An MIT Alumni Association Publication

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Whether addressing the market needs of farmers or simply fixing a smoky oven, MIT D-Lab takes on the problems of poverty and provides solutions, D-Lab leaders told attendees at the MIT Alumni Forum in December.

Founded 20 years ago to develop collaborative solutions to global poverty challenges, D-Lab now has about 4,000 alumni—all students who have had the chance to learn practical approaches to design innovation and implementation. Each year, more than 250 students enroll in D-Lab programs (roughly a dozen classes are offered) and work with partners to tackle projects all over the world.

To illustrate D-Lab’s impact, founding director Amy Smith ’84, ENG ’95, SM ’95 told forum attendees the story of two students who came together at D-Lab. The pair learned about the challenges facing farmers in Ghana and worked with them to develop a solution: processing oil from the seeds of the Moringa tree. Over time, the pair built a successful skin care and wellness company—True Moringa—and quadrupled the income of Moringa farmers.

“They have this hyper local impact, but also they are expanding throughout Ghana and have a national impact there as well, providing access to a global market to local farmers,” Smith said of the two former students. “That shows the type of work that our dedicated students do.”

Watch the video to learn:

  • What UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said to Smith
  • What D-Lab fieldwork looks like
  • How D-Lab is tackling indoor air pollution
  • Why the way design is practiced matters

Smith was joined in the forum by Maria Yang ’91, D-Lab’s faculty director for academics, and Daniel Sweeney, a D-Lab research scientist. Ana Pantelic, D-Lab’s executive director, served as moderator.

The MIT Alumni Forum is a thought-provoking online series that brings alumni back to their years learning under the Great Dome. Each forum connects audiences with leading MIT experts while providing opportunities to engage with speakers and ask questions.