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DevEng Faculty Publish “Introduction to Development Engineering,” the Field’s First Textbook

Technology News | Nov 28 2022

BERKELEY , CA (Nov 28, 2022) – UC Berkeley’s Development Impact Lab (DIL), co-managed by the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) and the Blum Center for Developing Economies, is delighted to announce the release of a new open-access textbook, Introduction to Development Engineering: A Framework with Applications from the Field. The textbook, available here at no cost, offers a framework— carefully refined over the past ten years with the generous support of USAID and the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN)— for iteratively designing and testing innovative solutions to global poverty in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Since its release on September 9th, the textbook has been downloaded from publisher Springer’s website more than 30,000 times .

The textbook comes on the heels of a journal, Development Engineering, launched in 2015; a designated emphasis for UC Berkeley PhD students (offered since 2015), as well as a new Master’s degree program in Development Engineering (launched in 2021). The Blum Center is working hard to expand these curricular programs to other campuses. While the concept of “development engineering” is not new, this textbook is the first to bring together case studies and best practices in a way that speaks to researchers from a wide range of engineering and social science disciplines. In essence, it provides a common language that can be used to more efficiently transfer knowledge from faculty to students, and from one discipline to another.

It fills an important educational need: for many years, instructors teaching the core DevEng course at Berkeley, called “Design, Evaluate, and Scale Development Technologies,” didn’t have a textbook. As DIL PI and Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Ashok Gadgil recalled, “we had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find case studies for the students to understand and debate.”

“We want to make this a topic of academic research because, whether it’s business or engineering or economics, everybody is too fractured intellectually and looks up their own stovepipe and doesn’t solve the problem,” Gadgil said. “They just go deeper and deeper and get narrower and narrower in viewpoint. The big picture question,” he continued, “is how are we going to meet the U.N. sustainable development goals and still not blow our planet’s carbon budget?”

There is no longer a need to “scrape the bottom of the barrel” for teaching materials. Clocking in at 650 pages, the textbook features summaries of 19 DevEng projects, ranging from fintech for rural markets in Sub-Saharan Africa to preventing arsenic poisoning in India to protecting electoral integrity in emerging democracies. Carson Christiano, CEGA’s Executive Director and DIL Managing Director, explains, “We have now seen several successful examples where teams of economists, engineers, and committed implementing partners have worked together to solve really complex development challenges. I hope this textbook—a final output of our decade-long investment in DIL—serves as a blueprint for countless aspiring development engineers to do the same.”

Yet rather than just presenting “a bunch of projects put together and stapled into a book,” Gadgil, Temina Madon, and co-editors led the development of four framework chapters at the beginning to provide the intellectual history, ethical challenges, and philosophical underpinnings of development engineering. This is important, Gadgil noted, given the history of white-collar and often-white researchers and engineers going into poorer areas without the context or cultural fluency to ask the right questions, include the right people, or solve the right problems. An instructor can start with those four framework chapters and then select any subsequent projects from which they would like to teach.

“Top-tier universities across the U.S. and across the world have courses that recognize that engineering is not just about solving existing problems of big industry,” Gadgil said. “They recognize that it must also be about solving pressing problems of society.”

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Contacts

Sean Luna McAdams, CEGA

Data Science for Development Program Manager

sean.luna@berkeley.edu

 

Sam Goldman, Blum Center for Developing Economies

Administrative officer

samuelgoldman@berkeley.edu

 

Notes to the editor:

High resolution book cover image

About CEGA:

The Center for Effective Global Action CEGA) is a hub for research, training, and innovation headquartered at the University of California, Berkeley. We generate insights that leaders can use to improve policies, programs, and people’s lives. Our academic network includes more than 150 faculty, 65 scholars from low- and middle-income countries, and hundreds of graduate students–from across academic disciplines and across the globe–that produce rigorous evidence about what works to expand education, health, and economic opportunities for people living in poverty.

Working equitably with scholars and partners primarily in low- and middle-income countries, we:

  • Identify where rigorous research about social and economic development programs is needed;
  • Invest in new tools, techniques, and teams of researchers;
  • Elevate low- and middle-income country scholars, women, and other underrepresented groups across our work;
  • Promote meaningful collaboration between researchers and policymakers;
  • Build scholars’ skills and capabilities to produce policy-relevant evidence and communications; and
  • Share research and insights with key decision-makers and the public.

Our professional staff work closely with faculty and partners to manage the center’s day-to-day work and increase the impact of CEGA-supported research and ideas. They develop research agendas around priority sectors and themes, oversee competitive grant-making processes, and connect research and ideas across portfolios. Our team also runs events, workshops, and savvy communications and engagement efforts to ensure scientific evidence produced with CEGA support improves the lives of people living in poverty, and the communities in which they reside.

About the Blum Center:

The Blum Center for Developing Economies leverages the talent, enthusiasm, and energy of the University of California, Berkeley community to address the grand challenge of global poverty. Our interdisciplinary problem-solving approach draws on students and faculty dedicated to facing this challenge through innovative initiatives, education, and research.

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