International Program Intern


GKI is looking for a passionate and enthusiastic person keen to support international development through the application of science, technology, and innovation.  The intern will support GKI through research, writing, and performance of communication and outreach tasks in GKI’s target geographies—Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere. The intern will also conduct primary and secondary research on the economic, scientific, technological, and institutional contexts of target geographies.  The intern will gain experience in international development project management and support, while being exposed to an extensive network of international experts in foreign policy, development, and a wide array of issue areas.

The ideal candidate should have a broad interest in international development and leveraging international networks to solve development challenges.  Specific interest or experience in GKI’s target geographies is a plus, as is experience working in the field of international development.  The intern must display excellent English written and oral skills, with demonstrated interpersonal and organizational abilities.  A candidate for this position must be able to work in a varied, fast-paced environment, both in a team and independently.


  • Research and produce analyses of economic, social, and scientific/technological contexts in relevant countries, economic sectors, and institutions
  • Research and support development of training materials on collaborative innovation
  • Write press releases and blogs for the GKI website, and for dissemination to media outlets and development professionals
  • Communicate with international and domestic partners on behalf of GKI
  • Provide administrative and logistical support as needed


  • In pursuit of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in a field relevant to science, technology, and innovation for development (Master’s preferred).  This may include but is not limited to: international development, economics, international relations, science and technology policy, public policy, or any scientific or technical fields (e.g. mechanical engineering, biological sciences)
  • Experience or career interest in international development
  • Strong research and analytical skills
  • Outstanding English written and oral communication skills
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of a team in a varied, fast-paced environment
  • Flexibility and adaptability; willingness to take on new challenges and learn new skills
  • Preference will be given to candidates who can provide their own laptop

Location: Washington, DC
Weekly Time Commitment: 15-20 hours per week during school year
Start Date: September 7, 2016 (flexible)
Internship Length: Approximately 4 months (until January 13, 2017), with possibility of extension
Paid/Unpaid: Unpaid

Application Process:

To apply, please send a one-page cover letter, resume, a short writing sample (no more than 2 pages), and indicate 2-3 references to Renee Vuillaume, Program Officer, at  The cover letter should express your qualifications, experience, and interest in this position.  To learn more about GKI’s mission and programs, please visit our website at:

Resumes will be accepted through August 17, 2016, and will be reviewed on a rolling basis.  The preferred start-date is approximately September 7, 2016.


Identifying the Next $100 Million Idea for Social Impact

Imagine that moment when you’re planning a financial investment.  Investing in a high-potential offering, when it is still in early days, allows you to maximize the return on your investment.

Now consider the pervasive challenges faced by the poor and vulnerable communities in the world.  How might investors in solutions to those challenges identify investments that can yield high social returns?  This is where the Horizon Scanning work of the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) team offers exciting insights.

The GKI team is collaborating closely with The Rockefeller Foundation to pilot the design of The Rockefeller Foundation’s Scanning function to help identify pressing problems facing our economies, ecosystems, health systems, and communities that are ripe for engagement and innovation.  The Rockefeller Foundation strives to catalyze and scale transformative innovations, create unlikely partnerships that span sectors, and take risks others cannot.  Horizon Scanning builds on an established Strategic Foresight method and looks for weak signals indicating the emergence of new patterns of activity, new solutions, and new frameworks of understanding.  These can point to high-leverage opportunities for social impact.


Participants identify emerging trends in our Horizon Scanning workshop (Photo Credit: GKI).

Workshops run by skilled facilitators employ various prompts to guide participants through the scanning process to leverage their expertise, experience, imagination, and creativity to identify these weak signals.  The Annual Asia Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) conference in Hong Kong presented an excellent opportunity to host a scanning convening. On May 27, more than 60 leaders in global philanthropy, impact investing, and social innovation joined GKI and The Rockefeller Foundation to identify emerging trends and weak signals of change on a range of issues of interest to the Foundation.

The Outcomes?

Participants identified 297 early signals of change on the twelve problem spaces listed below:

  1. Food waste and post-harvest food loss
  2. Weak public health systems in the face of disease outbreaks
  3. Inefficient, expensive, or polluting transit systems
  4. Insufficient municipal service delivery for the poorest
  5. Weak economic systems after health crises
  6. Under-addressed mental health challenges
  7. Warming and acidifying oceans
  8. Imprecise measurement of the true value of ecosystems
  9. Poor waste management
  10. Exclusion of women in the workplace
  11. Affordable housing shortages
  12. Environmental and social impacts of the extractives sector

Through facilitated dialogues and using convergence techniques to bring together a range of myriad signals, the workshop participants identified three problem spaces as exhibiting high momentum for change, suggesting high return on potential intervention and investment:

  1. Under-addressed mental health challenges: Increased emphasis on holistic wellness on the global diversity and inclusion agenda is creating momentum for action in this problem space.  Participants recognized instances of pre-emptive action to address mental health challenges, especially with a focus on provision of service to low-income and vulnerable populations.

Participants identify weak signals of the future in our Horizon Scanning workshop (Photo credit: GKI).

2. Exclusion of women in the workplace: We may have a long way to go to realize a future where gender inequities are artifacts of the past, but change is emerging. Evidence signaling this change?  Public and private sector action in providing maternity and paternity leave, corporate quotas on women executives, nurseries in offices, and a trend toward more flexible work hours.  Emerging research highlights the economic impact of diversity and increased presence of women in the workforce on businesses.

  1. Food waste and post-harvest loss: There is a fast growing recognition of the high returns to investment by taking action in this problem space, with the opportunity to reduce post-harvest loss by 30-50% globally. Substantial discussion at the workshop focused on increased application of ICT and GIS mapping technologies to bring efficiency, accountability, and profitability to different supply chains.  Participants also noted new local and “ugly” food initiatives resulting in shorter supply chains and food being consumed that might otherwise be lost.

These insights will be further researched and studied to explore future areas of action. More broadly, the GKI team continues to develop its Horizon Scanning methodology and aspires to share it more widely with the social sector.

We’re Hiring!

Are you ready to join a team committed to addressing some of the world’s most pressing development challenges?  Are you eager to design and test alternatives to “business as usual” in international development?  Are you a risk-taker that enjoys design, leadership, analysis, and learning?  If yes, consider joining the Global Knowledge Initiative as a Senior Program Officer.

We seek a highly qualified, passionate, and proven leader to serve as our Senior Program Officer. This position suits a recognized, creative problem solver with a demonstrated commitment to building and managing teams and networks.  Ideal candidates will blend a background in international development, expertise in forging international partnerships, and team and network management experience.  The Senior Program Officer must exhibit creativity, empathy, perseverance, and a commitment to excellence in program design and execution.  The Senior Program Officer will be a strategic thinker who thrives in a truly diverse range of settings.  This individual should be able to easily transition between big-picture planning, outward-facing partnership development, group facilitation, and on-the-ground implementation.  The Senior Program Officer will report directly to GKI’s managing executive, the Chief Operating Officer.

The application deadline is May 27, 2016.  Please click here for more information and details on how to apply!

Waste Not, Want Not: The Challenge of Feeding Nine Billion People and the Innovations Making It Possible



A farmer harvests sorghum produced from seeds donated by the Food and Agriculture Organization. Photo Credit: FAO via Creative Commons.

The statistics on food waste and food loss are staggering.  The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has estimated that one third of all food produced worldwide is either lost (i.e., goes bad before it can be eaten) or wasted (i.e., thrown away).  That adds up to an unimaginable 2.8 trillion pounds of food—enough to feed three billion people.  To make matters worse, by 2050 the planet must have effective systems in place to supply food to nine billion people, but governments, international institutions, and businesses have yet to solve this global challenge.

Against the backdrop of finding and developing innovations to feed those 9 billion people, the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) became a proud partner of the Thought for Food (TFF) Global Summit, a movement dedicated to engaging with the many complex challenges surrounding global food security.  TFF is designed to mentor teams of three to five students from top universities around the globe in a highly engaging and competitive setting.  The TFF Global Summit provides the space and the tools to design, develop, and implement innovative solutions to mitigate food waste and food loss at all levels of the food cycle, from farm to table.

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2015 TFF team Innovision celebrates their $10,000 win.  Photo Credit: Thought for Food.

After groups present their innovations, judges choose from among the most effective solutions to provide further support, including a Grand Prize of $10,000 to the top team.  In 2014, a winning team of Australian college students created the food-swapping app called Food! UP that encourages communal sharing by letting neighbors post about their extra food on the app and find willing partners who agree to a food price (whether monetary or barter-based) or decide to share for free.  Meanwhile, a team of Indian students took inspiration from Uber (an app used globally to pair riders and drivers) and developed Aahaar, an automated refrigeration truck system to effectively transport short-shelf-life foods before they perish.  Aahaar can reduce food spoilage during transportation from 50% to a mere 10%.

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Aerial view of Zurich, Switzerland. Photo Credit: World Tour Wallpapers.

This year, GKI is excited to facilitate interactive sessions at the TFF Global Summit in Zurich, Switzerland in early April, using interactive tools such as the Three Horizons Model to help participants analyze the current state of the food loss challenge, develop a shared vision for the ideal future, and then work to brainstorm how specific innovations might transition us from the present to that ideal future.  GKI’s Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, Sara Farley, will also deliver a keynote address at the Summit.

GKI is looking forward to continuing its tradition of teaching and learning from student innovators at the Thought For Food Global Summit in less than a month!  Until then, read more about GKI’s work on the issue through its Social Innovation Lab for The Rockefeller Foundation’s Food Waste and Spoilage initiative.

Contributors: Katie Bowman and Serena Gobbi

Intern Profile: Mahnoor Hussain and Serena Gobbi

The Global Knowledge Initiative is thrilled to welcome new talent to our team, including two new interns for the spring semester: Mahnoor Hussain and Serena Gobbi.  We are glad to have the help on several of our new projects.  See below for profiles Mahnoor and Serena: 

IMG_4077.JPGMahnoor Hussain:

Mahnoor is an intern for the Spring 2016 semester and contributes her research and writing skills to several GKI initiatives.  Mahnoor has been working closely with the GKI team in creating material for the upcoming Thought For Food Global Summit in Switzerland and has written blog posts reporting on GKI’s work on the Potato Taste Challenge Prize with the Alliance for Coffee Excellence and the Rwanda Agriculture Board.

Mahnoor is a senior at American University’s School of International Service with a regional focus in South Asia.  As an active member in both academic and student life she serves on the e-board as a marketing director for the U.S. Pakistan Women’s Council Student Chapter, which facilitates discussion with inspiring Pakistani professionals on topics of gender and development.  In addition, Mahnoor has interned at the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project where she coordinated outreach and provided technical assistance to members of the community.  Prior to joining GKI, she studied abroad at the University of London, SOAS and went on to conduct fieldwork with local minority communities in Lahore, Pakistan.


Serena Gobbi:IMG_4072.JPG

At GKI, Serena contributes research, writing, and editing to several initiatives.  She serves in a support capacity for several initiatives, including GKI’s current research and design project developing anticipatory monitoring and evaluation tools for assessing innovation impact potential (AIIP).  Her work includes research on systems-of-systems thinking, network analysis, and human centered design.

A senior in Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, Serena specializes in international political economy.  At Georgetown, Serena serves on the Carroll Round Steering Committee as Editor-in-Chief of the Carroll Round Proceedings.  The Carroll Round hosts an annual research conference highlighting original research in the fields of international economics and political economy by U.S. and international undergraduates.

Before coming to GKI, Serena spent the beginning of 2015 studying abroad in Yaoundé, Cameroon while working for a microfinance organization.  She then spent the second half of the year working in DC with Cure Violence, collaborating on design, development, and presentation of the Cure Violence model and adaptations to potential funders, including the US Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the World Bank.  Her work also included developing a deeper understanding of violence reduction in urban systems and countering violent extremism through team program design, data monitoring, and program evaluation in Syria, Palestine, Latin America, and the U.S. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Serena speaks English and French.

Announcing GKI’s Third Year with MSU’s Academy for Global Engagement

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AGE Fellows Dr. Sara Roccabianca and Dr. Robert Montgomery participate in GKI training program in East Lansing, Michigan.

The Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) is proud to announce that we are beginning a third year of working with the Academy for Global Engagement (AGE) Fellowship Program at Michigan State University (MSU).  AGE, which was created in 2013, seeks to enhance MSU’s global profile and impact by building the strengths and networks of a group of faculty members engaged in global activities. Since 2014, GKI has supported AGE by helping Fellows better understand their challenges, more effectively communicate about their research, and build a network of partners who support their efforts and impact.

Each year, the AGE fellowship program selects outstanding early-career, tenure-track faculty from the University’s College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and provides these Fellows with a faculty mentor and extensive training and support. The cohort participates in monthly seminars, receives financial support for travel and research, and builds international networks. Through this innovative partnership, GKI provides skills-building and mentoring support, and provides feedback on how Fellows communicate their work.

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GKI Chief Operating Officer Sara Farley working with AGE Fellow Dr. Gerald Urquhart.

Early in the fellowship process GKI leads the cohort through a series of activities intended to help them communicate the core challenge they are working to solve, and explore elements of their research challenge that they may not have considered. After months of honing the way they “pitch” their research to potential partners and funders, GKI then welcomes the cohort to an autumn training in Washington, DC to develop and refine their pitches before meeting with policymakers, funders, and research partners. The cohort has the opportunity to meet and communicate with potential partners including USAID, the National Science Foundation, and the World Bank. In the past two years alone, the fellows have acquired approximately $21 million for their research; a good portion of this funding has come from connections made in Washington, DC.

Ultimately, the fellowship program is designed to further MSU’s commitment to engage globally with the major challenges of today and tomorrow by enabling professors to critically take on international priorities and develop innovative solutions. Past fellows have worked on issues ranging from access to clean water to skin cancer, contributing research to the development of low-cost energy solutions and new transportation technologies, among many other initiatives. Through this process, they have the potential to gain greater international impact, additional funding, international partners, and confidence in discussing their work. As 2014 fellow Dr. Wen Li said about her DC experience, “It has opened the doors of opportunities for reaching out to program managers who never answered emails or calls.  The ‘pitch’ practice has broken the barriers to reframing my research ideas.”

GKI hopes that each of the 2016 Fellows has a similarly positive experience, and looks forward to working with them as they begin to map out their research strategies to address global priorities!


  • Contributors: Serena Gobbi and Andrew Gerard

GKI Implements Challenge Scoping Lab on ICT in Education in South Africa


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Participants add insights on education challenges in South Africa.  Photo Credit: GKI

How can a resource-constrained government determine what social or economic challenges it should take on, and when?  Once the government has identified these challenges, how can it quickly establish systems for developing and implementing solutions?  In 2015, the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) partnered with designer Mariko Takeuchi, the World Bank, and the South African government to help education stakeholders identify the most important challenges in education to address through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and—in doing so—developed structures to answer those questions.

GKI, which has supported education policy design efforts in Africa since 2010, developed and implemented a structure to identify critical challenges.  These challenges serve as a focal point for a larger process utilized by the South Africa government, called Operation Phakisa (“Phakisa” means “Hurry up” in the Sesotho language).  Operation Phakisa is based on an immersive policy development methodology built by the Malaysian Government in 2009, and which has now been spread to a number of countries in the developing and industrialized world.  A key mechanism used by Operation Phakisa is the Delivery Lab methodology—intensive multi-week policy development sessions engaging numerous stakeholders across sectors to create detailed, well-resourced implementation plans to fast-track responses to high-level challenges.  The Operation Phakisa methodology has been utilized by two other South African Government departments to date; the Department of Environmental Affairs and Department of Health.  In late 2014, the South African Presidency determined that the next Delivery Lab would focus on ICTs in education.

Improving the quality of education remains a persistent challenge in South Africa, despite having one of the highest rates of public investment in education in the world.  At the same time, the government has begun implementing ICT-based interventions aimed at both improving student achievement and making the implementation of education programs more efficient.  Through Operation Phakisa, the government hoped to develop an implementation strategy that would link integrated ICT investments to improvements in learning.  However, before holding a Delivery Lab to develop an implementation strategy, South Africa recognized that it needed to identify the key challenges that should be tackled.

In early 2015, GKI worked with Operation Phakisa, The Department of Basic Education, and Mariko Takeuchi to develop a unique innovation lab methodology focused on understanding the underlying challenges in education by applying a human-centered design approach.  The result of this design work was the Challenge Scoping Lab model, which explored problems within the education sector and then identified those key challenges that establish the strongest focal points for ICT interventions to be designed in the Delivery Lab.  Understanding the challenges most critical to education requires clarifying opportunities and constraints confronting users of the education system (students, parents, etc.), those responsible for implementing education programs (teachers, administrators, etc.), and other stakeholders (tech firms, unions, etc.).

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Mariko Takeuchi works with Lab participants in South Africa.  Photo Credit: GKI

Kicked off in June 2015, the Lab involved a cohort of 10 education professionals who conducted ethnographic research to understand the needs of stakeholders and—by comparing these insights to systematic challenges identified by education experts—began identifying the most pressing challenges facing education. This group then worked with 30 additional stakeholders, including representatives from the private sector, unions, government, and other groups from across South Africa, to shape these insights into a list of 46 critical challenges.

These challenges ranged from “How might we develop a solution that allows provinces to ensure that accredited training is delivered to teachers?” to “How might we develop a solution that allows learners to have regular, predictable access to the internet?” and focused on the needs of teachers, students, provinces, and other key stakeholders.  The challenges identified through this process provided a strong launch pad for South Africa’s education sector stakeholders to develop a robust ICT in education implementation strategy during the Delivery Lab held in October 2015—an important step toward delivering on the South African government’s promise to significantly improve the country’s education system.