The International Development Design Summit is an intense, hands-on design experience that brings together people from all over the world and all walks of life to create technologies and enterprises that improve the lives of people living in poverty. Unlike most academic conferences, we emphasize the development of prototypes, not papers and proceedings.In moving the technologies on the path from idea to implementation to impact we aim to create real ventures, not just business plans. IDDS is part of the revolution in design that aims to encourage, promote, and build more research and development resources that focus on the needs of the world’s poor. We draw inspiration from several current models of innovation, design and community empowerment: co-creation, cross-disciplinary collaborations and crowd sourcing.

IDDS is a diverse group of people. We come from more than 20 countries around the world—from Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America, and Central America. We are students and teachers, professors and pastors, economists and engineers, masons and mechanics, doctors, welders, farmers, and community organizers. One of the things that makes IDDS a special conference is this richness of backgrounds. It is a conference about innovation, and we believe that innovation thrives in the intersections of disciplines that come from bringing together such an eclectic group.

We believe very strongly in the idea of co-creation: the concept that it is better to provide communities with the skills and tools to become innovators and develop new technologies themselves rather than to simply providing the technologies. We believe that developing the capacity for innovation and creativity is critical for long-term sustainable improvements in the quality of life in a community. It is our goal to demonstrate a model where a user-based community of active, creative designers can invent, innovate and inspire each other to create new technologies.

But not all of our participants are from communities in the developing world. Nearly half of the our participants are students, and we hope to inspire them with the opportunity to interact with field practitioners and to see that inventiveness is not restricted to those with formal education. IDDS also provides a forum where they can meet with like-minded people who are driven by the same desire to make an impact in the world. It is our hope that by creating a diverse global network we can empower individuals and their communities to tackle the tough problems that reside in the developing world.

IDDS is a function of the International Development Innovation Network (IDIN), a consortium of institutions including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Olin College of Engineering, Colorado State University, University of California in Davis, University of Sao Paulo in Brasil, KNUST in Ghana, and NTBC in Zambia. IDIN is sponsored by the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN), a USAID initiative to improve science, technology, and innovation.