Interested in more classes and volunteer opportunities in this space? Check out these Berkeley/Bay area resources

If you’re graduating this year, or even if you’re staying for a PhD for five more years, there’s lots of stuff happening at Berkeley and in the greater SF area around social entrepreneurship,   international development, design for social impact, ICTD, …. Just wanted to share some of the stuff that I’ve been exposed to over the last few months that I’ve found pretty impressive. Enjoy!

Great Courses @ Berkeley


Enterprise in Developing Economies: Market-based Approaches to Solving Poverty, 1-credit speaker series, Haas School of Business

This is my personal plug, as it was *the* class that really got me thinking hard about social enterprises in developing countries and what business models work best in different environments.  Last year it was a 7-week speaker series, facilitated by David Lehr of Mercy Corps and Jocelyn Wyatt of IDEO Social Impact.  It will be bigger and better this year!

Old syllabus here:

New Product Development, 3-credit course, MOT cross-listed

Co-taught by Sara Beckman (Haas), Alice Agogino (CE), and Nathan Shedroff (CCA), this is a project-based course where the end-deliverable is the design of a new product.  Sat in on one of the classes last Fall on sustainable design, but great exposure to creating a product through the entire design and development cycle.


Design for Sustainable Communities, 3-credit course, CE290

I cannot speak more highly for this class. The professor, Ashok Gadgil, is incredibly inspirational with a deep, practical understanding for how to create solutions to address serious problems in developing countries. He’s the inventor of two technologies — one is a fuel-efficient stove that can be cheaply mass produced and is targeted at refugee camps in Darfur, Sudan, and the second is a water purification technology that uses UV radiation to cheaply purify large amounts of water (UV Waterworks).  In addition, there are great speakers (like John Hammock) and interesting readings, all within an intimate, cross-disciplinary group of students who are passionate about making a difference. To top it off, you’re working together in small teams to design a sustainable solution in different communities around the world – from accessory dwelling units in our very own backyard (Berkeley) to solar water heaters in Guatemala and a Native American community in Northern California, to arsenic removal in Bangladesh, to solar box cookers in India!  Check out a video of Ashok’s Darfur Cook Stove project here:

Business and Technology for Sustainable Development, 2-credit course, MOT cross-listed

Taught by Flavio Feferman, who has extensive development experience in Latin America. I sat in on a couple of classes — pretty heavy workload with lots of readings (all really interesting… lot of articles from the Economist but very recent and relevant), class project (e.g. Senegal solar cooker team that the SBC team met with were creating the business model for this class), and mini-debates that you have to prepare for every few weeks.

Design as a Competitive Strategy, 2-credit course, Haas School

Didn’t take this course but some of my friends would forward along the lecture slides or readings.  If you liked Norman’s Design of Everyday Things you will enjoy this class. Goes through both theory and examples.

And of course, any courses offered by the Blum Center’s Global Poverty and Practice minor. They’re geared towards undergrads so I’ve primarily focused on grad classes. I’d highly recommend John Danner’s class though — Entrepreneurship to Address Global Poverty — as he’s a great guy and really knowledgeable about this space.

Opportunities to get involved in the Bay area

There are a couple of great organizations out in the Bay area that do similar design for social impact work. The first is Project H Design which is a volunteer group of designers, engineers, and the odd business school student 😉 which work together to “support, inspire, and deliver life-improving humanitarian product design solutions. We champion industrial design as a tool to address social issues, a vehicle for global life improvement, and a catalyst for individual and community empowerment.”  I’ve been too busy to get really involved in the current projects (wheelchair re-design, community garden re-development) but am on the mailing list and try to keep a tab on what’s going on. They’ve done some great stuff in the past, like re-designing the Hippo Water Roller – Meetings are every other Tuesday evening in the city. Check out their website and email Ryan Duke (SF chapter head) if you want to join up:

IDEO also has a sub-practice called Design for Social Impact. Right now it’s only 2-3 full-time people, but I’ve heard Jocelyn Wyatt (she’s the head of it) speak a couple of times.  They apply the design thinking framework and do pretty extensive traveling to get hands-on, ethnographic and anthropological needs assessment.  Their website is here: and they’ve also got some “Design for Social Impact” workbooks available here:

The second, which may be more relevant to many of the folks in the class, is the SF chapter of Engineers without Borders (EWB).  They have monthly chapter events in the city and just launched a new project this month on designing a medical facility in a poor rural area in Haiti.  Again, free to join and sign up for the mailing list if you’re interested in learning more about their events:

The third, Social Capital Markets conference is pricey, but you can help volunteer in advance or day-of and get comp tickets.  This is a seriously jam-packed three days, but practically *everyone* in this social enterprise space –investors, foundations, social entrepreneurs, students, etc — was there.  There were like 15 concurrent panels every hour so it’s an intense few days (and if you volunteer you have to get there at like 5:30am and work a 5 or 6 hour shift), but such a good primer/crash course in this space.  They’ve started posting speakers here:  If you want to get involved, the organizer, Amy Benzinger, works pretty closely with some of the Haas people so we can loop you in to the planning meetings. is an incredibly rich resource for job listings, news, editorials, conferences, etc for people who want to “make a connection between development and enterprise.”  There’s always a bunch of Berkeley people blogging on the website and it gets a ton of exposure and is well-respected in the development / social enterprise community.

Finally, personal plug for the Global Initiatives club which is run out of the Haas School of Business and has a good pulse on Berkeley and bay area events related to international issues, development, healthcare, ICTD, etc.  Sign up for the list-serve and/or email some officers and get involved!  Here’s the link for the list-serve:


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