Contemporary Developing Countries: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Problems (Teaching Fellow)





What problems do developing countries face, and how can individuals contribute to solutions rather than await the largesse of the state or other actors? Intractable problems – such as lack of access to education and healthcare, forced reliance on contaminated food, deep-seated corruption – are part of the quotidian existence of the vast majority of five of the world’s seven billion people. Developing societies suffer from what we refer to as ‘institutional voids’ that make organized activities of all sorts difficult; think of the mundane but important physical infrastructure that allows us to get to work or school in the developed world, as well as our access to higher-order institutions such as the availability of information at our fingertips or the security of the rule of law. The course demonstrates that reflecting upon the nature of the developing world’s intractable problems through different lenses helps characterize candidate interventions to address them. The scientist’s hypothesis-driven and iterative experimentation, the artist’s imagined counterfactuals through putting oneself in others’ shoes literally and theatrically, and the planner’s top-down articulation of boundary conditions, all tailor the ultimate solution.

Course instructors:

  • Tarun Khanna: Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School; Director, Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute
  • Satchit Balsari: Assistant Professor, Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Fellow, FXB Center for Health & Human Rights, Harvard University
  • Krzysztof Gajos: Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Doris Sommer: Ira Jewell Williams Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures; Director of Graduate Studies in Spanish
  • Rahul Mehrotra: Professor of Urban Design and Planning, Harvard Graduate School of Design