Tell us about your “Makeshift Innovation and Engineering in the Third World” course –what is it about and why do you feel passionate to offer it?
Makeshift Innovation and Engineering in the Third World is a course I came up with the uses the lens of international development to explain basic science and engineering principles through innovative solutions to global challenges. Students in the course come up with their own innovative solution to solve a global need.
What key concepts and skills do you want students to come away with?
The course has different goals for different types of students. Students with a background in science and engineering should come away with a better idea of the problems that exist today, and how they can use their technical expertise to design to solve them. Students with a background in international development should come away with a better understanding of basic scientific and engineering principles that build the world we live in.
Tell us about the connection between philanthropy and social enterprise–how are they distinct? How do they intersect or connect
Philanthropy and social enterprise share a common goal of helping people, but go about it in completely different ways. Social enterprises use the power of business to create social and environmental impact, and rely heavily on the principles of capitalism. Philanthropy by definition is promoting the welfare of others by generous donations. Think of it as this- philanthropy is giving a man a fish, but social enterprises are microfinancing fishing gear. Both are important, but to me social enterprises promote long-term growth more. However, without philanthropy helping in the short-term, this growth is impossible.
You’ve been a commitment maker and you have won the GWupstart Best For-Profit Social Venture prize for your venture, Pedal Forward. Did these experiences influenced the way you designed the course?
The course was definitely influenced by CGI and my work with the Clinton Foundation. I was able to bring in a lot of amazing guest lecturers who are experts in their fields through my connection with CGI that brought great perspective to the course. The application to CGI U and to the GW biz plan competition were both homework assignments in this class, so students were definitely encouraged to participate in both.
Give us an anecdote or story about the course–an “aha moment” or a compelling moment.
This past weekend seeing two of my former students at CGI U presenting and being named as Finalists in the Resolution Project was super rewarding. Their project was a great example of the what course is all about. They originally came up with an idea that had potential, but was untested. They were able to gather a lot of information through customer interviews to be able to pivot their model to a more human-centered design, that still needs site based testing, but is definitely more feasible and is gaining traction. You should ask them about it.
Will this course or a similar one be offered again soon? Will you be teaching other courses next year?
I loved teaching this class! This semester I am co-teaching a course with Professor Volker Sorger in the School of Engineering and Applied Science on Innovation and Technology, that uses a lot of the same principles from my last class, but applied to a more broad spectrum than solely international development and social enterprises. Unfortunately I will be moving to NYC for work, but would love to find a way to continue teaching this class, whether it be at a University in NYC, or even online through GW (what do you say GW? I’m in if you are!).
What has happened to Pedal Forward since you won? Where do you see it in the future?
Pedal Forward has is scaling our production to 250 bikes and just launched our new website where we are accepting pre-orders. We hope to continue to expand our domestic sales to increase our impact abroad.