GEM 2014

Harvard's Center for International Development (CID) hosted its 7th Global Empowerment Meeting earlier this fall. CID's flagship annual event brings together an invitation only list of select leaders and thinkers from development, government, business and philanthropy. Each year the group engages around the major development problems in the world today, and explore cutting-edge ideas to solve them.

It was an ambitious agenda, and it did not disappoint. Most conferences hinge on the quality of the crowd assembled, with the agenda often acting as a scaffolding for networking. This was different. While GEM was certainly abundant in the quality of its attendees, what was also striking was the clarity and overall coherence of the agenda, panels, and speakers.

The speeches, presentations and discussions wove a compelling story about the world today, in particular the inequalities in livelihoods and social equality brought about by technology and digitization, and the globalization of problems without globalizing solutions. If there was a theme tying the different sessions together, it was inter-dependence: of the challenges we face, of the knowledge and skills we must develop, and of the new ethical, business, policy, and development models we need. [Read summary]

Videos & Presentations

Keynote Speakers

The Moral Limits of Markets
Michael Sandel

There are some things that money can’t buy – but these days, not many. When almost everything is up for sale – from the services of an Indian surrogate mother to a prison cell upgrade – life is harder for those with modest means. Michael Sandel, who teaches the most highly attended course in Harvard's history "Justice," discusses where our markets belong and where they don't, and why we need to re-evaluate the role and reach of markets in our lives.

The Opening Up of a Nation
Prime Minister Edi Rama, Albania

Challenges Facing the Global Economy
David Gergen & Lawrence Summers

Presentations & Panels

The Secret to Growth: On the Acquisition and Diffusion of Knowhow Economists believe that the main driver of global income inequality is not capital or education, but technology. Most often, technology is described as a set of tools and formulas. But if tools can be shipped and the internet makes formulas easy to copy, why do inequalities persist? The answer lies in knowhow — defined as the ability to perform a task. Knowhow is easy to use but difficult to acquire, and can help explain the slow, unequal diffusion of technology. In this session we will explore how individuals, organizations and societies acquire knowhow; how this process could be sped up; and how to solve the market failures associated with its diffusion.

Coordinated Expertise: Obstacles to
the Diffusion of Knowhow

Ricardo Hausmann | slides

Models of Science as Patterns for Econ. Development/Technology Transfer
Steven Shapin | slides

Knowhow: Was Marx Right about
Everything but the Happy Ending?

Bruce Kogut | slides

Panel Discussion

Digitization of Business: From mobile banking to the shared economy, the digitization of the economy is disrupting business as usual. Leading disruptors in the tech space will discuss what the digital transformation means for the economy, organizational culture and individual skills, as firms and organizations discover that their real assets are no longer the bricks and mortar, but the more intangible assets of data and networks.

The Challenge of Digital Transformation
Karim Lakhani | slides

Leading Digital Business Transformation: Innovation Streams, Executive
Leadership, & Ambidexterity

Mike Tushman | slides

Panel Discussion:

Karim Lakhani
Gustavo Grobocopatel
Allison Mnookin
Jay Rogers
John Winsor

Unleashing Capitalism For the Social Good
Chrystia Freeland

The Stupidity of Herds & the Wisdom of Crowds: Many of the most important decisions in society, those made by businesses, organizations, and legislatures, are made by groups. Yet as anyone who is part of a committee can attest, groups can compound rather than resolve the difficulties of making good decisions. This session will involve experiments with GEM participants, and provide practical advice for improving group decision-making.

Richard Zeckhauser & Dan Levy

Smart Policy Design: Why the Obvious Is So Hard To Do Development is a tricky business. Across the globe, weak implementation and poorly designed policy slows economic growth and hinders individual wellbeing. This session will discuss new findings that help answer some of development's most difficult questions, providing both research and practical advice to implement smart policy design.

Asim Khwaja & Rohini Pande

Cities as Laboratories of Innovation: For the first time in history, the majority of humanity lives in cities. This clustering of human capital has lifted millions out of poverty. Yet cities also suffer from their own problems: crime and violence; congestion; resource scarcity; poverty belts; overcrowding and slums. To solve these perennial challenges, cities have become laboratories of remarkable innovation. In this session, we will focus on how citizens, whether they are members of the public or hold public office, are coming together to solve these real-world problems.

Presented by: Arthur Segel | slides


Mitchell Weiss (Comments)
Ellis Juan
Asma Chaabi
Edi Rama

On Infrastructure: Dam If You Do, Damn If You Don’t: How does real development happen? Is it through innovations like PlayPump wells for water or Soccket balls for light, or through better water utilities and big dams for water and protection against droughts and floods? This session will entertain you in a debate over the merits of social enterprises versus old-school infrastructure development.

Donald Kaberuka | slides