Featuring New PIA Member: Pact

January 10, 2017

Michelle Risinger is Innovation Lead at Pact, and MIT PIA is thrilled to welcome her and her colleagues as our newest members. They are no strangers to the PIA community, having participated in the PIA Co-Design Summit in Zambia in 2016, and we look forward to many more opportunities to innovate and co-create together. Read on to learn more about Pact, Michelle and the Innovation team, and their plans for engaging in PIA.

1) Why did you choose to join the MIT Practical Impact Alliance (PIA)? What value do you anticipate for Pact? 
PIA actually began around the same time that Pact created it’s Innovation practice. And we have been watching PIA expand and grow since its inception, waiting for the right moment to jump on board. Pact’s Innovation team has since grown from a small team of one person to a robust, dynamic team of four, and now is a great time for Pact to engage with PIA. After 3.5 years developing an Innovation practice, Pact is in a unique position to both share our experiences and lessons learned, and look for new partnerships and collaborations that can build off of our learning. The Innovation space within International Development is a small world of dedicated practitioners attempting to influence a field which often perpetuates the status quo and lacks the time and resources to innovate. Pact believes this collective of game changers that comprise PIA has the unique ability to shape the future of international development.
2) Which element of PIA are you most excited to engage in this year?
Pact is most excited about the prospects of co-creation and design thinking. In our years operating an innovation practice we have learned that innovation flourishes best when you start by solving a problem, instead of starting by going after funding and trying to wrangle innovation into an often prescriptive RFP. Very square peg, round hole.  Our team is strongly focused on fostering enabling cultures of innovation and it will be a real pleasure to sit down with like-minded organizations who embrace these philosophies.
3) Which Pact priorities or projects do you see as most relevant to the PIA network and approach?
Pact’s Innovation practice focuses on a portfolio of innovative methods and solutions which are designed to cultivate enabling environments for innovation. From our internal Pact Global Innovation Competition to a Knowledge Management platform designed to source new ideas, from department FailFests to a plethora of design and innovation workshops, our unit has constructed cross-cutting global consortiums, applied and won funding globally to build technology apps, been featured by SSIR for its design thinking and is dedicated to building an environment of experimentation, prototyping and iteration.

About Pact
Pact is a promise of a better tomorrow for all those who are poor and marginalized. Working in partnership to develop local solutions that enable people to own their own future, Pact helps people and communities build their own capacity to generate income, improve access to quality health services, and gain lasting benefit from the sustainable use of the natural resources around them. At work in more than 30 countries, Pact is building local promise with an integrated, adaptive approach that is shaping the future of international development. Visit us at www.pactworld.org.

Michelle Risinger is a gender specialist with 8 years’ experience in humanitarian assistance, social innovation and vulnerable populations specializing in conflict and post-conflict countries. She is currently serving as the Innovation Lead at Pact, working to cultivate, harvest and monetize innovation in international development programs. She serves as Pact’s technical expert in human-centered design and is the creator and facilitator of Pact’s Country Office Innovation Workshop, Pact’s FailFest methodology and Pact’s internal Global Innovation Competition. She manages an internal knowledge management platform to catalyze innovation and entrepreneurship within the organization and manages business development opportunities for innovation and asset creation. Previously, Michelle served with the American Red Cross in Iraq and Afghanistan, where she designed and implemented health and education programs for women and youth. She was also responsible for the logistics and distribution of humanitarian supplies across the middle east and south central Asia. With a master’s degree in international peace and conflict studies from the University of St Andrews, Scotland, she has been published in numerous periodicals on women’s issues, social innovation, and health awareness campaigns.