Contemporary Developing Countries: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Problems (at FAS)

What problems do developing countries face, and how can individuals contribute to solutions rather than awaiting 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. The course will also examine entrepreneurial solutions that have sought to address challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and by society’s response to it.

Prerequisites: None. 

Jointly offered courses: Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) as SW47, Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) as DEV-338, Harvard Graduate School of Design (DES) as SES 5375, and Harvard Law School (HLS) as 2543. 

Location: Sever Hall Rm 113.


Open to cross-registration for students from other schools and universities. May accept a limited number of auditors, pending instructor approval.