PIA 2018 Annual Meeting: Reflections and Looking Ahead

April 25, 2018

Last week I joined my first Annual Meeting of the MIT Practical Impact Alliance. The fourth convening at MIT since the network was launched, the Annual Meeting is an opportunity to kick-off the year-long PIA working groups in person and to develop and foster connections and collaborations across the network and MIT D-Lab more broadly. The meeting is also when we release the thought leadership and publications from the previous year’s PIA working groups—more on that next week.

Spread over three full days, this year’s Annual Meeting kicked off by posing attendees with the question: What does Practical Impact Alliance mean to you? Since D-Lab is a community of makers, we asked them to answer this question visually. See one group's representation of PIA here - a series of tools and interconnected circles representing the many individuals and organizations who are a part of the network and the hands-on approach we take through our projects and collaborations.

The day continued with an introduction to D-Lab’s four communities of practice through a collaborative session which utilized D-Lab’s design methodology and problem framing tools to tackle real development challenges.  The next two days members spent time engaging with each other’s programs, critically analyzing obstacles, and setting the stage for future collaboration that could allow each to reach their goals.


PIA members took part in a collaborative workshop, where they spent time sharing challenges and acheivements around member specific social impact themes members—including  innovation impact measurement, cross-cutting coalitions, accelerating remote innovation networks, and leveraging last-mile retail – and offered resources and potential pilot opportunities to arrive at more efficient solutions and PIA led collaborations.


Led by Valeria Varga of BoP Innovation Center, this workshop through the analysis of a PIA member’s demand case, led participants to explore case specific challenges to scale, apply a draft BoP Inc. and MIT PIA framework, and design creative distribution prototypes to scale appropriate and affordable marketing strategies for BoP markets.


With guests from Envirofit International, Equal Innovation Consulting, MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program, MIT Sloan School of Management, S3IDF, Solve, and the MIT Media Lab,  PIA Members, Social Entrepreneurs, Ecosystem Builders worked together to map the entrepreneurship ecosystems related to their own work and tackle potential areas for innovation and collaborative action.


Co-led by MIT-D-Lab, Intellecap, and Blood Orange, the 2017 PIA Hybrid Partnerships working group developed the Partnership Activation Tool (P-ACT). P-ACT is a dialog facilitation tool that fosters open and constructive dialogue among practitioners during the partnership activation phase. The tool prototype was launched during the April 2018 annual meeting in an interactive session. Learn more about the tool and it’s next steps here.


Some PIA members stayed after the annual meeting to take part of the events celebrating social entrepreneurship at MIT including the IDEAS Global Challenge Showcase where three PIA members participated as judges. IDEAS is an annual innovation and social entrepreneurship program enabling students to apply their MIT education in real-world situations to tackle quality of life issues for people around the world. Learn more about this year’s winners here.

See more highlights from the week here.

Reflecting back on the week, I’m left with more ideas to bring forward in 2018 and beyond and enthusiastic for the learning that’s still ahead in this year’s working groups. I am looking forward to the next opportunity to convene this  group in Laayoune, Morocco November 26-30 for the PIA Co-Design Summit!

- Amanda Epting, Manager, PIA