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Photo by Holley Gaskill

IDDS Zero Waste Participant Applications are Open!

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Apply here by December 1, 2014 at 5pm EST!

En Español

What is IDDS?
The International Development Design Summit (IDDS) is an intense, hands-on design experience that brings together people from all walks of life to co-create low cost technologies that improve the livelihoods of people living in poverty. IDDS is part of the International Development Innovation Network (IDIN) program, an effort funded by USAID’s Higher Education Solution Network (HESN). The IDIN program is led by MIT, but includes other academic, institutional, and innovation center partners in the US, Brazil, Ghana, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Singapore, as well as over 400 former IDDS participants and innovators living and working across the globe. IDDS is is a collaborative effort organized by local organizers and other IDIN members. Read more about IDDS and IDIN here.

What is IDDS Zero Waste?
IDDS Zero Waste is a two-week themed summit that will be hosted in Cali, Colombia from June 14 – 29, 2014. In an effort to move cities worldwide towards zero waste by creating more inclusive waste management systems, this summit aims to bring together a global and specialized mix of Spanish speaking participants (from waste pickers to municipal workers to business leaders to community members) to create basic prototypes and business models of practical technologies that improve waste management. Read more about IDDS Zero Waste here.

What would a participant do at IDDS Zero Waste?
Over the two-week period, participants will learn about the basics of the design process, waste management systems in general, and the current waste management system in Cali. Through team visits to several local stakeholder groups (waste pickers association, local stationary factory, city government office, etc.), participants will live and work with other participants from the city and around the globe to apply the design process to waste management systems by assessing the system, identifying a particular challenge, and co-creating a prototype of a sustainable technological solution. By the end of the summit, each diverse participant team will have created a basic prototype and business model for their proposed solution.

What would a participant do after IDDS Zero Waste?
After IDDS, each participant becomes a member of the larger International Development Innovation Network (IDIN) with nearly 400 other IDDS alumni from all over the globe. Through IDIN, alumni have access to a variety of resources and opportunities to support their project they started at IDDS and/or other innovative ideas they develop after IDDS.  During the summit, we have specific sessions that orient participants to what it means to be apart of the network, how to stay connected, and what opportunities and resources are available (for you, your project, and/or the community you worked with).

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Photo by Holley Gaskill

What types of participants are you looking for?
For IDDS Zero Waste, we are looking to bring together a specialized mix of 40 participants who:

  • Speak Spanish and English (the summit will be in Spanish)
  • Have expertise or a background in: waste management systems, waste to energy technologies, design, engineering, business, social entrepreneurship, or other waste related topics or technologies
  • Enjoy creating things with their hands and believe they can solve problems
  • Show passion and enthusiasm for improving livelihoods with technology, even if they are not a technologist
  • Have a strong likelihood to continue working on their project and/or another IDIN activity after the summit
  • Are excellent team players
  • Represent a diversity of nationalities, cultures, ages, genders, professions, interests, and backgrounds

When and how can I apply?
Applications are now open! If you are interested to participate in IDDS Zero Waste, please complete the application here by December 1, 2014 at 5pm EST.  While we prefer that you submit your application through our online platform or have someone help you to do so, if you are in an area with low internet access, you can print the application, write in the answers, and mail to the address below by December 1:

IDDS Zero Waste Cali
c/o MIT D-Lab
MIT Building N51
265 Mass. Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139

Any incomplete applications or applications received after 5pm EST will not be considered.  If you have any questions or technical difficulties, please email

Are there any eligibility criteria?
Yes. In order to be considered for IDDS Zero Waste in Cali:

  • Applicants must complete application on time and references must be submitted on time – no late or incomplete applications will be reviewed.  References can submit their forms online here. 
  • Applicants must be at least 18 years of age to apply.
  • Applicants must be able to attend the entire Summit.
  • Applicants must be able to speak Spanish
  • Applicants should be comfortable handling and working around both organic and recyclable materials on a daily basis
  • Applicants should have a background in at least one of the following fields is key: waste management systems, waste to energy technologies, design, engineering, business, social entrepreneurship, or other waste related topics or technologies

How much does it cost to participate in IDDS Waste?
The organizing committee does everything it can to keep costs as low as possible. For this reason there are no registration fees for accepted participants. However, there are room and board costs as well as transport and health costs. The following are the expenses associated with participation in IDDS Zero Waste in Cali.  All costs are in USD.

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Are there any scholarships or financial assistance available?
For those who feel they are unable to cover or fundraise the complete costs outlined above, there will be a small amount of financial assistance available. To apply for financial assistance, please complete the Financial Assistance Form by December 19 at 5pm. If you have any questions, please contact the IDDS financial assistance committee at Each applicant’s financial assistance application will be reviewed separately from your program application – meaning your financial status will not be considered when we are selecting participants.

Other Questions or Comments?
Contact the lead organizer Pedro Reynolds-Cuellar and the organizing team at

Experiencing “Rethink Relief” for the First Time

By David Okello

David Okello, Program manager of Caritas in Pader Uganda shares memories of his first experience at Rethink Relief in the Netherlands just a week before Rethink Relief 2014 takes place in the community he calls home.

Rethink Relief is a design workshop dedicated to creating technologies for humanitarian relief that address the gap between short-term relief and long-term development. This year’s Rethink Relief will be held November 8-15 in Pader, Uganda in partnership with Caritas Uganda. It’s the first of the three summits to take place in a post-conflict area.

Tet Center staff

It was October 2011 when I had the opportunity to attend the very first Rethink Relief conference in Delft, Netherlands. It all started with a “heads-on” panel discussion on the challenges of transition from relief to development and ended with “hands-on” design process during the last three days of the five-day conference.

Coming from a project management background, I was not sure if I would be relevant and make any contribution toward the technology design process when the session shifted from “heads-on” to “hands-on.” Our group was assigned to work on rainwater harvesting for the rural resettling community in northern Uganda. It was indeed an amazing process. I learned how systematic and iterative engineers are as they move through the design process and soon, I was as busy as any engineer at a lab.

What I took with me home from the conference is that technology design and innovation is a creation of the mind. And what one needs to develop technology is a creative mind that does not limit its thinking capacity. I also learned that many people normally limit their minds or underestimate their creative capacity and as a result, they convince themselves that “it is impossible,” yet they have the capacity to undo the impossibilities. I also learned that once the thinking process is grounded to paper, pen, hammer, saws, and drills, the immediate results are prototypes and sooner or later, a technology is born!

Now, moving from the “high comfort” in Delft in Netherlands to the “low comfort” in Pader Northern Uganda to host the Rethink Relief, I am very excited and humbled to be a host, to take leadership in planning and organizing, and to have this great team of creators in Africa, Uganda and Pader in particular.

Hosting Rethink Relief in Pader is especially important given the large number of refugees still living without basic needs in Northern Uganda. The summit will engage both local refugees and individuals from around the world to co-create technologies and approaches specifically tailored for improving life in refugee camps.

My greatest desire and wish is that whatever technology design process that will start here in Pader shall be completed in any corner of the world; be it in the high-tech lab in the US, Europe, Asia or Africa, it shall trace its origin and benefit the refugee communities in any parts of the world.