International Developmental Design Summit by MIT

Usually, midsummer is the perfect time to take a nice, relaxing vacation. But in the summer of 2009, instead of smearing on sunscreen and lounging by the pool, Cooper Perkinsʼ own Harald Quintus-Bosz spent an intense two and a half weeks working to improve the lives of those living in the developing world at the MIT-organized International Development Design Summit (IDDS) in Kumasi, Ghana.

IDDS is a month-long collaboration that invites participants from different countries to “build technologies for communities in the developing world.” The participantsʼ days are packed with lectures, technology training workshops and brainstorming meetings in both the classrooms and the workshop. From these sessions, they are expected to conceive 18 design proposals that use simple technologies to improve the quality of life for the worldʼs poor. From that pool, 12 technologies are chosen and the group splits up into individual teams to continue the development. These technologies can have both an immediate and long-term impact. For example, villagers in Morim popped off individual kernels from an ear of corn by hand, a process that takes a considerable amount of time. Harald demonstrated a past IDDS project, the Corn Sheller, by placing an ear of corn in the cone-shaped device and giving it a few quick twists. Within a matter of four seconds, every one of the kernels showered to the ground and only a clean cob remained. “There was this huge applause,” beamed Harald. “It was like being on Oprah!” Women immediately lined up for a try.

Harald and the other IDDS coordinators spend months sorting through participantsʼ applications (ranging from doctors and scientists to clergyman and mechanics) and researching specific issues that plague the developing world. “Their problems are much more fundamental than ours in the developed world,” explains Harald. “If something breaks, they canʼt just go to the store and replace it.” For the first time in the programʼs three-year history, the 70-plus participants and 20 organizers did not gather on the MIT campus, but instead at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi. Bringing IDDS to Africa made it possible to directly reach out to the very people they are trying to help.