Our History


D-Lab Founder and MIT senior lecturer in Mechanical Engineering Amy Smith is inspired to create a hands-on conference bringing together creative, dynamic individuals to design meaningful solutions for people living in poverty. NCIIA, now VentureWell, and the Rockefeller Foundation generously provide seed funding and planning gets underway at MIT.


After months of planning, the International Development Design Summit (IDDS) is born. 50 people from nearly 20 different countries arrive at MIT for the first IDDS. Participants form teams and tackle some of the first IDDS projects, receiving training in design, rapid prototyping, and development in workspaces around MIT’s campus. 


IDDS is held at MIT again, with a new and additional focus on capacity building. Participants from 20 countries learn about the design process and designed technologies like a $10 computer, a pearl millet thresher, and a device to prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to children during breastfeeding. 


IDDS is held for the first time in a developing country – Ghana. Nearly 70 participants work together with rural villagers in Ghana to design prototypes with their potential end-users. Technologies included a low-cost device for dosing chlorine for drinking water and a hand-cranked cassava grater. 


IDDS is held at Colorado State University and focuses on refining products, designing ventures, and building businesses. Participants build action plans for prototypes from other summits to get impactful technologies into the hands of the people who need them most. 


IDDS is held in Ghana again and its integrated curriculum reflects lessons learned from all past IDDS experiences. Organizers and participants reflect on the evolution and future of IDDS. Rethink Relief, a design summit sharing the IDDS philosophy, but focusing on the technology needs of refugees, takes place for the first time in Delft, Netherlands.

Summer 2012

IDDS is held in Brazil, a summit of many firsts: the first to be organized by a local team, the first with an urban focus, and the first to be entirely bilingual. Many projects focus on improving the lives of people living in poverty by having a positive effect on the environment. 

Winter 2012

The International Development Innovation Network (IDIN) is created as part of the USAID Higher Education Solutions Network to support the growing number of IDDS alumni in their work. IDIN provides funding, mentorship, training, and more to help its Network members and their innovations grow. 


IDDS is held in Lusaka, Zambia and organized for the first time by IDIN Network members in collaboration with the National Technology Business Centre. A shorter, maternal health-themed IDDS is held in Arusha, Tanzania, marking the first themed IDDS. Rethink Relief, a design summit focused on the technology needs of refugees and displaced populations, takes place at MIT. IDIN launches its research program. Local chapters of Network members begin forming.  


IDDS is held in Arusha, Tanzania, where participants develop technologies to solve problems related to agriculture, health, water, and education. Rethink Relief, a design summit focused on the technology needs of refugees and displaced populations, takes place in Pader, Uganda. IDIN supports three innovation centers: Twende/AISE! in Tanzania, Caritas in Uganda, and Caos Facado in Brazil. 


Nearly a decade later, many things about IDDS and IDIN have changed, but its core principles—co-creation, diversity, hands-on design and development—have stayed the same. IDIN looks forward to organizing more summits, supporting additional innovation centers, and advancing research on local innovation as an effective development strategy.