Blog, News & Events

IDIN Announces Summer Research Fellows

Monday, May 2, 2016
Elizabeth Hoffecker

MIT junior in Mechanical Engineering Lesley Wang interviews farmers and craftsmen in Leguruki, Tanzania as part of an action-research project focused on enabling a local innovation process for post-harvest processing. Credit: Ruth Park

The IDIN Research Program is pleased to announce the 2016 cohort of IDIN Summer Research Fellows—an outstanding group of undergraduate and graduate students from across MIT who will conduct research identifying, mapping, and scaling local innovation this summer.  The IDIN Summer Research Fellowship is a competitive award that funds highly qualified students at MIT and eligible local universities to conduct international fieldwork on questions related to grassroots innovation and community-led solutions in the context of addressing global development challenges. 

The field of innovation studies is explicitly interdisciplinary and this year’s cohort of Fellows reflects this breadth of backgrounds and approaches. They come from a variety of fields and bring a range of methodological approaches to their projects, including experience with social network analysis, value chain mapping, innovation ecosystem mapping, in-depth case study research and anthropological field research methods.

As they immerse themselves in rural areas of China threatened by rapid climate change, smallholder farming communities in Mozambique and Uganda, and emerging urban innovation hubs such as Nairobi, Fellows will be exploring central issues in innovation studies through their research projects this summer.  These include analyzing the role of information flow and linkages in facilitating innovation, developing insights into the roles of network-builders in stimulating innovation within value chains, and analyzing how outsiders connected to global networks can engage effectively with and support the efforts of grassroots innovators working to build local innovation ecosystems. The research supported through this fellowship will inform two masters theses, a doctoral dissertation, and several policy and practitioner-oriented reports and briefs. 

You can read more about these exceptional students and their backgrounds here, and find a brief synopsis of their projects below.

2016 IDIN Summer Research Fellows

Kate Collins — Uganda
Joint MBA/MPA candidate at Sloan School of Management and Harvard Kennedy School of Government, MIT and Harvard

Kate will be researching innovations within the agricultural supply chain in Uganda, focusing on the role of small-scale aggregators and assembly traders in improving the performance of value chains for grain.  Together with her research partner Bar Pereg, she will be spending time in the Eastern and Northern districts of Uganda to learn from grain traders in order to better understand their constraints and the innovations they are already bringing to the communities they source from.  She hopes this research will contribute to illuminating avenues through which smallholder famers can connect with better market information and regional supply chains so as to better calibrate their production with demand, which can reduce risks, losses, and food waste. Her research advisor is MIT Professor Tavneet Suri and her local research partner is the Uganda Development Trust.


Jessica Gordon — China
PhD candidate in Environmental Policy and Planning at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP), MIT

Jessica is researching climate change adaptation pilot projects in three rural provinces of China with significant ethnic minority populations, to ask how and under what conditions the development of locally specific, bottom-up policy experiments can contribute to China’s climate adaptation efforts. The specific pilot projects she will research include the development of a community-based disaster response plan in Yunnan province, a project around prevention of desertification involving developing water-saving agricultural technologies and small-scale water management facilitates in Guizhou province, and the country’s fist municipal-level integrated water resource management project in Guangxi province. This research will inform her doctoral dissertation and will result in a policy report describing best practices, lessons learned and challenges from the pilot projects.  Her research advisor is MIT Professor Larry Susskind.


Bar Pereg — Uganda
MBA candidate at the Sloan of Management, MIT

Together with her research partner Kate Collins, Bar will be researching how small scale grain traders in Uganda are innovating to improve linkages and integration within grain markets for smallholder farmers and consumers. Through interviews with grain traders, farmers, and local stakeholders in the grain value chain, Bar and Kate will produce an ecosystem map of innovation-oriented entrepreneurship in the smallholder agricultural value chain, focusing on pathways available to Ugandan traders to scale their local innovations. 
They will also produce a report detailing instances of innovation within the agricultural supply chain, focusing on the stage each innovation has reached and factors that have enabled or hindered continued development. Their research advisor is MIT Professor Tavneet Suri and the local research partner is the Uganda Development Trust.


Katrine Tjoelsen — Mozambique
Undergraduate majoring in Computer Science, with a minor in Math and concentration in Economics, MIT

Katrine will be spending two months in Nampula, Mozambique seeking to understand how, and to what extent, information flow through online technologies between groups of farmers facilitates local innovation.  In partnership with TechnoServe, she will work with a community of 200 chicken and soybean farmers who have received access to tablets and are communicating with each other through WhatsApp chat rooms.  By interviewing the farmers and analyzing the WhatsApp communications, she will map information flow between the farmers and relate this to instances of local innovation within the farming community.  Katrine will use the insights developed with the farmers to inform a masters thesis project focused on co-creating a technology intervention that can be useful to the farmers. Her research supervisor is Ethan Zuckerman, Director of the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab, and her local partner is TechnoServe.


Valeria Vidal Alvarado — Kenya
Master of City Planning candidate, DUSP, MIT

Valeria will be conducting field research to explore the role, impact, challenges and opportunities of a global development institution in enabling and scaling local innovation. She will be working with Dalberg Global Development Advisors identifying how and whether they are engaging effectively with local communities in creating and scaling innovation within local ecosystems. Valeria will also be exploring the methodologies used to understand and measure the social impact of Dalberg's innovaton-oriented projects in several sites in the Global South, including Nairobi, Kenya. The result of this research will be featured in her masters thesis and will also be delivered as a case study with recommendations to Dalberg.

More information, including backgrounds of the Research Fellows and the current areas of focus for IDIN’s Research Program can be found here.