MIT D-Lab recently welcomed new Executive Director Ana Pantelic to its team. Pantelic has worked at the confluence of systems change and social innovation and brings nearly 15 years of policy and practice experience in Latin America, East Africa and the Balkans.
“As we prepare to enter our third decade, we are delighted to have Ana on board to guide our vision and help implement our goal of deepening and broadening the impact of D-Lab at MIT. and around the world, ”said Amy, Founding Director of D-Lab. Black-smith. “Her leadership skills and experience navigating complex projects in Colombia and Uganda make her an excellent choice as an Executive Director, and we look forward to working with her. “
“I am delighted to be here,” says Pantelic. “D-Lab is leading bright minds – at MIT and around the world – towards the challenges of global poverty. “
Paths shaped by curiosity and chance
Specializing in poverty reduction through the lens of finance, Pantelic’s experience includes working for UNICEF, where she launched Uganda’s first urban social protection program for adolescent girls, and Fundación Capital, where she founded a proven digital solution to improve the financial health of people living in poverty. She has been invited to share her ideas at conferences in over 20 countries and is the author of several publications, speaks three languages fluently, and holds an MA in International Relations from Boston University and a Doctorate in Political Science from the ‘University of Belgrade. .
Regarding his career trajectory, Pantelic comments: “I have experienced the geographic and thematic depth and breadth of my work over the years and have intentionally sought diversity, using curiosity. intellectual and a dose of serendipity to guide me ”.
It looks a lot like D-Lab: global, organic in its development, guided by curiosity and based on expertise.
D-Lab was founded in 2002 by Amy Smith, as a unique class working with a community partner in Haiti who identified a need for alternatives to wood cooking fuels and wood-derived charcoal. As D-Lab added topics to its academic list, it also deepened its research ranging from biofuels, evaporative cooling and water purification to studying local innovation and field research methods, and has developed its valuable network of community partners around the world. . Over nearly two decades, MIT D-Lab programs have grown to include more than 15 interdisciplinary MIT courses; engineering and social science research groups; methodologies that guide the design and development of technologies for, with and by people living in poverty; and a network of community partners in some 20 countries who work with D-Lab on a series of international field programs.
“The D-Lab plays a vital role at MIT and in international development,” says Pantelic. “Over 2,500 students have participated in a course or research opportunity with D-Lab, and they are extremely satisfied with their experiences with D-Lab. A study has shown that we increase their capacity to understand global social problems, to design solutions to problems and to integrate knowledge in all disciplines; and we influence their career path.
A participatory approach to design and development
“Persistent poverty is a consequence of the power imbalance,” says Pantelic, “and those who suffer from it rarely have the opportunity to help design the policies and programs that are intended for them. Whether they are governments designing social protection programs or non-profit organizations distributing water purification tablets, people living in poverty are generally defined as the “beneficiaries” of a proposed solution. , rather than as “clients” or even “designers” of this solution. D-Lab does a great job of challenging these power dynamics.
D-Lab is known around the world for this approach to participatory design in resource-limited environments. D-Lab students, researchers and practitioners do not design in a vacuum. Community partners identify needs, define problems, and communicate cultural and material preferences, and D-Lab brings engineering, IT, and other knowledge and experience to the design table.
And that excites Pantelic. “I think students are drawn to D-Lab because they want to have a positive impact on people and the planet,” she notes. “And along the way, they’re discovering that scarcity fuels creativity, and that solving engineering questions with the added complexity of constraints within low-income communities provides a tremendous platform for learning.”
Hit the ground running
There is a lot to learn and do as the new Executive Director, and Pantelic impresses the D-Lab team with a quick study.
“Since her debut at D-Lab a little over a month ago, Ana has embarked on the adventure,” says Maria Yang, vice-dean of engineering, who is director of the academic faculty at D-Lab. “She absorbed an extraordinary amount of material on the history and operations of D-Lab and met with staff from D-Lab and MIT. After a calm August, she now soaks up the very special atmosphere of the D-Lab space at N51, with students flocking for classes, the buzzing workshop and researchers returning to their posts and their work on campus. It is a pleasure to have him on board.
This fall, D-Lab is offering six courses and is engaging in research and practice both remotely and in person. “D-Lab classes stand out at MIT for their ability to help students understand the complexity of social issues and develop global awareness,” says Pantelic. “Some students feel the weight of the world on their shoulders and no longer just run after profit before the goal. D-Lab offers students a window to the world through experiential learning and participatory innovation, and invites them to connect with MIT’s motto “mens and manus”, or “the spirit and the hand ”, to design a more equitable world. “
Get ready for D-Lab’s 20th anniversary
In 2017, on the occasion of D-Lab’s 15th anniversary, MIT President L. Rafael Reif said in a congratulatory letter that “D-Lab has become a global laboratory, leveraging MIT’s strengths to design, create, build and improve the world ”, and that D-Lab“ has become one of MIT’s most popular and meaningful experiences ”. Four years later, after deepening its work and expanding its impact, D-Lab is about to celebrate its first two decades.
“I joined D-Lab at a pivotal time,” says Pantelic. “Next year we’ll be celebrating an important milestone, and it’s a great opportunity not only to reflect on our trajectory, but also to explore where we want to go next. I will work closely with our staff, students and community partners to define a strategy for D-Lab in which we do more of what we do well, while further integrating diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging to our organizational culture. “
Kate Trimble, Senior Associate Dean and Director of the Office for Experiential Learning, says of Pantelic: “It takes a special person to lead a complex organization like D-Lab that has such an important and broad mission – educating students of the world. MIT, to conduct research that produces actionable results to address global challenges of poverty, and to catalyze and support innovation in low- and middle-income communities around the world. Ana has the core values, global experience, leadership skills and passion for building a better world that make her the right fit for this moment in D-Lab’s nearly 20 year history.