Action Learning Refreshed

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Every year, SEID fosters productive collaborations between MIT Sloan students and new ventures in emerging markets as part of our action learning projects. Teams of 3-4 MBA students spend the fall semester working with these organizations to solve important str

ategic challenges they are facing. In the spirit of the MIT motto, Mens et Manus, MBA students get an amazing opportunity to apply the theories from the classroom to have real impact on the ground.

This year, SEID has organized 8 projects for MBA students to immerse themselves in. Each project is an entrepreneurial venture with operations on the ground in a developing country. Our projects are spread throughout the world in Tanzania, Iraq, Ghana, India, Liberia and Nicaragua and cut across a whole range of industries.

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Enabling Rural Innovations in Tanzania

Many projects and new socially-beneficial technologies designed for the rural developing world fail to achieve sustainability due to a lack of local investment and an inappropriate infrastructure for project implementation. The Kwala LaunchPad will serve as a rural incubator for new ideas, generating income from entrepreneurs and student groups in need of a safe location and the proper infrastructure to implement self-sustaining projects in the rural developing world.

61% of Africans live in rural communities. Many of these small villages are rich in culture and community but lacking in economic opportunity, resulting in exponential urban migration. The introduction of new technologies to rural communities is not a new concept. However, many of these technologies fail to become self-sustaining during implementation because they were not suited for the local culture and economy or due to a lack of resources, information, and local markets. Further, the many enterprises and institutions that are designing such technologies are often left without a suitable environment to successfully test and implement their ideas.

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Building Low-Cost Cold-Storage Supply Chains in India

Promethean Power Systems, founded by MIT alumni, has developed a solar-powered refrigeration system for commercial cold-storage applications in off-grid and partially electrified areas of India. Their technology enables food suppliers to store and preserve perishable food items—such as milk, fruits and vegetables—without the need for expensive diesel-powered generators. The company believes that creating a cost-effective solution for cold-chain food distribution in emerging markets is an excellent business opportunity that could deliver enormous social and environmental benefits.

The MIT Sloan student team will help develop a market research and technology road-map that will help Promethean expand. The team will assess countries for expansion and determine market sizes for the primary markets commercial cold-storage.  In addition, the team will look at new markets beyond milk chilling and identify potential partners and acquisition targets. Finally, the team will develop a technology road-map for product development by recommending activities that will ensure Promethean is  constantly seeking out and applying the latest technology break-throughs for their chilling system.

Improving Child Road Safety in Tanzania

Amend develops, implements, evaluates, and brings to scale evidence-based public health programs to reduce the incidence of child road traffic injury in the developing world. Road traffic injury  is the leading cause of death for children ages 5 and over in Africa. Poor infrastructure, spotty law enforcement, bad vehicle maintenance, and ineadquate education, along with other factors, make Africa the continent with the world’s highest rate of road traffic injury. Research shows that over 4% of children in urban Africa are injured in road traffic in any given year. With operations in Ghana and Tanzania, Amend’s “See and Be Seen” program combines a variety of interventions to reduce the incidence of child road traffic injury in Africa. One of Amend’s interventions is the promotion of reflector use; the use of reflectors and other visibility-enhancing measures (“conspicuity enhancement” in the terminology) has been proven to reduce injury.

Over the last several years, Amend has developed a reflector-enhanced schoolbag made expressly for the African market. The bags are designed to be affordable, durable, and, of course, provide conspicuity enhancement qualities to help keep children safe as they walk by the road. As our goal is to reach as many at-risk children as possible with our schoolbags, simply giving them away is not sustainable. Most children in urban Africa, even ones from poor families, already use schoolbags of some sort; in other words, parents are already buying bags for their children. So Amend uses social marketing techniques to distribute and sell the schoolbags. Amend’s competitive advantages in the schoolbag market are as follows: they can lose money on the bags in the short term; their long term aim is to be financially self-sustainable; various services (design, advertising, marketing, business advice) are provided pro bono; and the quality of the bags is significantly higher than most other bags of a similar, or higher, price in the marketplace.

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Prosperity through Entrepreneurship in Iraq

Prosperity Candle celebrates women as a global force for peace and prosperity. The company partners with women entrepreneurs in places of conflict and natural disaster, like Iraq, who are excited to start their own businesses producing distinctive candles for local and international markets.

Candles are the right product and enterprise for a woman working from the safety of her home – an important consideration where there is conflict and unrest. In addition, the product appeals to consumers around the world, and making it must offer a woman the opportunity to grow a successful business. Prosperity Candle’s focus is on how women can earn more than a living wage, and provide employment for others. Candle-making is a highly scalable craft that requires incremental investments in low-cost equipment. It is a business that can begin in the safety of a home, then easily be expanded to employ dozens of people. Candles enjoy large local and international markets, are wonderful gifts, and play a central role in countless traditions and gatherings throughout the world.

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Revolutionizing the Indian Job Market

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Founded in 2008 byMIT Sloan alumni and a product of NextLab and Development Ventures at the MIT Media Lab , Assured Labor enables mid-to-low wage workers in emerging markets to connect with job opportunities using their mobile phones. The disruptive service drives efficiency and transparency into labor markets around the world.  The service, named EmpleoListo, is currently running in Latin America in partnership with the regions largest wireless carrier.  The management team consists of mobile, media, software, marketing, labor policy and start-up experts from MIT and Harvard. The venture backed company launched its Latin American brand in the Fall of 2009.

Having already established themselves in Nicaragua and currently expanding in Mexio, the company recently raised a Series A round in April 2010 from multiple prestigious angel investors (including the former CEO of skype and CEO of and two venture funds (Nexus Venture Partners and Kima Ventures).

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Microfranchising in Tanzania

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EGG-energy is a for-profit company with a social mission to improve low-income customers’ quality of life by making available a convenient, safe, clean and affordable energy source. Since June 2008, a multi-disciplinary team from MIT and Harvard has been working on an innovative solution to bring affordable power to communities in the developing world. Our goal is to bridge the power distribution gap that keeps 1.6 billion people worldwide in the dark.

EGG-energy offers households and small businesses in Tanzania a battery subscription service that provides electricity sufficient to power lights, a radio, and a mobile phone. Customers pay a subscription fee for the portable, rechargeable battery and a small fee to swap it for a fully charged battery. According to EGG-energy, Tanzanians spend more than 10 percent of their income on kerosene or disposable batteries, yet 80 percent of Tanzanians live within 5 kilometers of the energy grid. EGG-energy seeks to solve the distribution problem and offer customers comprehensive electricity services at a lower cost than what they are currently spending. In 2009, EGG-energy was a 2009 MIT IDEAS Competition award-winning team. In 2010, they won the prestigious Echoing Green Fellowship.

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ID Technology Showcase

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Come and learn about the REAL technologies MIT students have been using in international development projects around the world. Food will be provided.

Participating groups include:

Global Cycle Solutions – co-founded by SEID VP Alex Shih ‘11
Global Village Project
Innovations in International Health (IIH)
One Earth Designs

For more information, visit:

Expanding Beyond Tanzania

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Global Cycle Solutions (GCS), based in Tanzania, originated from D-Lab Design and Development Ventures courses at MIT. After winning the 2009 MIT 100K Development Track Finals, the team setup pilot operations in Arusha, and recently won the Echoing Green Fellowship.

The long-term vision of our company is to disseminate accessible, appropriate technology and its accompanying knowledge around the world. As strong believers in co-creation, we aim to work within existing infrastructures to spur community development through pedal-powered innovations from local ingenuity. Their current products include a corn sheller and a mobile phone charger, both of which attach and are powered by a bicycle. The products have been selling extremely well in Tanzania and now GCS is eager to expand beyond Tanzania with the help of MIT Sloan.

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Market Sizing & Product Diversification in Liberia

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Farm Builders, based in Liberia and Cambridge, is a new startup social enterprise that will provide financing and management services for smallholder farmers in Africa.  The Company is in the beginning stages of its development, having raised initial funding from multiple fellowships including Echoing Green, Rainer Arnhold, and the McCall MacBain Foundation.  Starting in September 2010, Farm Builders will begin its pilot project in the Todee District of Liberia.  The Company’s pilot project calls for the replanting of more than 100 farms on 3600ha of land.  Following a successful pilot, Farm Builders will begin to scale throughout the rest of Liberia and into other African countries.

A team of 3-4 MIT Sloan students will work on the following projects:

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