USAID and Big Ideas@Berkeley Launch Essay Competition on Blind Spots in International Development

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Blind Spots Essay Contest FlyerThe U.S. Agency for International Development’s Global Development Lab (the Lab) and UC Berkeley are teaming up to launch an essay contest as a part of the Big Ideas@Berkeley annual contest. The pilot competition, “Blind Spots in International Development,” seeks to spotlight challenges in global development not widely recognized that are in need of greater attention or resources as well as innovative approaches to solve those challenges. In line with the mission of the Lab and the philosophy behind Big Ideas@Berkeley, the contest asks participants to draw upon their field experience and educational, professional, personal, or other backgrounds to analyze how development gaps can be bridged through science, technology, innovation, or strategic partnerships (STIP).

The Blind Spots Essay Contest was created to provide current students or seasoned career professionals with an opportunity to think outside existing frameworks and share cutting-edge perspectives on how best to deal with overlooked areas in global development. “This is an exciting new collaboration with USAID and the Lab,” said Phillip Denny, program manager for Big Ideas@Berkeley. “We are asking participants with field experience to be our eyes and ears, and teach the global community about those development issues that are not widely recognized, but are hindering programs and initiatives that aim to save the lives of millions. The goal is to increase knowledge sharing not only within our respective organizations and institutions, but also with the development community as a whole.”

Essay participants will answer the question “What is the most significant overlooked development challenge that can be addressed using STIP?” (One example of a STIP is USAID’s work with South African partners and researchers to fund the CAPRISA 004 trial, which resulted in a huge leap forward in women-controlled HIV prevention. The trial demonstrated that use of a microbicide gel containing an antiretroviral drug helps prevent the transmission of HIV.) The essay is also intended to encourage development practitioners to think about a topic holistically. It asks participants to explore the contexts of development challenges, including the various social, economic, political, and/or environmental barriers to approaching the problem, or the potential local, regional, or global impact a STIP intervention may have.

The contest launches on September 2 and is open to students from the universities within USAID’s Higher Education Solutions Network, global researchers in the Research and Innovation Fellows and Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research programs, and USAID Mission Staff. Awards are $3,000 for first place, $2,000 for second, and $1,000 for third, as well as publication through the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and on numerous websites and networks. Essays must be 1,750 to 2,000 words in length and submitted by October 1. Winners will be announced on November 10.

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