Blum Center Student Instructors Receive Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Awards

Blum Center Student Instructors Receive Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Awards

soniagsiawardThis year two Blum Center student instructors, Sonia Travaglini and Julia Kramer, will receive Berkeley’s Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor award. The women were chosen for their command of the subject area, promotion of problem-based learning, and their ability to motivate students.

Sonia attests that the key to being a successful teacher is putting the students first. “My teaching style is all about supporting students to discover their own approach to learning, and to find their unique voice to communicate their knowledge. My teaching philosophy is student-centered; I help students develop self-motivated learning and apply their strengths to their work,” said Sonia.

Julia also believes in having a hands-on approach. “I work with students one-on-one to talk through what they’re trying to accomplish, and how they might reach those goals,” Julia said. “In the courses I teach, we try to give  students a variety of design tools they might use, then we support them in figuring out how to apply those tools in their own work.”

Sonia and Julia will receive certificates of distinction and a $250 stipend in recognition of their achievement.

Global Poverty & Practice Graduates Reflect on Program’s Impact

Global Poverty & Practice Graduates Reflect on Program’s Impact

By Sarah Bernardo

The Blum Center’s Global Poverty & Practice (GPP) minor is one of the most popular undergraduate minors at UC Berkeley, bringing together students from across disciplines to explore poverty, wealth, and inequity through coursework and practical field experience. As a course requirement, students spend six weeks working with local or international organizations on issues ranging from human rights, to public health, to the environment. This year 78 GPP students will graduate, having completed practice experiences in 15 countries around the world. The Blum Center sat down with three graduates–Andrea Miller, Elise Umansky, and Gustavo Alvarez–to hear more about their experiences and future plans.

Skills Gained and Lessons Learned through GPP

The GPP program is highly experiential, enabling students to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it in real world settings. Students are taught to engage with communities, think critically, exercise patience, and persevere. “The work that many GPP students want to do can be disheartening, and it’s important to be resilient,” student Andrea Miller said.

While the students feel classroom-based coursework is critical, they also attest that the greatest education often comes from direct engagement with communities. “[Gaining] knowledge doesn’t necessarily mean [gaining] education,” Alvarez said. “Listening to people’s narratives can teach the greatest lessons.” Umansky agreed. “I will bring with me the importance of humbly honoring the traditions of any community I’m working with, and letting them guide the work.”

Memorable Moments

For Andrea Miller, the classroom engagement was the most impactful. “The Ethics, Methods, and Pragmatics of Global Practice was my favorite class in all of my Berkeley experience,” she said. “Our Professor (Clare Talkwalker)  and GSI (Mary Glenn) were the Superwomen duo. My peers were intelligent, caring, and amazing humans. There was something to learn from [each person], and everyone was so accepting of each other and ready to help.”

For Alvarez, a moment from his practice experience solidified his desire to work in service to others. While working on a water project outside Chiapas, Mexico, he met two poor young boys. “I remember the joy of the two brothers-who were 5 and 6- when they met us. They lived in such humble circumstances, yet their faces were bright with happiness. They showed me their toys, their hammock. The reason I am doing what I am doing is for them. I want to help provide clean, drinking water to this and other families so they don’t have to worry about illnesses.”

Like Alvarez, Umansky’s work was motivated by her practice experience. Working with Nepalese communities after the 2015 earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 and injured 22,000 was an eye opening experience for her. “My first trip to Nepal occurred right after the 2015 earthquake, and much of my time was spent on rebuilding efforts,” Umansky said. “When I returned for my Practice Experience, I had the great fortune of living with the same host family. We had tears in our eyes when we reunited at the Kathmandu airport. I worked with an organization providing mental health services to post-earthquake trauma victims. Experiencing the healing and rebuilding effort was very powerful,” she said.

Future Plans and Parting Advice

The students credit the GPP program for inspiring the future direction of their careers, which include positions in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Following graduation, Umansky will return to Nepal to work with The Centre for Victims of Torture. In the future she plans to pursue a doctoral degree in Global Health with a focus on mental health in Nepal.  Andrea Miller will join the Peace Corps in Guatemala, where she will work in the field of public health. Alvarez’s will join Eaton, an energy company, and plans to pursue a PhD in Environmental Engineering “to develop more effective intervention plans to provide clean, drinking water to individuals in Central America.” All had important parting advice for GPP students.

“Keep an open mind, learn to sit in discomfort, and remember that there is never a completely pure path from which to act,” Umansky said. “No approach to social justice and poverty alleviation work is without flaw, but proceed with genuine intention, a critical lens, and a yearning to always learn.”

Alvarez advises, “Remember: we are not the experts. Those whose lives we are attempting to impact are the experts, and we must work together in order to innovate. Our collaborative efforts to design for meaningful impact will propel us to success.”

Miller encourages students to “Take advantage of the GPP community. The program is a family; people will always have your back here. They will also help remind you that you are not alone against this fight of trying to make the world a better place.”

GPP Lecturer Khalid Kadir Honored with the Distinguished Teaching Award

GPP Lecturer Khalid Kadir Honored with the Distinguished Teaching Award

By Sarah Bernardo


Each year, UC Berkeley bestows its Distinguished Teaching Award, the campus’ highest honor for teaching. This year, Dr. Khalid Kadir is one of five esteemed recipients. Since joining Berkeley in 2010, Professor Kadir has built a reputation for being brilliant, personable, and passionate, gaining recognition from both his students and colleagues for his accomplishments and his service to others.

Professor Kadir currently teaches courses in Global Poverty & Practice (GPP), Political Economy, and the College of Engineering. The Blum Center caught up with Professor Kadir to hear what drives him, and learn more about his experience teaching at Berkeley.

How would you describe your teaching style?

At the root of it, it’s about building a bridge between theory and people’s lived realities. That’s a formal way of saying that I try to make things relatable, relevant, and meaningful to my students. That’s at the core of my teaching.

I am also excited about what I do and I have a lot of energy. Even when I walk into a class tired, I get pumped up as I dive into the material. The ideas excite me, and working through the ideas with my students gives me energy. I try to keep my classes interactive. I’m not interested in listening to myself talk for an hour; I’d rather have a conversation. When I feel that I’m grinding too hard on complex topics, I pull back and ask the students a really simple question just to get them talking. For example, “What’s your favorite color?” Then, I gradually move towards the content I’m trying to cover.

What makes your interaction with students unique?

Sometimes professors operate in an austere, removed, inaccessible way when they talk to students. I don’t have the capacity to consciously perform when I teach, and as a result I think that students in my classes relate to me, and think “Hey, that’s someone I can actually talk to!” There was a student in one of my engineering classes who came into office hours and asked “Did you read my assignment?” I told him yes. He then asked, “Did you write those comments?” I told him “Yes, I did.” Astounded, he said “You’re the first professor who’s ever done that.” I can’t deny that I was a little shocked to hear that. It was a large course, and he was amazed that I took an interest in each student’s assignment. After that, he came to my office hours every week and we developed a great relationship. He is a deeply respectful person and a powerful thinker, and it was great to have the opportunity to get to know him.

How does your background as an engineer impact your teaching in Global Poverty & Practice?

Like many engineers, I was always interested in going out into the world and applying what I learned, and the GPP program is very much oriented that way. The program doesn’t just include theory classes, it also has a Practice Experience where students engage and then reflect upon how ideas and theories manifest in the real world. This allows students to understand those ideas better and iterate upon them. GPP is a place where I can take social science ideas and work with students to apply them to the world.

I’m an engineer who studied social sciences. Often students are looking for hard engineering skills – they want to know how to use this software or do that quantitative method or produce this other kind of product. I’m trained with those skills, but I’ve come to believe that, when you are working with marginalized people, there are a different set of skills that are actually far more important to the success and failure of projects than “hard” engineering skills. Deep thinking and humility is required. It is important to me that students understand that their ability to engage humbly and effectively with communities is one of the most important skills. I think that resonates with students.

Do you bring concepts from your Global Poverty & Practice courses into your Engineering classes?

One challenge I face is that concepts taught in my GPP courses are not always viewed as valid or relevant in technical engineering courses. Nonetheless, I try to squeeze them in every moment I can. For example, in the middle of a lecture about water chemistry, I will try to bring in the politics of measurement in an attempt to really contextualize things for students. It’s great if we can talk about what chemicals are in the water and in what quantity, but it’s important to also talk about who chooses what to measure, when, and where, and who decides what counts as dangerous or not, and for whom. These are absolutely critical questions, and learning to ask those questions is, for me, a crucial part of my students’ education.

What do you value most about being a professor?

At the root of it, I value the people, the students. I value their willingness to be vulnerable and learn. I value getting to be a part of their difficult journey because I get to see their intellectual and personal progression. Being invited to join the journey that students are on is very rewarding. In the GPP program, the kind of relationships that we – the faculty and staff – build with our students are incredible.

I also value the ways teaching holds me accountable. If you’re real with your students and you’re open with them, they’re going to push you. I can understand why some professors might not want this sort of pushback, but I’m open to it, even though I can’t deny that at times it is hard. As much as we may try to push ourselves, it helps to have other people push us too. I really value my students in that sense – they push me – and I appreciate them for that.

How does it feel to receive the Distinguished Teaching Award?

I just want to say that it takes a crew or perhaps a village. GPP is unique in that we bring the curricular and co-curricular together. We are deeply integrated throughout the program in a way that I have not seen anywhere else on this campus. We acknowledge that learning doesn’t just happen in these single-semester boxes inside the classroom, but that it’s a complex process that happens between classes, over breaks, through summers, through office hours, and in peer advising.

GPP and the American Cultures Engaged Scholarship program (ACES) are key programs that I’ve been a part of, and both these programs are pushing against the tide of the factory model of schooling. I worry about the future disappearance of programs like these that reward, encourage, and enable great teaching. The invitation to teach in these programs is what has led to this award, and I am grateful to those who share these spaces with me. Overall, I’m excited about this award. This is a space where teaching gets recognized, and I would like to see good teaching recognized and in fact structurally prioritized across our campus.

Professor Kadir and the other award recipients will be honored at a public ceremony on April 19, 2017 in Sibley Auditorium at 5:00 pm. In addition to the ceremony, Professor Kadir will receive a cash award from the campus, recognition by the Academic Senate, and permanent indication as a Distinguished Teacher in the UC Berkeley catalogue.

International development with a focus on social, agricultural, and environmental issues

By Sarah Bernardo

Winrock International is a global leader in international development with a focus on social, agricultural, and environmental issues. Named after Winthrop Rockefeller, the organization grew out of the visions of both Winthrop and his brother, John D. Rockefeller III. Today, Winrock International supports US-based and international development projects in 45 countries around the world.

The Blum Center recently sat down with Amit Bando, Senior Director of Winrock’s Clean Energy, Environment, and Water group; Erin Hughes, Director of Regional and Country Planning; and Jennifer Holthaus, Program Officer, to discuss their experiences and the new projects on the horizon for Winrock. They also shared with the Blum Center seven ways that students can prepare themselves for a career in the international development sector.

What is the mission of Winrock’s Clean Energy, Environment, and Water group? How does your role contribute to this vision?

Amit Bando: For our group, the mission primarily is to empower those at the bottom of the pyramid. We are very focused on rural and agricultural communities which include people who are typically “off-the-grid,” or not connected to a major energy network. We work domestically in the United States and in 45 countries around the world. The issues we address include access to clean water, access to energy, land use, and protection of forests.

Within Winrock, our role is to focus on the resources mentioned and to work with other branches of the organization to address interrelated issues like gender, trafficking, and youth education.

Erin Hughes: The environment is also seen as a key actor. Our mission is to ensure conservation for the benefit of people, not just conservation for conservation’s sake. We aim to make good use of resources and promote conservation by engaging community members so that they’re benefiting from these practices.

Jennifer Holthaus: Globally, Winrock has about 700 employees in 45 countries. The Clean Energy, Environment, and Water group involves roughly 300 people. Amit’s role is to lead the work for this group and coordinate all the different funders which include US government organizations, private companies, and foundations.

Bando: What makes Winrock International unique is that we work with communities directly and with decision makers spanning the local level (e.g. the provincial and municipal) to the national level. This work requires us to bring in the private sector, local community groups, and NGOs. We want projects to be sustainable after we leave, so we encourage practices such as co-management of resources as well as the creation of job opportunities and business models that allow the initial beneficiaries to continue working and expanding their circles.

Lastly, all of our work is very data driven. We do a lot of analysis on what’s working and what’s not working and take that back to the next round of our projects. That’s why we are excited to work here with UC Berkeley since this same iterative, data-based approach is used.

Which project has impacted you the most during your time at Winrock?

Education for Income Generation was a five-year project in Nepal which focused on helping marginalized youth increase their income. The project was impactful not only because we provided entrepreneurial literacy, but also because we tied it to income-generating activities like vocational training and market-based agriculture. We provided literacy and numeracy, but also showed them how to be an entrepreneur by teaching them about income, profit/loss, and developing simple business plans.

Education for Income Generation was life-changing for the 74,000 beneficiaries we worked with in midwest Nepal. We were working with extremely marginalized people, such as young women who never had job opportunities because of gender discrimination. Through this program, these women were able to learn to read, send their kids to school, and help their kids with homework.

Bando: It’s important to recognize in a country like Nepal that there is a benefit that goes beyond any specific project. The beneficiaries of the Education for Income Generation program are marginalized people who do not have a lot of equity, so they cannot go to the banks to get money. Since banks are more likely to lend money to cooperatives, Winrock developed a separate project that allowed farmers to work in cooperatives. We then helped these groups receiving funding that they could distribute to their members.

With our wide spread of projects, Winrock International is working in 70 of the 74 districts in Nepal, and we have been able to help 250,000 farmers. The project-level work we’re doing has a huge impact on the sector and the country.

The John D. Rockefeller 3RD (JDR 3RD) Scholars Program supports independent policy research. Our program worked with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to fund an independent research team in Myanmar in 2007. At this time, Myanmar was still very much closed to the world. We convinced the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries, and Rural Development in Myanmar to hold an open grant competition. We were worried that no one would apply, but we received 11 applications.

The winning team of the competition was led by Dr. Ai Thanda Kyaw. Kyaw’s team took 660 household surveys and returned a very clear picture of the impacts on poor households of the government’s practice of aggressively culling chickens to stem the spread of avian influenza. After the report was released, the government went in a different direction regarding their culling practice. Dr. Kyaw is now Winrock’s country director for our USAID-funded program in Myanmar. That’s the kind of policy and research impact we want to have in other countries. We want to see governments consider data, and we aim to use a bottom-up approach to influence change.

For Enhancing Capacity For Low Emission Development Strategies (EC-LEDS) we have been working with municipalities in the Democratic Republic of Georgia. Currently, we are working with 14 different municipalities in Georgia. Georgian officials asked Winrock to show them how to use energy more efficiently in institutions, such as fire stations, schools, supermarkets, and shopping centers. Winrock approached this project with the concept that it makes business sense to improve energy use and use water more efficiently. We wanted to focus on the  business side of things first, and then hopefully, that’ll have huge impacts for climate change. Based on our work in the municipalities, the ministry of the national Georgian government asked Winrock to develop a nation-wide policy on climate change which has now become the country’s Low Emissions Development Strategy.

We didn’t do this work top-down, but rather built up the case and showed the government our data-driven analysis to encourage a change in their practices. A lot of the work we do at Winrock follows this model. We generally start at the grassroots level and support capacity-building for individuals, researchers, policymakers, and political actors.

What challenges have you faced in the Clean Energy, Environment, and Water Group, and how did you overcome them?

Holthaus: With the JDR program, something I’ve learned is how long it takes to start something new and get it off the ground. Getting other staff to know what the program is and be on board basically took us ten years. Now, we have nine new research teams being incorporated into five projects. My advice is that it is worth sticking it out and making a long-term commitment. You just have to be careful not to burn out so that you can see it through.

Bando: Because we work internationally and domestically, there are a lot of knowledge transfer opportunities, and typically people think that the knowledge goes from the US out. However, I think there are even more opportunities to transfer knowledge in from other countries. A lot of us who work in this field share this sentiment, and I think there isn’t enough emphasis on that.

Hughes: We had a recent exchange with Cuban Farmers who came to the US. Several years ago we also had a reverse Farmer-to-Farmer–like exchange in our Forestry Project in Russia. Instead of US volunteers sharing their skills or expertise abroad, Russians volunteered to come to the United States to teach Americans about forestry equipment, so that the companies could adjust their machines to withstand cold winters with the hope of selling their product in Russia.

Bando: Funders and the public at large often don’t know how important this transfer of knowledge is. For example, it was complete happenstance that the US Forest Service found out about a Nepalese forest management tactic. In Yosemite, the US Forest Service used to have uncontrolled fires. Nature has a way of starting small fires that die out and clear out the underbrush, but Yosemite didoesn’t allow these small fires. The Forest Service looked to Nepal for a solution. The Nepalese government had been managing the Himalayan forests for a long time with very simple, traditional means. Once a year, the King allows the people to go into the protected forest to collect branches and leaves for their thatch roofing. No one really calls this good forest management, but it has been working effectively for millennia.

Looking forward, what’s in store for Winrock? Are there any new projects that you’re particularly excited about?

Bando: Finance–the ability to finance deals is important to learn. Our focus is on the ultimate beneficiary, which could be, for example, a farmer sitting away from the grid who has little to no access to the market. How can we make it possible for that farmer to borrow $300 for a solar pump or $2500 for two solar panels that to increases their productivity? Their outlook can change and expand dramatically with such a loan.

Holthaus: Winrock sees a lot of work coming down the pike on renewable energy financing. The levels we’re seeking to facilitate and open up options for range from small farmers (micro-finance) to national governments. We want to help accelerate markets for renewable energy technologies which can increase peoples’ incomes. For these kinds of endeavors, a neutral entity like Winrock is often needed to bring the various market players together.

Bando: Another focus is land management issues. There are lots of areas which need protection and better management. Conservation financing can greatly benefit this process, so this is another topical area that would be helpful for students to know if they’re interested in development.

What advice do you have for students interested in entering the energy or water sector? Are there particular subjects you recommend they explore or certain skills that they learn?

Bando, Holthaus, and Hughes:

  1. Writing. People don’t realize how important it is to be a good writer. We often work with people for whom English is a second language. We need someone who can communicate with our ESL field staff without using jargon, but can also communicate clearly with the Rockefeller family members on our board as well as donors. They also have to be able to produce professional, published material.
  2. Monitoring and evaluation, impact evaluation. It’s important that people in this field know how to conduct evaluations. They also should have a firm grasp of the quantitative skills involved with monitoring and evaluation, such as utilizing spreadsheets and basic statistics.
  3. Technical skills. There are a lot of people who are majoring in broad areas like International Relations. If you’re just a generalist, you may not have the rigor of the science or the technical depth. Knowing how to conduct an experiment and having solid science skills is important. You can always add other skills, so don’t be scared of exploring one area in depth. The ideal model for technical knowledge is a T-shape: pick your passion and go deep in that area; then you will have the ability to pick up other skills on a surface-level. The Global Poverty & Practice and Development Engineering minors at UC Berkeley are great examples of academic tracks that allow students to do practical studies grounded in development work. Also keep in mind, that “technical” doesn’t have to mean coding and spreadsheet analysis. Having technical skills is more about having the mind for scientific inquiry and holistic rigor.
  4. Survey work. If you have any chance to do survey work, do it. Our projects have  to collect data from the field to see if things are working, so we encourage students to gain survey work experience through internships or courses.
  5. We’re big advocates of a second language. Being bilingual is immensely helpful.
  6. Many of our colleagues in Winrock’s US Office were Peace Corps volunteers. Gaining a similar overseas experience can be beneficial.
  7. Be a good speaker. You can do all this work, but you won’t be able to do anything if your communication skills do not include the ability to speak. Public speaking is a vital method of presenting information.


Celebrating International Women’s Day: A Look Back at Five Years of Blum Center Initiatives on Gender Equality

By Sarah Bernardo, 4th Year English and Legal Studies Double Major, UC Berkeley

According to the official International Women’s Day (IWD) website, IWD was first celebrated on March 19, 1911 in the countries of Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark. Women campaigned for an end to gender discrimination and rallied for increased working, voting, and political rights. In 1913, on the precipice of WWI, March 8 was declared the official date for IWD.

More than 100 years later, International Women’s Day continues to be honored as “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.” This year’s theme #BeBoldForChange encourages people around the world to take action to advance gender equality.

The Blum Center for Developing Economies continues to be committed to this vision of gender parity and inclusivity. In honor of International Women’s Day, the Blum Center looks back at our engagement with gender equality over the past five years.  

Here’s a snapshot of the numerous ways gender equality is featured in our programs.

Gender Equality is a Key Focus for Our Students

Many of the winners of the Big Ideas@Berkeley contest focused specifically on gender equality. For example, several Big Ideas projects aimed to promote female leadership. 100 Strong, third place winner in the 2013 Global Poverty Alleviation category, combats the lack of female leaders by training a network of female mentors that are matched with middle and high school girls. 100 Strong also empowers young girls to create their own community projects. Empowering Women through Entrepreneurship, the 2016 first place winner of the Financial Inclusion category, fosters economic empowerment in female migrants living in the squatter settlement of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The organization offers the women information, skills, and low-interest microloans to help develop their small businesses.

Other Big Ideas projects focus on maternal and infant health. WE CARE Solar, winner in the 2008 and 2010 Big Ideas contests, helps meet vital maternity care needs by addressing the issues of unreliable power and communication in health care facilities. The organization developed and distributes compact solar electric systems called “solar suitcases” which power overhead LED lighting, charges cell phones, and provides LED headlamps with rechargeable batteries. Uniting Mother and Child: A Battle Against Postpartum Hemorrhage, third place winner in the 2014 Global Poverty Alleviation category, developed a pressure detecting and reporting device for anti-shock garments. The device aims to improve the ability of existing anti-shock garments to combat postpartum hemorrhage which is the most common cause of maternal mortality in developing countries. Lastly, Que Viva La Mujer: Knights Landing Community Maternal Health Program, second place winner of the 2013 Maternal and Child Health category, proposed opening a maternal care unit with an on-site OB/GYN in the Knights Landing community in Yolo County, California. The unit aims to meet the health care and educational needs of the migrant and undocumented women living in the community.

In addition to these Big Ideas proposals, an amazing group of Development Impact Lab (DIL) projects also directly address gender equality. WE CARE Solar  and TriSAN are two such projects. TriSAN, a DIL Pipeline Project, focuses on promoting the interrelated goals of sustainable sanitation and gender equality in India. In particular, TriSAN conducted research to better understand the defecation, urination, and menstrual hygiene management needs of women and girls.

Women are Participating and Leading

Almost 75% of the participants in our undergraduate Global Poverty & Practice (GPP) minor are women. Alumni of GPP include Jessica Praphath who graduated in 2013. Passionate about public health and direct community service, Praphath completed her practice experience at the Community Partnership for Families of San Joaquin, and she went on to work there after graduation. Praphath now works as a Junior Consultant at the public health research and consulting firm, John Snow, Inc.

Similarly to Praphath, Nikki Brand‘s GPP experience has had a deep impact on her career trajectory. Dedicated to conducting development fieldwork addressing poverty, Brand moved to Guatemala shortly after graduating in 2013 to work for Community Enterprise Solutions. Brand now serves as Program Analyst for Feed the Future, a U.S. Global Development Lab at USAID. The initiative focuses on global hunger and food security.   

In addition to participating in Blum Center programs, women also lead them. Women led almost 90% of gender equality projects in GPP, 65% of similar projects in Big Ideas, and 57% of gender equality projects in DIL. For example, Katya Cherukumilli led a winning 2015 Big Ideas team. Her team’s proposal was “A Novel Approach to Remediate Groundwater Fluoride Contamination in Nalgonda, India.Laura Stachel is another outstanding female leader. Stachel co-founded WE CARE Solar in 2006. In addition to the Big Ideas awards, her organization received a DIL grant.

Promoting Gender Equality Beyond UC Berkeley

Faculty, staff, and students associated with the Blum Center have also contributed to the wider pursuit for gender equality beyond campus.

In 2016, Laura Tyson, the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Blum Center, and Jeni Klugman co-authored the first report for the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment. The report entitled “Leave No One Behind: A Call to Action for Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment,” begins by explaining the importance of women’s economic empowerment and delivers a decisive call to action. It goes on to describe the pervasive gender gaps in areas such as employment, wages, enterprise ownership, and access to assets. The report then analyzes seven “proven and promising” strategies for expanding women’s economic opportunities which includes tackling adverse social norms and promoting positive role models as well as changing business culture and practice. Lastly, the report closes by detailing a robust agenda for action comprised of seven key principles:

  1. No woman left behind.
  2. Nothing done for women without women.
  3. Equal focus on rights and gains.
  4. Tackle root causes.
  5. State parties must respect international human rights and labour standards.
  6. Partnerships are critical.
  7. Deliver globally.

While Professor Tyson and her team focused on improving gender equality in terms of economic opportunities, Rachel Dzombak and Chloe Gregori released a Blum Center article on January 20 centered on the role of academia in striving for gender parity. In the article, Dzombak and Gregori discus the United Nation’s fifth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 5), “Gender Equality. In response to SDG 5’s call to action, the Blum Center re-examined how academia can promote gender parity in the classroom and beyond. Dzombak and Gregori spoke with staff, faculty, and students in the Blum Center ecosystem. Through their discussions, four insights emerged on how academia can encourage gender equality: provide students (of all genders) opportunities to establish empathy regarding gender discrimination and inequality, support faculty and classes that engage in gender dimensions, connect women students with women mentors, and broaden the innovation ecosystem to encourage interdisciplinary action when tackling issues of gender-based inequality and violence.
Based on knowledge developed by partners such as Tyson, Gregori, and Dzombak, the Blum Center will continue to increase our efforts to achieve inclusivity and parity in the classroom, within the lab, and on the field. With all that has been accomplished in the last five years, the Blum Center is hopeful that the next five will yield even greater progress towards gender equality.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science: Spotlight on Women Scientists in the Blum Center Ecosystem

By Sarah Bernardo

The United Nations has long been committed to pursuing gender equality in all areas of society. Most recently, the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals, one of which is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” Decreasing barriers while increasing opportunities for women and girls to participate in scientific fields is one key way to advance economic and educational equality.

In recognition of the importance of women in science, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that February 11 of each year would be the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Organizations like the Blum Center of Developing Economies at UC Berkeley endeavor to promote women and girls in science by encouraging and supporting their work at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional level. In honor of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the Blum Center is proud to spotlight innovative researchers, inventors, students, and faculty involved in our ecosystem.

Kara Bresnahan

Kara Bresnahan was a member of the Big Ideas team behind “Project Drsti: A Sustainable Method for Alleviating Vitamin A Deficiency.” Bresnahan received a BA in Nutritional Sciences and French as well as a PhD in Nutritional Science and Global Health from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She then went on to earn an MPH with a Nutrition and Epidemiology emphasis at UC Berkeley.

During her time at Cal, Bresnahan worked with Christopher Johnson to develop Project Drsti which proposes alleviating Vitamin A deficiency in people living in developing regions by harnessing the metabolic power of the probiotic bacterium Lactobacillus casei (L. casei.) Bresnahan and Johnson aimed to engineer L. casei to produce provitamin A (β-carotene) during yogurt fermentation with the goal of creating provitamin A biofortified yogurt that could benefit populations such as people in India who consume yogurt regularly. The bacteria strain developed by Project Drsti can be inexpensively created, freeze-dried for storage, and easily integrated into existing yogurt-production methods. Bresnahan’s proposal won Honorable Mention in the Global Health category of the 2015 Big Ideas@Berkeley contest.

Katya Cherukumilli

Cherukumilli conducted field work in Colorado on climate change impacts on plant species distribution.
Cherukumilli conducted field work in Colorado on climate change impacts on plant species distribution.

Katya Cherukumilli helped develop the Big Ideas proposal “A Novel Approach to Remediate Groundwater Fluoride Contamination in Nalgonda, India.” Cherukumilli was a Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholar at UC Berkeley who earned a BS in Environmental Sciences while completing minors in Global Poverty & Practice and Energy & Resources. Cherukumilli is currently pursuing a PhD in Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley.

In 2015, Cherukumilli worked with four other UC Berkeley students to address the issue of drinking water contaminated with toxic levels of fluoride which can lead to dental and skeletal fluorosis. The project built upon Cherukumilli’s graduate research into sustainable fluoride remediation which was supported in part by a USAID-sponsored Development Impact Lab (DIL) Explore Travel Grant in summer 2013.

Cherukumilli and her team focused their project on rural Nalgonda, India, and proposed using raw bauxite ore to create a defluoridation technology that is affordable, effective, and easy to operate as well as maintain. Cherukumilli also worked with her team to design business models that would allow defluoridated water to be provided to low-income populations at an incremental price meant to encourage use of the decontaminated water. This approach won second place in the Global Health category of the 2015 Big Ideas@Berkeley contest. The project went on to win first place in UC Irvine’s Designing Solutions for Poverty Contest, first place in the Research category of the 2016 USAID Higher Education Solutions Network Technical Convening’s Innovation Marketplace, and received funding as a VentureWell E-Team.

Cherukumilli is currently part of the Development Engineering graduate program, and she plans to complete her PhD at Cal in May 2017.

Amy Herr

Amy Herr is the Lester John & Lynne Dewar Lloyd Distinguished Professor of Bioengineering at UC Berkeley. She is also the Faculty Director of the Bakar Fellows Program which fosters faculty entrepreneurship in the STEM+ fields. Professor Herr holds a BS from the California Institute of Technology in Engineering and Applied Science, an MS from Stanford University in Mechanical Engineering, and a PhD from Stanford University in Mechanical Engineering.

Professor Herr was the Principal Investigator for a Development Impact Lab grant that developed  a rapid point of care device for infant HIV diagnostics. The project utilized existing microfluidic technology to develop a device that could detect the presence of HIV viral proteins in infants in low resource settings.  Her project secured a DIL Explore Travel Grant in Spring 2014 which allowed PhD student Rachel Gerver to conduct  a pilot study in HIV clinics and central testing labs in Kenya.

Professor Herr’s lab at UC Berkeley focuses on bioinstrumentation for quantitative biology and medicine. The point of care device for infant HIV diagnostics is just one innovation to come out of her lab. Professor Herr has won numerous awards for her research including the NIH New Innovator Award, the Ellen Weaver Award from the Association for Women in Science, and the Mid-career Achievement Award from the American Electrophoresis Society. In December 2016, Professor Herr received the prestigious honor of being inducted into the National Academy of Inventors.

Currently, Professor Herr is supervising several Bioengineering seminars in Spring 2017 including the Master of Engineering Capstone Project (ENGIN 296MA) and the Senior Design Projects course (BIOENG 192.) Professor Herr is also continuing her research in her lab.

Emily Woods

Briquettes: Briquettes made in summer 2015 by the Feces to Fuel team in Naivasha, Kenya.

Emily Woods is the co-founder of the sanitation start-up, Sanivation which currently operates in Kenya. Woods developed Sanivation as a research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute while earning her BS in Mechanical Engineering.  Woods then went on to receive her MS and PhD from the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley.

Sanivation installs container-based toilets in Kenyan homes for free and charges a small monthly fee to service them. The company then takes the waste and transforms it into a clean burning alternative to charcoal. Sanivation also licenses their model to refugee camps and trains local staff to help meet the immediate demand for sanitation services.

In 2015, Woods and her co-founder, Andrew Foote, collaborated with two other UC Berkeley students to create the Feces to Fuel team. Their project, “Feces to Fuel: Saving Trees, Budgets, and Lungs,” aimed to unlock “the potential in human feces and other waste streams by transforming it into affordable household cooking fuel.” Through the project, Sanivation provides in-home toilets to low-income households. They then collect the human and agricultural waste, treat it, and turn it into charcoal briquettes. In addition to being a renewable energy source, the briquettes produce less smoke than traditional charcoal which results in a reduction of indoor air pollution and exposure to toxic fumes. Feces to Fuel won first place in the Energy and Resources Alternatives category of the 2015 Big Ideas@Berkeley contest. In 2016, the team won second place in the Big Ideas Scaling Up category.

Currently, Woods serves as the Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder of Sanivation. Her social enterprise aims to expand throughout East Africa and serve one million people by 2020.

Kara Nelson

Kara Nelson is a Professor of Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley. Her research focuses on topics such as pathogens in water and sludge, water reuse, nutrient recovery, and sanitation in developing countries. She has won several awards for her research including the National Science Foundation CAREER Award and a Fulbright Fellowship to Colombia.

Professor Nelson was the Principal Investigator for research into designing a business model for toilet waste. Professor Nelson’s research focused on developing a sustainable business model for the treatment of potentially pathogenic waste in household toilets. In Fall 2013, her project was awarded a DIL Explore Travel Grant that allowed MBA student Ryan Jung and PhD candidate William Tarpeh to travel to Nairobi, Kenya, to pilot test several prototypes with users.

Professor Nelson was also the Principal Investigator for an urban sanitation management project. This project focused on managing fecal sludge in septic tanks within urban areas of India and Bangladesh. A DIL Explore Travel Grant allowed PhD student, Sharada Prasad, to travel to South Asia for further research into fecal sludge management.

In the Spring 2017 semester, Professor Nelson is teaching several Civil and Environmental Engineering courses including Environmental Engineering (CivEng 111) and Water Systems and Society (CivEng 110.)

Blum Center partners to strengthen UC Berkeley innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem

The Blum Center and Big Ideas@Berkeley is pleased to collaborate on an exciting initiative supported by the State of California to strengthen the UC’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Long recognized as a campus hub for educating and supporting innovators, the Center’s Big Ideas@Berkeley social innovation contest and ecosystem — and more recent Social Innovator OnRamp class — have produced a remarkable record of for-profit and non-profit successes.

Over the past decade, we’ve encouraged, mentored, and supported over 5,000 student innovators, whose efforts have attracted over $150 million in additional funding and valuation after competing in Big Ideas. We are proud of our student innovators and look forward to collaborating and strengthening our ties with the other partners on campus.

According to Sophi Martin, Innovation Director at the Blum Center, “this network will strengthen the ties between already prominent entrepreneurship programs to have even more impact at the local, state, and national level, including coordinated entrepreneur support across the programs and special events to augment the already vibrant innovation ecosystem on the campus.”

The Blum Center is particularly energized to work on enhancing the reach of our social entrepreneurship programs among women and people in underrepresented communities in innovation systems. We are passionate about increasing diversity among founding teams and look forward to continuing to build the unique services available to all innovators.

4 Insights on Students Engaging with SDG 5: Gender Equality and Empowering Women

4 Insights on Students Engaging with SDG 5: Gender Equality and Empowering Women
Students from the Blum Center’s Global Poverty and Practice Undergraduate Minor during fieldwork in the Philippines. Photo Credit: Kristy Drutman

By Rachel Dzombak and Chloe Gregori

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a prioritized agenda for global change by 2030, with objectives such as the elimination of poverty and an end to world hunger. The SDGs present an integrative approach to development by addressing intersectional linkages of poverty that lead to global inequality. The fifth SDG entitled “Gender Equality” is a strong example of this cross-cutting new approach. SDG 5 measures gender equality along nine broad dimensions including increasing access to education for girls, ending gender discrimination, eliminating sexual violence, addressing unpaid work, and increasing female political participation.

In order to truly take action, society, and by extension universities, must address the many nuanced ways in which gender inequality manifests, as well as its systemic causes and its complex interactions with other forms of discrimination. In response to SDG 5, the Blum Center for Developing Economies at UC Berkeley is reexamining what academia can do to improve gender equity – in the classroom and in society. From discussions with faculty, students, and staff, four key insights are emerging.

1. Provide students (of all genders) opportunities to establish empathy

A critical first step for students is to understand why gender equality exists, why most difficult issues in society are not gender neutral, and why working toward gender equality is a worthy pursuit. To that end, establishing empathy for a community or population increases students’ motivation to work on a challenge area and heightens their awareness of problem implications. In order to bring the complexities of gender equity and other global problems alive for students, the Blum Center facilitates connection with those that know and live the problem. This includes examining the root cause of gender inequities in our courses, working alongside marginalized individuals who experience discrimination firsthand in our fieldwork, and discussing strategies in panels and events. Ensuring students of both genders engage in gender equity efforts is a challenge many universities face. Over 95% of fieldwork and projects dedicated to gender equality have been led by female students. Men have an active role in the pursuit of gender equality, but may not know where and how to engage. Whether by facilitating events on campus or supporting fieldwork opportunities, all students need opportunities to hear from and engage with varying perspectives.

2. Support faculty and classes that engage in gender dimensions

The Blum Center strives to support faculty who research and teach about the gender dimensions of global challenges. For some students, classes provide a “critical awakening” or a first exposure to the complexities of gender dimensions in development and everyday life. One Blum-affiliated course, “Water and Development,” taught by Professor Isha Ray, (Energy and Natural Resources, Gender Studies), covers not only the policy and technical challenges that prevent universal access to water, but also the gender implications of the lack of water and sanitation, and the work needed to address the issues. Many students refer to her class as transformative. As one graduate student reflected, “A lot of people say that we need to increase access to drinking water to prevent child mortality, and Isha always says: what about the health of the woman who is carrying the water on her back?” Engaging students with the nuanced implications of gender in anti-poverty work in the classroom allows them to take this perspective into the field, and into their future careers as development practitioners.

3. Connect students with mentors

Mentorship can drive students’ connections to projects and impact areas. Mentors take many forms: a faculty advisor shaping a research endeavor, an alum providing project feedback, or a peer student with experience in a particular subject area. Interviews with students reveal that mentors often inspire students to take on specific projects as well as enlighten students to a dimension they previously had never thought to incorporate. When a team works on a project but is unaware of the gendered implications, that represents an opportunity to connect the students with a mentor who can shed light on why their proposed intervention may differentially impact individuals of different genders. For women students in particular, having the opportunity to work with a female mentor can also grow their vision of the potential impact they can have. As one graduate student said, “The reason I continue to have a lot of interest in my project is that I’m a woman- working with a woman- with a women advisor- on a project for women…which is awesome.” The presence and continued support of mentors can solidify students’ intention to devote time, energy and resources to make impact, including around gender equality.

4. Broaden innovation ecosystem to encourage action from diverse sectors

Interdisciplinary problem solving, by diverse problem solvers, is necessary to tackle the world’s most urgent and complex problems. This is particularly true about gender-based inequality and violence. When addressing such multi-faceted issues, experts from multiple disciplines are required. Policy, technology, economics, social sciences, as well as other fields, must come together to enable changes to entire systems. As examples of this approach, the Blum Center’s Global Poverty & Practice undergraduate minor and Development Engineering graduate program include students across a wide variety of disciplines — from engineering, social sciences, to arts and humanities — all working together on real issues in and out of the classroom. This innovation ecosystem has supported the implementation of a screening tool for cervical cancer, community conversations around masculinity stereotypes, and a summer camp to encourage teenage girls to stay in school. This impact-oriented ecosystem also helps to recruit and retain women and underrepresented students in entrepreneurship and engineering. Over 60% of students across our programs are female (vs. 3% female CEOs, for example) and women-led teams are on average slightly overrepresented among winners of our annual Big Ideas contest. In addition to encouraging and training students to tackle gendered issues, universities also need to expand opportunities for women to become leaders in their respective fields.

Moving Forward

At the Blum Center, we are exploring strategies to make progress toward gender equality. We are interested in engaging with a wide variety of experts. We imagine there are many methods that should and can be implemented (and if you think so too, we’d love to hear them). At this point, what we know for sure is that we want to support individuals engaging in challenging conversations, provide space for students to feel comfortable tackling hard issues, and encourage knowledge sharing throughout our ecosystem. SDG 5 needs smart people working across disciplines, and with irrational determination to end inequality for women, viz., half the world’s population (and ⅔ of those living in poverty). It is our hope that helping students to engage in gender dimensions will prepare them to tackle the many forms of gender inequality as they become tomorrow’s leaders, and will inspire more impact makers to join the fight.

The Blum Center is UC Berkeley’s interdisciplinary hub for poverty action and poverty studies, bridging technology, scholarship and practice to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges. Home to thousands of like-minded students on the UC Berkeley campus, the Blum Center has been an advocate of gender equality since the center’s inception; over 20% of the Center’s project portfolio consistently focuses on gender-oriented projects, tackling both domestic and international challenge areas such as domestic violence, maternal health, community sanitation, and other issues that differentially affect men and women.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-13-52-amRachel Dzombak is a PhD candidate in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. She currently researches the role of product design in enabling sustainable supply chain decisions as well as methods to increase women’s participation in STEM and entrepreneurship. She is in the Development Engineering PhD minor program offered through the Blum Center.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-9-14-23-amChloe recently graduated in Peace & Conflict Studies with a minor in Global Poverty & Practice (GPP) from UC Berkeley. Her previous involvement as The Blum Center includes peer advising for the GPP minor, serving as the Director for the Anti-Trafficking Idealab, and working as a Program Assistant under the Director of Student Programs and the Director of Innovation. She is now Partnerships and Programs Associate at LeanIn.Org

TRAFFICKED Film Screening and Panel Discussion a Resounding Success

TRAFFICKED Film Screening and Panel Discussion a Resounding Success

On the evening of November 4, 2016, students, anti-trafficking experts, community members, and professionals from a wide variety of fields filled Banatao Auditorium at Sutardja Dai Hall for the advanced screening of Siddharth Kara’s feature film, Trafficked. There was standing room only, as over 150 people attended the event sponsored by The Blum Center for Developing Economies and the Institute for South Asia Studies.


Prior to the screening, guests mingled and learned from community members about anti-trafficking initiatives on the UC Berkeley campus. Members of the student-run Anti-Trafficking Coalition at Berkeley were on-hand to provide information to attendees.

After the mixer, Director of Special Projects Heather Lofthouse kicked off the main event by giving a brief history of the Blum Center. Since the founding of the first center at UC Berkeley in 2006, there is now a Blum Center on all ten UC campuses. Collectively, these centers have offered courses to over 16,000 students, providing opportunities to engage in research or service in over 75 countries. Lofthouse also credited the American Himalayan Foundation (AHF) and their STOP Girl Trafficking initiative for helping make the screening possible.

Next, Hannah Ousterman and Kathy Brasil, co-directors of the Anti-Human Trafficking IdeaLab at the Blum Center, explained the work of their organization. The IdeaLab is an interdisciplinary think tank comprised of undergraduate and graduate students that focuses on researching sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and issues related to gender-based violence. The film screening is one of their main events this fall.

Brasil then introduced Siddharth Kara, the screenwriter and producer of Trafficked. Kara is an internationally renowned expert on human trafficking. He is a Fellow at the UC Berkeley Blum Center and Director of the Program on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Currently, Kara also advises the United Nations, foreign governments, and the US government on anti-slavery issues. Kara encouraged audience members to attend the Break Free Run in Oakland which takes place annually to raise awareness and funds to combat human trafficking. Kara also highlighted AHF’s STOP Girl Trafficking Initiative which was founded by Richard C. Blum and has helped 15,000 Nepali girls stay in school and avoid being victimized by traffickers.


In relation to Trafficked, Kara explained that the film was inspired by his nonfiction book Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery. The purpose of the film, according to Kara, is to take audiences on an authentic journey introducing them to the brutal realities of human trafficking. Kara explained that most people who grow up in the United States learn about the transatlantic slave trade and the brave campaign to eradicate slavery that was inspired by movements in Europe. However, Kara insists that the 13th amendment was not the end, but just the beginning. Kara said, “Slavery still exists here and throughout the world more pervasively and perniciously than anyone wants to acknowledge. Slavery can be seen everywhere, from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, to the smartphones in our hands, and to the young women raped by our friends, colleagues, and neighbors.” He continued, “Slavery strips people of what makes them human–their dignity, freedom, and even control over their own bodies.” Kara closed by saying that he hopes Trafficked will inspire people to join the efforts to end slavery.

After the film, Chloe Gregori, Program Assistant at the Blum Center, led a panel discussion with Siddharth Kara, cast member Patrick Duffy, trafficking survivor and anti-trafficking advocate Minh Dang, and Humanity United’s Investments Manager Sandy Tesch Wilkins.

Gregori started the panel off with a few prepared topics for each panelist before opening up the discussion to questions from the audience.

A photograph of a panel discussion taking place in an auditorium. The panel consists of four individuals seated on a stage with a moderator standing at a podium to the left. The audience, consisting of multiple people, is seated in rows facing the stage. The room is lit with spotlights on the panelists, and the background features plain walls and a small American flag on the left.

Panel Discussion

Siddharth Kara

“What led you to take on this project?”

When I wrote my first book, which was published in January 2009, I had the aspiration that the stories in the book could be told in a feature film format. I didn’t have any idea how to write a screenplay at first because I only had experience writing non-fiction books, but I knew that millions more people would see a film than know about me or come to one of my classes. Film is one of the most powerful tools we have to change things. Just look at films like Blood Diamond and The Killing Fields. My aspiration was to create a film that could be the center of gravity to change the narrative on human trafficking.

Given the large number of different types of trafficking, how did you choose the three types of trafficking featured in this film?

The challenge was to convey as much information as possible in a condensed film. I knew that I wanted to make a global film set in the United States. A global film because that is the reality of human trafficking, and set here because people don’t realize that side of trafficking. This country has the resources and energy to make an impact globally.

What are your hopes for how the film will help advance the anti-human trafficking movement?
My dream is that this film will capture the blood, sweat, and passion of enough people to do
whatever needs to be done to eradicate every form of slavery there is today. It is my hope that after seeing this film more people will think “Not on my watch. I will not pass this disease on to my children.”

Patrick Duffy

“How did you become involved in this film?”

I got a phone call to be part of this movie. I read the screenplay and found it intriguing and very depressing. The story is about the people next door. They are people you think are good but do the things my character did in the film. We all think of Ashley Judd with wings, but in this film she’s different. This film is another focus of what I do, which is to try to make something of value every day. For example, on our last day in Houston a woman had gone to a nail salon which is another common site for labor trafficking. The young Indonesian girl who did the woman’s nails shook her hand after the manicure and left a piece of paper with a phone number in her hand. The woman went back later on to find out if the girl was okay, but by then she was gone. Those opportunities to make a difference exist every day. I make an effort to keep my eyes open. If everyone does a little bit, we can have an enormous impact.

Sandy Tesch Wilkins

“Can you tell us more about Humanity United’s work?”

Within Humanity United, I specifically work with corporate supply chains. For example, some of the characters referenced having to pay off a debt or being recruited for a job that they thought was one thing (working on a cruise ship) but then being trafficked. Consumer products, agriculture, and construction are common areas for labor trafficking. Humanity United doesn’t have a particular geographic focus, so it does work in the US and outside of it.

“What are your reactions to the film?”
I was very impressed that they were able to weave so much into this film. It covers a lot about trafficking which is a complex problem that affects over 20 million people in the world.

Minh Dang

“Can you tell us more about your work on the United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking?”

Human trafficking is an atrocity that requires our emotional connection to the issue and our best thinking. In our first report, one of the council’s recommendations was to look at representations of human trafficking in the US media. The media’s focus has largely been on trafficking outside the US. When the issue is portrayed in the US, sex trafficking is emphasized almost exclusively.

“How do you envision survivor leadership in the anti-trafficking movement?”

I am a survivor, but people often don’t think that survivors look like me and can be someone next door. People have been exposed to “disaster porn”–we are either desensitized to atrocities or are blown out of the water by how horrible it is. Survivors in leadership positions are trying to put a human face to the movement. We want to say that not only do survivors need to have a seat at the table, but they need to be leading what is happening.

Audience Q&A

From left to right: Kara, Sandy, Ming, Patrick.
Panel, from left to right: Kara, Sandy, Minh, Patrick.

1) Audience member:“How do you talk to people who are feeling overwhelmed by the issue of trafficking?”

Dang: The first thing you should tell them is that the feeling of being overwhelmed is only 1% of what trafficking survivors experience. If survivors can endure 99% more, then they can work through their emotions. Second, you should give them action steps to deal with their feelings and help solve the issue.


2) MISSSEY representative: “How do you leave work at work when you are dealing with individuals who have gone through traumatic events in their lives like exploitation and trafficking?”

Dang: Self-care is not a singular act. Organizations should be designed to have the practice built in. You need to really find out what brings you joy and seek out other allies. Be able to step back from the work, and have accountability partners that help you follow through with your self-care like a gym buddy.

Kara: Anyone who does human rights work has to be very mindful. You are never the one who has suffered as much as the person you are meeting or documenting, but it does take an emotional, mental, and physical toll. I wasn’t that good about it early on. I didn’t realize that I needed to take the time to heal. [Self-care] requires a community and some help.

Ashley Judd did a Masters of Public Policy at the Kennedy School. She did a good deal of time in war zones and refugee camps. We spent time talking about how we didn’t take the time needed to rest and repair. Since then, I’ve focused on time with family and doing simple things like going to the movies. For any of you who are considering working in human rights, make self-care part of your journey because if you break down there is one less person doing that crucial work.

Duffy: I stand in awe of every person I’ve met who is on the front lines of addressing these issues, but there are people who may not be able to do that. However, they can still do something. For those of us who can’t muster the life condition to dedicate our lives the way the rest of this panel has, we can do something that is still valuable. We can be the people who represent the average, everyday folks. I’m a voice for us “weekend warriors.”


3) Counselor and Human Trafficking Researcher: “Do you know of any avenues for the resiliency of the counseling community in relations to addressing mental health concerns for survivors?”

Dang: Research on the mental health of survivors is an area that I myself want to learn more about. There are programs around the world that have worked with survivors over the long-term, but I don’t think that there are actually very good studies on it.

Wilkins: If you’re looking for specific NGOs for models, [Humanity United] works with the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking. There are a number of policies that they set forth that may be useful for you to look at.


4) Peter Bittner, Journalist: “What is the role of the media in shaping the public’s perception of issues like human trafficking?”

Duffy: It’s a tough question about the media and their responsibility for social issues. Film companies’ responsibilities are to their stockholders, but we need to hold our reporters and our network news accountable. We need to hold their feet to the fire. We have an avenue to do that: our social media networks. We make huge changes in our institutional norms through social media. I have long advocated that network news shouldn’t be rated. It should be standardized and not focused on making profit. If we did that, then that section of the media would fulfill their responsibility. However, for entertainment media, it’s a harder request. There are passion projects that have a positive effect such as Philadelphia and Blood Diamond, but they also attract a certain market. The aim is still to make profit.

Dang: There is a responsibility to stop using the term child prostitute. Not labeling survivors as prostitutes is the responsibility of the media.


5) Peter Bittner, Journalist: “Why did you choose to make a feature film instead of a documentary?”

Kara: There have been several well done documentaries on issues of trafficking, but very few commercially viable feature films. Feature films though can attract a much larger audience than a documentary ever will. Patrick [Duffy] can testify to how hard it is to make a movie and how hard it is to get people to see it. But if it can be done, you can capture a lot of attention and change the current. The current [of anti-trafficking work] is still largely trundling along. This isn’t a brisk river yet because more people need to jump in and help move it forward. If enough people get to hear about issues like this and look up various organizations like AHF and Humanity United, then something can change.


6) Audience member: “Can you comment on what needs to be done about all the men who actually go into the brothels?”

Kara: There was a conscious choice made in this film to show you the truth. It’s not just the
degenerate, perverse, unpleasant men of the world involved in this. It is doctors, lawyers, professionals, politicians, young men, and old men. But men aren’t all scoundrels. There was the quick-thinking bus driver who made all the difference in the climactic arc for two of the characters.

There are competing philosophies in this world about this issue. Is it prostitution or is it trafficking? Demand Abolition is an organization that follows the Nordic model in which Sweden was the first country to end the prosecution of trafficking survivors. They passed a law that didn’t make it a criminal offense to sell sex, but made it a crime to buy sex. The law has reduced incidents of trafficking. Other countries have followed this model such as France, but the other side [of the debate] says that prostitution must be made legal and that it should be regulated. This is not to say that people cannot make a fully informed, conscious choice to engage in sex work, but from my experience there have been factors such as poverty or hardship that has led them to this work. With these factors, how can we really know if they had a choice? The ultimate question in this debate is whose rights do we want to protect?

Dang: If we’re talking about ending demand and the people who are needing to survive
through sex work, what is our emancipation plan to help people lead a dignified life? This is a very complicated issue, and putting everyone in jail does not solve the problem.
We have to ask ourselves, “what is the culture we have that fosters the buying of another person?” Do people who grow up in the sex industry and choose to stay as adults really have viable options? What about the “bad men” who were raped as children or who were trained to treat people this way?

We need to evaluate how mothers treat their sons and how fathers treat their sons. We need to talk about early prevention. Action after the fact is not prevention. If sex work is legalized, it doesn’t necessarily decrease trafficking because trafficking just goes underground instead.

Wilkins: Partnership for Freedom sponsored by Humanity United is currently gathering ideas on whether countries should aim for decriminalizing or legalizing sex work as a solution to human trafficking. If you want to engage in this debate, you can submit your ideas there.


7) Audience member:“What direct actions can people take to help end human trafficking?”

Duffy: Have a conversation. People have sex a lot, but don’t talk about it. You can have a sex conversation with your child because then they can come to you with questions. You can have a brilliant conversation that can help change the cycle that leads to trafficking.

Dang: Google and hug somebody.

Wilkins: Look at a specific piece of clothing or product and find out where it comes from. It can be overwhelming to think of where everything comes from, but focusing on just one item will enlighten you and help you change your purchasing habits.

Kara: The focus of this film is on sex trafficking, but there were references in the film to labor trafficking. If you had done nothing else on this issue and knew nothing about it prior today, the fact that you were here tonight is already the first step. You are on the journey and are part of this community now. Maybe after this you’ll be able to go home and take that second step.

This Cellphone Hack Could Save Millions From Disease

The Cellscope converts a cell phone camera into a handheld microscope, which can detect parasites in the blood in just 30 seconds. This means patients can be quickly diagnosed on site and give treatment right away.

This Cellphone Hack Could Save Millions From Disease

Screening for blood diseases like Malaria is typically done in a lab by a pathologist. But for many people in developing countries, going to a doctor for a blood test is nearly impossible.

With support from the Blum Center, the Fletcher Lab is building a solution to this problem. Matt Bakalar, a Bioengineering PhD student on the team, spoke with the Seeker Network’s Laura Ling about Cellscope. The Cellscope converts a cell phone camera into a handheld microscope, which can detect parasites in the blood in just 30 seconds. This means patients can be quickly diagnosed on site and give treatment right away.

Special thanks to our partners at Seeker. Seeker features adventurers, explorers, and storytellers who take a deep look at some of the most unique and provocative stories, designed to expand our perspective and build our awareness of the world. Through the lens of world, science and exploration, Seeker’s award-winning journalism team covers current events and global issues through daily programming and field documentaries.

For 3 Billion People Cooking Can Be Deadly

For 3 Billion People Cooking Can Be Deadly

Nearly half the people on Earth use inefficient fuel sources like wood or coal to cook their food. Every year three to four million people die from illnesses related to smoke inhalation from cooking this way, as smoke from open fires contains high amounts of toxic chemicals which can cause a variety of illnesses, including lung cancer and stroke.

To help combat this global health issue, UC Berkeley student Danny Wilson has developed a specially designed efficient cookstove. Wilson and his team are distributing these stoves to places like Sudan, Darfur and Ethiopia where the problem is quite prevalent.

Special thanks to our partners at Seeker. Seeker features adventurers, explorers, and storytellers who take a deep look at some of the most unique and provocative stories, designed to expand our perspective and build our awareness of the world. Through the lens of world, science and exploration, Seeker’s award-winning journalism team covers current events and global issues through daily programming and field documentaries.

How Your Pee Could Help Billions of People

How Your Pee Could Help Billions of People

What if urine, something you flush away without a second thought everyday, could actually be useful? William Tarpeh, a UC Berkeley and Blum Center-supported Environmental Engineering PhD student is researching this very idea. Will spends most of his day extracting the nitrogen from pee to transform it into liquid fertilizer. Recently, Will partnered with Sanergy, a company building toilets in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Sanergy collects feces for use in fertilizers, but before working with Will, they were disposing of thousands of liters of urine each day. On a small scale, Will is able to turn urine into fertilizer very easily. The challenge is how to scale up and easily convert large amounts without raising the cost too much.

Special thanks to our partners at Seeker. Seeker features adventurers, explorers, and storytellers who take a deep look at some of the most unique and provocative stories, designed to expand our perspective and build our awareness of the world. Through the lens of world, science and exploration, Seeker’s award-winning journalism team covers current events and global issues through daily programming and field documentaries.

What Drives Women To Work In STEM?

What Drives Women To Work In STEM?

The Blum Center’s Development Engineering (Dev Eng) program provides students with an avenue to use their deep technical skills in fields such as economics, engineering, business, public health, to work in interdisciplinary teams to solve complex global challenges. These challenges include lack of clean water, lack of electricity or communications, and lack of access to consistently good healthcare. We are finding that providing an avenue for students to pursue personally meaningful work while in school is attracting an over-representation of students who are typically underrepresented in STEM fields, i.e. women and underrepresented minority students.

Special thanks to our partners at Seeker. Seeker features adventurers, explorers, and storytellers who take a deep look at some of the most unique and provocative stories, designed to expand our perspective and build our awareness of the world. Through the lens of world, science and exploration, Seeker’s award-winning journalism team covers current events and global issues through daily programming and field documentaries.

How Much Fluoride Should Be In Your Water?

How Much Fluoride Should Be In Your Water?

Big Ideas Contest Winner (Big Ideas), Global Poverty and Practice (GPP) Minor alumna, Development Engineering (Dev Eng) PhD Student Katya Cherukumilli discusses her research on groundwater fluoride remediation.

Special thanks to our partners at Seeker. Seeker features adventurers, explorers, and storytellers who take a deep look at some of the most unique and provocative stories, designed to expand our perspective and build our awareness of the world. Through the lens of world, science and exploration, Seeker’s award-winning journalism team covers current events and global issues through daily programming and field documentaries.

Can Africa Overcome Its Corruption Problem?

Can Africa Overcome Its Corruption Problem?

Blum Center affiliate Dr. Kweku-Opoku Agyemang discusses his research on corruption in Africa.

Special thanks to our partners at Seeker. Seeker features adventurers, explorers, and storytellers who take a deep look at some of the most unique and provocative stories, designed to expand our perspective and build our awareness of the world. Through the lens of world, science and exploration, Seeker’s award-winning journalism team covers current events and global issues through daily programming and field documentaries.

Sanivation: From Feces to Fuel

Sanivation: From Feces to Fuel

Cooking With Poo

Posted by Seeker Network on Friday, October 7, 2016

A 2015 and 2016 Big Idea Contest winner, Feces to Fuel is unlocking the potential of human feces and other waste streams by transforming them into an affordable household cooking fuel. Sanivation provides in-home toilets to low-income households and a service to collect and treat human waste. The project aims to create charcoal briquettes from human and agricultural waste. These briquettes can be sold for less than conventional charcoal and produce less smoke than traditional household cooking fuels. This in turn reduces the users’ exposure to toxic fumes and indoor air pollution. Simultaneously, the briquettes have a lower carbon impact than traditional fuel. They offer a renewable energy source that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation by the charcoal industry.

Special thanks to our partners at Seeker. Seeker features adventurers, explorers, and storytellers who take a deep look at some of the most unique and provocative stories, designed to expand our perspective and build our awareness of the world. Through the lens of world, science and exploration, Seeker’s award-winning journalism team covers current events and global issues through daily programming and field documentaries.


TRAFFICKED, a film by renowned expert on contemporary slavery, Siddharth Kara, to screen on campus November 4th!

TRAFFICKED, a film by renowned expert on contemporary slavery, Siddharth Kara, to screen on campus November 4th!

The Blum Center for Developing Economies and The Institute for South Asia Studies, both at UC Berkeley, are pleased to announce a screening of the feature film, TRAFFICKED, starring Ashley Judd, Anne Archer, Patrick Duffy, and Sean Patrick Flannery. The film is written and produced by Blum Center Fellow, Siddharth Kara, based on his award-winning first book ‘Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery’.

A movie poster for the film "Trafficked." The background features a faint world map. In the foreground, a young woman with her back turned, hands bound, stands. The lower half of her body appears to be transforming into a cascade of dollar bills. The title "Trafficked" is prominently displayed in red letters across the middle. Above the title, the text reads: "Last year slave traders made $100 billion" and "Inspired by true events." The poster also lists the names of the main actors at the top, including Kelly Washington, Jessica Obilom, and others.

Event details

Private Screening: “Trafficked”

Film – Feature | November 4 | 5:30 – 9 p.m. | Sutardja Dai Hall, Banatao Auditorium

Moderator: Siddharth Kara, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy / Fellow, Harvard KSG / Carr Center for Human Rights Policy

Panelist/Discussants: Patrick Duffy, Cast member; Sandy Tesch Wilkins, Investments Manager, Humanity United

Sponsors: Blum Center for Developing Economies, Institute for South Asia Studies

About the Film

TRAFFICKED is the first truly global, authentic feature film on human trafficking. Around the world, millions of vulnerable girls are being ensnared by human traffickers into the insidious world of sex slavery and exploited relentlessly to generate profits of one hundred billion dollars per year. That is more than the annual profits of Google, Microsoft, Nike and Starbucks combined. Inspired by real characters from the award-winning book ‘Sex Trafficking’ by leading slavery expert Siddharth Kara, this is the story of three such girls from America, Nigeria and India. After being trafficked through an elaborate global network of illicit human, organ, and drug trafficking, all three girls end up as sex slaves in a brothel in Texas, where they must band together to attempt to reclaim their dignity and freedom.

About Siddharth Kara

Siddharth Kara
Siddharth Kara

Siddharth Kara is a Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He is recognized as an expert on contemporary slavery and is best known for his award-winning book, Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery. Sex Trafficking was named co-winner of the prestigious 2010 Frederick Douglass Award at Yale University for the best non-fiction book on slavery. The award is generally regarded as the top prize in the field of slavery scholarship, and Kara’s is the first book on modern slavery to receive the award. In addition to his books, Kara has authored several other books, academic and law journal articles.

Kara first encountered the horrors of slavery in a Bosnian refugee camp in 1995. Subsequently, he has traveled to more than sixty countries across six continents to research these crimes, interviewing over thousands of former and current slaves of all kinds, witnessing firsthand the sale of humans into slavery, and confronting some of those who trafficked and exploited them. He currently advises the United Nations, the U.S. Government, and several other governments on anti-slavery research, policy and law. Kara is a regular contributor to the CNN Freedom Project, and his ongoing research into slavery around the world has been covered by CNN, the BBC, and CNBC.

For a Blum Center interview on Siddharth’s work, click here.

5 Questions with Ryan and Hash from SPZ Legal, advisors to social impact enterprises

5 Questions with Ryan and Hash from SPZ Legal, advisors to social impact enterprises

By Peter Bittner

Hash Zahed and Ryan Shaening Pokrasso met at UC Berkeley Law and now are partners in their own firm, SPZ Legal, focusing on social enterprises that use business as a tool for positive change. Fed up with the paradigm that doing business and doing good are mutually-exclusive, their firm specializes in serving clients focused on the “triple bottom line,” measuring success in terms of people, planet, and profit. In their spare time, they give back to Berkeley — serving as judges and mentors for Big Ideas, providing legal advice to social start ups via the Blum Center’s Practitioners in Residence program, and guest lecturing in the Social Innovator OnRamp class, a course dedicated to nurturing social enterprises that are seeded in competitions like Big Ideas.

Hash Zahed

 1) How did you get where you are today?


 I was born in Iran. I’ve always had an international appreciation for the way I look at the world. I went to undergrad at Berkeley and then did consulting work at a small consulting firm in Oakland, Mason Tillman Associates, for a year to advocate for minority- and women–owned businesses in public contracting. I realized the challenges that small businesses face in competing with large corporations, and learned the importance of law and policy in leveling the playing field.

I went to law school and then did a one-year fellowship at UC Berkeley Law School through the New Business Counseling Practicum, which is the only way to get real hands-on experience at the law school outside of the litigation context –  i.e. providing transactional legal services. At the Practicum, I assisted in advising non-profits and small businesses, who otherwise would not have access to sound legal advice, with navigating the legal landscape of starting a business. I enjoyed working with entrepreneurs so much, I decided to do it for a living.


Ryan Shaening Pokrasso
Ryan Shaening Pokrasso

I came to the legal profession by way of non-profit policy advocacy work. I originally studied ecology and evolutionary biology in undergrad. I became extremely concerned about climate change and started working at a non-profit in Santa Fe, New Mexico and talked with businesses about their role in helping solve the environmental crisis.

I went off to law school because I originally thought I wanted to study environmental law, but I found that businesses can play a large role in causing a lot of change. I also found that environmental law involves a lot of litigation whereas businesses, particularly in social impact, are all about trying to build something constructive. I saw law as a real opportunity to create and assist new businesses who wanted to impact the world in more positive ways.

On Hash and Ryan Meeting:

We met before law school started at Admitted Students Day, when prospective students come to the campus to learn about the school and get to know one another. We immediately got along and decided to live together, and did so all three years of law school. Being that we both came from entrepreneurial families, we always talked about starting our own practice one day. After our respective fellowships, we decided to take the dive instead of waiting around for the right time. Starting a practice recently out of law school is not the norm, so there was definitely some level of anxiety when we first got started. But we feel that having gone through the experience of starting a new business makes us better advisors to our clients.

2) How did you get involved with the Blum Center? What do you do?

Hash and Ryan:

We first met folks from the Blum Center last year at the Berkeley Entrepreneurs Expo, a few months before the Big Ideas contest was about to begin. We were Practitioners in Residence, which connects on-campus innovators and social entrepreneurs with a wide range of experts from Industry, non-profits, government, and social enterprises. We were also judges, and mentors in the Energy and Resource category and in the Global Health category in the 2015-16 competition.

3) Why do you volunteer with Big Ideas? What do you get out of it?


We get a lot out of it. We get inspired. The students really are thinking big about solving some of the biggest problems in the world.

When you’re starting an early-stage venture, there’s not a lot of resources out there to help you out. We’re happy to walk teams through the process of thinking where the money is going to come from – how are they going to make it as a sustainable venture – whether that’s as a for-profit or non-profit legal structure.


What keeps me excited is the novelty of the ideas from the teams. They come with idealistic energy, but they’re not unfeasible. I have to add that we also are amazed at some of the complex legal issues that come up for Big Ideas teams, whether it’s issues in international law or intellectual property rights. We’ve especially enjoyed helping several science-heavy teams navigate through the complex legal terrain.

Hash leading a workshop to advise Big Ideas teams on legal structure for their social ventures.

4) As former judges, what are some tips you have for Big Ideas teams in the competition?

Hash and Ryan:

Really take advantage of the time and use the mentors and resources provided to you. The Big Ideas contest is an accelerator and the more students invest in the experience, the more they will get out of it—and the better they will do. We’ll also add that the teams that have the most realistic budgets and feasible plans for implementation have an advantage. The more detail you include and research you can put into the proposal, the better the outcome in our view as judges.

5) As the 2016-2017 competition gets underway, what are your hopes for the program?

Hash and Ryan:

We want to see the program continue to grow! We’re very passionate about entrepreneurship and, as alums, are still very involved at Cal. It’s exciting to see the Big Ideas contest gain such stature nationally—and even internationally—and to be a part of something impactful.

We also plan to hold a larger workshop on social enterprise organizational structure  open to all teams to be able to share our expertise with more students. We have already delivered seminars to both the core Development Engineering class and the Social Innovator OnRamp course on legal forms for social start ups, and greatly look forward to our continued involvement with the Blum Center.

IdeaLabs Fostering Collaboration at Cal

IdeaLabs Fostering Collaboration at Cal

By Sarah Bernardo 

UC Berkeley has over 38,000 students  and more than 100 different majors spread across 170 academic departments. This rich diversity produces incredible ideas and a variety of perspectives that continue to make Cal the number one public university in the world. However, at a research university as large as Cal, it can be challenging for students to get the opportunity to work with students outside their major or department. But solving the grand challenges facing society — energy, water, climate, food, health — requires the expertise of many different disciplines — and thus the IdeaLabs program was launched.

The Blum Center’s IdeaLabs program  provides the space and funding for graduate and undergraduate students from all across campus to come together in interdisciplinary collaborations. IdeaLabs are completely student-driven — meaning that an IdeaLab’s themes and issues, and indeed its very existence, is determined by  the students themselves. To launch, an IdeaLab needs a minimum of 5 team members from at least 3 different departments or majors. The labs provide a forum for students to explore specific issue areas across disciplines. Students work together to learn about the issue, collaborate with campus and community partners, and develop innovative solutions or services. This year, three amazing IdeaLabs are tackling the areas of human trafficking, water issues, and remote diagnostics.

The Anti-Human Trafficking IdeaLab engages in scholar-activism to combat human trafficking and slavery in the Bay Area and beyond. Participants in the lab work with academic researchers and local community partners to educate the Cal campus about all forms of trafficking while discussing best practices for combating the issue. Members also deconstruct intersecting social issues such as gender inequality and poverty.

Hannah Ousterman, Co-President of the Anti-Trafficking Coalition at Berkeley and co-facilitator of the Anti-Human Trafficking IdeaLab, says, “the most unique aspect of our IdeaLab is our ability to connect with so many amazing local organizations and activists. Rather than focusing solely on raising awareness about trafficking, we are able to invite community members for conversations about how race and socioeconomic status influence the issue and how we can be conscientious advocates in the field.”

The Anti-Human Trafficking IdeaLab has a lot of great events planned for this year. On September 22, they will be hosting a film screening at the Blum Center of The Long Night, a documentary feature film directed by award-winning photojournalist Tim Matsui. The film explores the harrowing reality of domestic child sex trafficking. A discussion with Holly Joshi will follow the screening. Ousterman adds, “We are also working on a much larger project to create a directory of anti-trafficking organizations in the Bay Area so that students can more easily find opportunities for volunteering, internships, and jobs in the field that apply to their studies and interests.”

The Berkeley Water Group IdeaLab focuses on the issues of water, sanitation, and hygiene both domestically and internationally. Through the lab, participants can find support for their projects and work directly with faculty members. The Berkeley Water Group also sends out a weekly digital newsletter. Future projects  include launching a Water Science, Sustainability, and Policy minor and producing a student academic journal on water-related subjects.

Sruthi Davuluri, co-director of the Berkeley Water Group IdeaLab, says, “My favorite part about the Berkeley Water Group is the interdisciplinary approach we take on discussing water issues. Our membership is made up of an eclectic group of students who come from different backgrounds such as engineering, economics, public policy, and many more different areas which always leads to interesting discussions because everybody has a different perspective.”

Davuluri explains that in the upcoming year, the Berkeley Water Group plans to make a “stronger partnership with the Save the Bay organization in order to have more volunteer opportunities for [their] members” while expanding their presence beyond Berkeley into more areas in the Bay. Davuluri adds, “We would also like to work on a long-term water conservation project here on campus.” Their meetings involve a variety of activities such as debates, guest speakers, and field trips.

The Point of Care Diagnostics (PoCDx) IdeaLab works to develop solutions to address the challenges of remote diagnostics by gathering members from across diverse fields such as public policy, medicine, and engineering. Members participate in a forum to share ideas and technology. They also are given the chance to attend talks by guest speakers who are experts in the field.

Bochao Lu, facilitator of the Point of Care Diagnostics IdeaLab, explains, “We organize multidisciplinary seminars where experts in different fields present their work and more importantly share their experience, which we believe will invoke more brilliant ideas from the audience.”

The PoCDx Idea Lab is planning an exciting speaker series for this year. Lu says. “We will invite speakers in the field of point of care, from faculty in academia to product managers in industry and entrepreneurs in diagnosis.”


All three IdeaLabs are currently accepting new members for the year or you can contact the Blum Center to launch your own IdeaLab!

Here’s how to get involved:

Anti-Human Trafficking IdeaLab: Meetings are every Tuesday 8:00-9:00 pm, Location TBD

(The room number will be posted on the Anti-Trafficking Coalition at Berkeley Facebook page.)

There are no requirements to join. All are welcome to join, even STEM majors and those who do not have a background in anti-trafficking work.

Berkeley Water Group IdeaLab: Meetings are every other Monday 6:00 pm in Blum Hall B100.

Everyone is welcome at meetings. For more information, email Weekly newsletters are sent out with information about ways anybody can get involved in the water community in Berkeley and in the greater Bay Area.

Point of Care Diagnostics (PoCDx) IdeaLab: Meetings are every other Thursday in Blum Hall.

Anyone interested in joining, should email Bochao Lu at to be added to PoCDx’s email list. Information about seminars are usually sent out one week before the event.


In addition to joining the existing IdeaLabs, any student on campus can propose a new IdeaLab to the Blum Center. IdeaLabs generally focus on a broad issue area of global significance with the purpose of advancing human well-being, environmental sustainability, and social justice.

The proposal process only involves two steps:

  1. Fill out an application form here.
  2. Email as soon as you submit the form to ensure that your application is reviewed in a timely manner.

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, and any questions should be directed to


5 Questions with Anh-Thu Ho

By Sarah Bernardo

UC Berkeley student Anh-Thu Ho received a prestigious invitation to attend the Clinton Global Initiative’s (CGI) Annual Meeting in New York City this September. As one of only 10 students invited to this gathering, she will be sharing ideas and discussing pressing global issues with hundreds of recognized leaders from the non-profit sector, government, and industry. Together, the meeting participants will propose commitments to change the world.

Ho is a Bioengineering major from Singapore with a long history of public service including a medical outreach mission to Indonesia and founding Paint It On, a community art project at Danang Cancer Hospital in Vietnam. Paint It On won the Big Ideas @ Berkeley Video Contest.  At Cal, Ho was an active member of the Volunteer Health Interpreter Organization where she worked with patients as an English-Vietnamese interpreter.

Ho was recognized and invited to CGI for Ladon, the program she founded in early 2016.  Ladon is a platform to crowdsource bilingual college students who are passionate about bridging language barriers for immigrant communities. A wide variety of clients such as  social workers, medical service providers, teachers, and property managers of affordable housing estates can call Ladon’s number and be directly connected with Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, and Arabic language assistants. Ladon’s aim is to make social services more accessible for immigrants and other individuals with limited English proficiency.

The project won first place in the 2016 Social Challenge Lab at UC Berkeley. At the 2016 Clinton Global Initiative University, a gathering of more than 1100 students hosted at UC Berkeley earlier this year, Ladon also won the Resolution Social Venture Challenge.

Ho is currently taking a gap year continuing work on Ladon while seeking an internship in the Bay Area’s entrepreneurship scene.

The Blum Center sat down with Ho to talk about Ladon and the upcoming CGI Annual Meeting.

Q: You have volunteered and served in different places around the world. What inspires you about public service?

My first motivation is to go out and meet people who come from different backgrounds. I talk to them to understand how the environment shapes their beliefs and actions. Another reason is that at all the events I have to gone to so far, I always get to meet very passionate people and each of them always has a story to tell. They are inspirations. Just meeting them builds my character and shapes me into who I want to become.

Q: Why is it so important to break down language barriers in social services?

I am Vietnamese, and I left Vietnam for Singapore when I was just 15. At the time my English was not good, so I experienced first-hand how it was like not being able to speak a language, not being able to understand what is going on around you, and not being able to express your thoughts and your emotions with the people in your new society. That experience helped me understand how language barriers can increase the risk of isolation and make people shy away from social services. From my experience working with a lot of organization and schools, I see for myself how vulnerable these communities are, and it motivates me to bring my project to the next level.

Q: What challenges did you experience when developing and launching Ladon?

First is the status quo and inertia. Language barriers have been here for a long time and to a certain extent people are content with it, so inertia is a really big barrier. Lots of people just accept the fact that they will not be understood by others [who do not speak their language.] They are not actively looking for a solution, but instead just accept the situation.

Q: What are your future plans or hopes for Ladon?

Our plan is to improve the language capacity of Ladon and have more members abroad. We also want to improve the quality of our services by continuing to work alongside our current partners while also reaching out to more organizations and communities. Right now, we have 25 language assistants at Ladon, but we have a recruitment drive coming up.

Ladon has language assistants for Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, and Arabic.

If you are bilingual and are passionate about serving immigrant communities, join us! Feel free to contact me at about getting involved with Ladon.

Q: What are you most looking forward to at the CGI Annual Meeting?

I am excited to meet awesome people. It’s always the people that inspire me and intrigue me. I met a lot of great commitment makers at CGI U, so I expect to meet even more inspirational and committed changemakers at CGI.

Entrepreneurs Committed to Increasing Clean Energy Access Gather at UC Berkeley

Entrepreneurs Committed to Increasing Clean Energy Access Gather at UC Berkeley

By Peter Bittner

On Thursday, September 8, 2016 the UC Berkeley Blum Center and the U.S. Department of State partnered to host a day-long event focused on creating solutions to expanding global access to clean energy.

“Silicon Valley Tech Challenge: Accelerating Access to Clean Energy Around the World” convened 100 key stakeholders from across Silicon Valley — including tech companies, investors, foundations, NGOs, government, and academia — to develop new technological approaches to tackling this challenge. Building on earlier events, the day-long workshop was aimed at generating ambitious and impactful proposals to overcome barriers to entry and scale. Providing access to energy results in a variety of benefits across the education, health, social, and economic sectors.

Habiba Ali-Dare, a State Department Global Energy Entrepreneur from Nigeria, offers opening remarks at the Tech Challenge.

“Expanding access to clean energy to the over 1 billion people who globally lack access to electricity and the another billion who lack access to reliable electricity not only helps spread economic prosperity, it also helps to combat climate change,” said Melanie Nakagawa, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Transformation in the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources. ‎

The Tech Challenge was part of the State Department’s recently-launched Innovation Forum and Silicon Valley presence, with a mission to build bridges between policy-makers and innovators to tackle the most pressing global challenges.

“This is not a one-time event, but rather the launch of a broad initiative to engage Silicon Valley on expanding access to clean energy,” said Zvika Krieger, State Department Representative to Silicon Valley. The event brought together not just experts in renewable energy but also those on the forefront of intersecting technology trends, such as expanding internet access, mobile payments and platforms, cloud storage, and data analytics. The workshop resulted in identifying expert champions to develop solutions to advance these new ideas and specific mechanisms.

Group brainstorming sessions were recorded not only in sticky-note form but by student notetakers from UC Berkeley.

“We didn’t want to have a typical workshop with panels and speeches and talking heads — this was an opportunity from experts across the energy space to roll up their sleeves and actually develop solutions,” said Krieger.

Long-time energy specialists worked side-by-side with innovators from other sectors who offered new perspectives to the challenge.

“So often conferences are a sit-and-listen affair. This truly was different,” said Dr. Sophi Martin, Innovation Director at the Blum Center.

Interdisciplinary and multi-sector working groups of leading experts focused on key challenges ranging from battery storage and energy efficient appliances to expanding business models beyond solar home systems to mini-grids and community-wide solutions.

The six solution-centric topics for the discussion groups:

· Battery storage – There is a need for power storage systems that are tailored to operate with solar home and mini-grid systems. One important criterion is that the storage systems have a low enough price point that would not prohibit companies operating in emerging economies from purchasing the devices.

· Metering, monitoring, and common standards – Smart metering and monitoring of solar home and mini-grid systems can improve reliability, build smoother functionality, improve operations and maintenance, and allow for more flexible payment options.

· Super-efficient appliances and productive uses optimized for off-grid energy systems – Most productive use appliances are not tailored for the off-grid market and draw significant energy from power systems. There is a strong need for super-efficient productive use appliances that can be powered by solar home and mini-grid systems.

· Business models for solar home and mini-grid systems – There remain over a billion people globally without access to electricity and another billion with unreliable access. Some models may be more successful in Africa while failing to take hold in other regions, such as Asia. Business models need to be able to adapt to local contexts and factor in a variety of risks from finance and technological to policy and environmental considerations.

Group discussion and cross-sector collaboration were key to the event’s success.

· Off-the-shelf and open-source technology to facilitate energy entrepreneurship – Many successful solar home and mini-grid companies exist that have developed their own systems and models, which usually contain proprietary technology. It may be beneficial for the growth of the market to create a standard off-the shelf system and open-source technology that do not contain proprietary information, which could be used by new entrepreneurs looking to enter the space.

· Driving demand and awareness – Raising awareness around the benefits of energy access for potential consumers can help build larger markets for these innovations. Other sectors, such as internet connectivity and clean drinking water, may have useful lessons around raising consumer awareness.

Action Partners, including the Blum Center, will be supported by the State Department to further develop and implement key outcomes from the event. Leading companies and organizations who participated in the workshop will be advancing ideas and solutions that were generated to address key challenges to off-grid clean energy access, including Microsoft, X (formerly GoogleX), Facebook, Orange Silicon Valley, Booz Allen Hamilton, Galvanize, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, DBL Partners, Allotrope Partners, Factor[E] Ventures, IdeaScale, Powerhouse, Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, and Haas School of Business. Additionally, students at UC Berkeley’s Foundry and participants in the Big Ideas Energy & Resource Alternatives competition will begin to experiment with implementation plans for the concepts resulting from the Tech Challenge.

“We need the brightest minds in Silicon Valley, together with energy entrepreneurs from around the world, to pursue innovative and scalable ways to help meet the drastically rising global demand for electricity,” said Nakagawa.

Scroll to top

Host and Fellow Responsibilities

Host Organizations

  • Identify staff supervisor to manage I&E Climate Action Fellow
  • Submit fellowship description and tasks
  • Engage in the matching process
  • Mentor and advise students
  • Communicate with Berkeley program director and give feedback on the program.

Berkeley Program Director​

  • Communicate with host organizations, students, and other university departments to ensure smooth program operations

Student Fellows

  • Complete application and cohort activities
  • Communicate with staff and host organizations
  • Successfully complete assignments from host organization during summer practicum
  • Summarize and report summer experience activities post-fellowship