for the local people. While providing free water to children, the excess that is created can be sold to the community. ECAR aims to become a self-sustaining water plant, both economically and technologically. Because the government has an interest in increasing student enrollment, professor Addy believes there is potential for partnering with India’s Ministry of Education to further subsidize the project.

At the end of February, two scientists, Christopher Orr and Sivarama Satyam, will depart from Berkeley 
to spend six months in India testing out the new 500 liter prototype. After working with a manufacturer in Mumbai, the prototype will be shipped to Jodhpur University in Calcutta for a few months of testing. If all goes well, this prototype will be moved to the school in Amirabad, India, where it will provide six months of free water to local school children. According to Sivarama, local governments and communities are eager to adopt the technology, particularly after the success of the initial model. With continued successes, the full implementation of ECAR and the cleansing of the water table will soon be a reality.

Big Ideas @ Berkeley 2011 Spotlight: BareAbundance

Author:
Javier Kordi

Upon entering Berkeley’s all-you-can- eat dining halls, students undergo 
a strange biological transformation: their eyes seem to swell, far exceeding the size of their stomachs. Seven servings later, a tray full of half eaten entrées stares back at their defeated gazes before getting disposed of in the garbage. This propensity to waste is not limited to university dining halls. Every day, 260 million pounds of food are wasted while 50 million Americans go hungry. Witnessing this incongruity first hand, Global Poverty and Practice students Komal Ahmad, majoring in International Health and Development, and Jacquelyn Hoffman, majoring in Gender and Women’s studies, created BareAbundance—an organization that addresses the inequitable food distribution that causes millions of Americans to suffer every day.

When food is neither consumed
nor sold, or is nearing its expiration date, the organization sweeps in to intervene before it is tossed into a landfill. Receiving excess healthy food from a wide network of sources, BareAbundance redistributes this excess to people in need. Last year, BareAbundance signed a contract with Cal Dining, securing the excess foods from four dining halls and 10 on-campus cafes and restaurants. Currently, this food is being delivered to an afterschool program at New Highland School in East Oakland, where 70 percent of students are on free or reduced lunch.

Komal, one of the founders of BareAbundance, explains that the after-school program is about more than providing food; it’s also about food education. For a community lacking access to farmers’ markets, the nutritional model of the food pyramid is sometimes hard to meet. In addition to providing much-needed sustenance, the after-school program teaches “food driven values through an experiential method where [the students] consume and cook the food.”

Take one of the program’s three-day examples: children were first given donuts and asked to write about how they felt in their journals. Initially abounding with energy, the children reported stomachaches and lethargic feelings a few hours later. A similar feeling was reported the next day when the kids ate pieces of cake. On the final day, the children were given
a luscious piece of fruit. They wrote in their journals that, not only did it taste good, but it also provided sustained energy without a sugar crash. This technique trains children to recognize the importance of a healthy diet through direct engagement.

Last year, BareAbundance was selected as a winner of Big Ideas @ Berkeley, a campus-wide innovation competition managed by the Blum Center. A recipient of the Social Justice and Community Engagement award, the organization received funding for transportation, food storage, website creation and publicity, allowing it to grow dramatically. Komal humbly described how the Big Ideas @ Berkeley grant “legitimized our organization…our idea.” It compelled the founders to make their model of food redistribution a reality: as Komal said, it was “both a pat on the back and a kick in the ass.” In the future, Komal hopes to establish a nation- wide food recovery network to save and distribute excess food from college campuses around the country.

World Day of Social Justice

Author:
Brittany Schell

February 20th marked the annual World Day of Social Justice. “Social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations,” states the website of the United Nations. “We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.”

In 2007, the UN General Assembly declared February 20th of each year the “World Day of Social Justice,” to recognize groups around the world working to fight poverty and promote gender equality, access to health care and other initiatives that advance development and human dignity.

Here at the Blum Center, our students and faculty work actively toward these goals. Each year, we offer fellowships to students studying in the Global Poverty and Practices minor at UC Berkeley to help fund their summer fieldwork experiences.

World Day of Social Justice
GPP students in the field

Fieldwork has ranged from supporting tenants’ rights in New York City to providing access to clean water in India; improving child nutrition in Guatemala and addressing poverty in Vietnam; working with opium addicts in Afghanistan and HIV/ AIDS prevention work in Ghana; and even building community bread ovens in Tanzania. Our students have helped advance the foundation of social justice through hands-on work, making concrete differences in communities across the world.

Last summer, 40 students received fellowships from the Blum Center.

In IAS 120, Students of the GPP Minor Learn the Skills to Spread Global Awareness

Author:
Luis Flores

It’s a practical course,” explained Royce Chang about professor Tara Graham’s Field Reporting in the Digital Age: Using Media Tools for Social Justice. “I don’t think we get enough of that here at Berkeley.”

Professor Graham’s course trains students in Berkeley’s Global Poverty and Practice minor to use the Internet and social media as tools for global engagement. The course is an all-in-one tool kit for global awareness.

Last year, students received training in everything from film, photography and creative writing to web design. “The course was valuable because it trains you to look for things and to look for the best and most ethical way to go about acquiring material,” remarked Royce. Professor Graham is teaching the class again this semester.

Royce, a history major concentrating on ancient Greece and Rome, is currently working on developing media content for One World Futbol at Berkeley, an NGO that is working to spread global and community awareness among local K-8 students through sports. He continues to believe that no matter the initiative, the spread of awareness is a vital part of enacting positive change. To this goal, online media is a valuable tool.

Ryan Silsbee, another of professor Graham’s students last year, has since graduated and is completing a four-month organic agriculture apprenticeship with Real Time Farms in Hawaii. The importance of the media skills learned in professor Graham’s class are obvious by looking at his website: a clean site with vivid photographs, concise, creatively written updates and interactive maps and guides. His site allows readers to engage with his mission of promoting healthy and organic agriculture. “Spreading information and just getting people interested in where their food comes from and how it is grown is the first step,” Ryan said.

The theoretical courses in the GPP minor set Ryan on a path to change American agriculture, and Professor Graham’s course gave him the tools tostart making those changes. “I want people to step out of their busy lives, take a look at agriculture in the United States and decide for themselves if they think something should be changed,” he explained.
Many of professor Graham’s students, like Danika Kehlet, were first able
to put these skills to use during their summer practice initiatives. Armed with a small flipcam, Danika set out to chronicle her work promoting female development in Quito, Ecuador. Her lively blog illustrates her experience through the use of videos, photo collages and engaging blog entries.

This semester, Professor Graham is training a new group of GPP studentsin a similar course: Using Media Tools for Global Poverty Action. Practical courses like these are training the
next generation of tech-savvy global citizens. Exposure to the development possibilities of social media is empowering and inspiring students.

“It is very inspiring to know that something I create, write, photograph, film, or document can change the
way people view their world,” Ryan said. “If enough people see it, you can change society.”

#GlobalPOV At Cal Day

What’s on your Cal Day agenda? From 11-12:00 PM in 145 Dwinelle Hall on Saturday, Apr. 20, we’ll screen “Can We Shop To End Poverty?”, the second vid in the #GlobalPOV series. We invite you to come view and discuss it with our team. Visit the Cal Day website for more information.

How Social & Digital Media Create a Global Point of View
The #GlobalPOV Project combines critical social theory, improv art and digital media to explore innovative ways of thinking about poverty and inequality. Join the #GlobalPOV team for a discussion of the project and a screening of a live-action sketch video “micro-lecture,” written and narrated by Ananya Roy, award-winning professor and chair of the Global Poverty and Practice Minor.

#GlobalPOV Challenge: “Now Kids…”

Video #3 in the series will explore the question: “Who Profits From Poverty?” In it, Prof. Roy warns: “Now kids, don’t graduate from college without reading this book!” Here’s the challenge: NAME THAT BOOK. And while you’re pondering, here’s a photo of Prof. Roy receiving a friendly nudge from a sneaky shark. You’re welcome.

Prof. Roy and the Shark