D-Lab launches a new seminar – Global Poverty: think big, start small

eiffell tower

It is well-known that “we learn better by doing”. That is the concept that guides D-Lab courses, through which students obtain knowledge through hands-on experience. As an important asset for the Blum Center, D-Lab engages students in finding solutions to energy issues in developing countries. D-Lab focuses on innovative technologies and business models that can allow people at the “bottom of the pyramid” to save or earn more money. Multidisciplinary faculty and student teams work with community partners to understand specific technical, social, environmental, and economic issues.

      Expanding its education portfolio, D-Lab through the Blum Center, launched an exclusive new course during the Winter quarter. This 2-unit seminar led students through the process of transforming their project ideas targeted to tackle poverty and inequality into a strong project proposal for the undergraduate’s Blum Grant: Poverty Alleviation Through Action (PATA).

      Starting from a theoretical framework about global poverty and inequality, students are guided through the steps needed to build a strong grant application. Innovative tools and activities, such as the Empathy Map or the NABC Method to Develop a Pitch, case studies, mentor’s feedback, and guest speakers, help students achieve a better understanding on how to create a strong value proposition.

     By the end of the course students would have gained a deep understanding on relevant aspects that need to be considered when building a grant proposal for the Blum Center and for other grants programs in general. The seminar also highlighted important aspects to consider when working abroad.

     Professor Kurt Kornbluth, D-Lab founder Director and Associate Director for the Blum Center, states: “We want students to work on international development while they have a learning experience by solving real problems for real people”. This is why understanding the client’s context and client’s needs constitute the first part of this course. After the problem is sufficiently understood, students work to identify the best solution that will fit their client’s need.

man teaching two others


Kalen Kasraie pitching his project

idea to mentors Ernst Bertone

and Wayland Singh.


     The seminar also aims at preparing students to present their projects to potential investors. In order to accomplish that, after the problem statement and the solution are well defined, students have the opportunity to present their ideas on a one-minute pitch to a panel of mentors that provide useful feedback to help the students move forward. A key partner of this collaborative initiative is the International Development Innovation Network (IDIN), which helps connect students to ongoing IDIN projects in developing countries to participate in during the summer.

     The Global Poverty Seminar: Think Big, Start Small is not only an invitation for students to increase their chances of building a strong Blum Grant proposal, but also to gain hands-on experience in international development. What did students who attended the seminar think about it?

“The seminar has been extremely valuable for helping me with my grant proposal. I would not have even been connected with a project outside of this seminar! I find the one-on-one mentoring especially useful in helping me address the specific needs and problem areas of my own individual project. Also, having mentorship from those who are familiar with the Blum Center and what they are looking for in a proposal has greatly helped me identify and focus on the most important parts of my proposal” Abigail Lourenco, International Agricultural Development

“The advice for my paper was good because it highlighted the parts that I need to change or improve, which would have been hard for me to notice on my own. Also, now I have more ideas about what to add. Another perspective is always helpful!” Theresa Mall, Engineering

"This seminar has been absolutely valuable and integral to my work developing the proposal. I have gained the experience and in-depth knowledge from people like Paula Balbontin and Dr. Kornbluth (as well as all our guest speakers) who have real-world and grant application experience. My final product after taking this class will be so much better than it would have been without the experience and knowledge I have gained.” Kalen Kasraie, Bachelor of Art

     The UC Davis D-Lab successful model will be expanded to other UC campuses. Through funding that the UC Davis Blum Center received from UCOP, Professor Kornbluth will work with the Blum Federation to establish of D-Lab programs at other UC campuses. To date, initial meetings have been held with UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz.

     To find out more about this initiative, visit our website at blum.ucdavis.edu or email us at blumcenter@ucdavis.edu. You can also learn about other UC Davis D-Lab courses at http://piet.ucdavis.edu