People smiling in a classroomAs part of our five-year “BCD” strategy to Build, Convene, and Deploy talent to create a thriving world for all, the Center for International Development (CID) at Harvard University is committed to providing students with a comprehensive understanding of key issues in the field of international development. Our non-credit CID Student Seminars meet regularly during the semester to connect students with leading international development practitioners who navigate critical, cross-cutting topics within their fields.

CID will offer four seminars in Spring 2024:

  • Bringing a Gender Lens to Development Policy and Practice with CID Fellow Mara Bolis
  • Development Diplomacy with CID Executive Director Fatema Sumar
  • Development Strategy from Thought to Action with CID Fellow Karim Sarhan
  • Unlocking Africa's Potential through Development with CID Senior Fellow Patrick Achi

Seminar Details

CID Student Seminars will take place over the course of four in-person 75-minute sessions spread throughout the spring semester. Each session will have pre-readings of approximately 30-60 minutes to inform and spark discussion between students and speakers.

In some cases, seminars may feature optional outside events such as social activities and field visits. All seminar participants will have the opportunity to attend a CID social gathering with faculty during the spring semester. All seminar participants will be eligible to apply to attend a one-day CID-led visit to the UN offices in New York City, date TBD.

CID will offer four seminars for Spring 2024:

Bringing a Gender Lens to Development Policy and Practice facilitated by CID Research Fellow Mara Bolis (part of CID’s Road to GEM series)

Inequality undermines development, yet too often development policies and programs fail to account for differences in individual human preferences, needs, opportunities and risks. As such, development initiatives may increase – rather than reduce - vulnerability. While there are many drivers of inequality, marginalization based on gender is a persistent cause. The reality is that too few organizations have implemented strategies to integrate gender considerations into their work.

Every development problem has a gendered dimension that is accentuated based on race, ethnicity, caste, religion, disability and other factors. In this seminar, students will be exposed to concepts, strategies and approaches to enable them to bring these considerations into their work, no matter their primary area of focus. Students will come out of the seminar more confident in their ability to spot and address intersectional gender inequalities in their development practice.

Development Diplomacy, facilitated by CID Executive Director Fatema Z. Sumar

When political and development actors constructively work together in common cause, transformative change can happen. Success can result in major new anti-poverty initiatives; new investments in physical, social, and digital infrastructure; and policy and institutional reforms addressing the root causes of poverty. When they talk past each other and fail to align, the opportunity to invest in the development agenda can evaporate. International development often considers the economic, technical, and social elements of design, implementation, and evaluation. Yet, critical to success is the diplomacy required between actors who often work in silos that separate the development, foreign policy, national security, and political communities. These silos extend even within the development community between donors and implementers, for instance.

Over the course of four sessions, this CID seminar will consider the novel concept of “development diplomacy” and how diplomacy can be more smartly leveraged to achieve development outcomes. Students will leave the seminar with a framework to guide their own career journeys to becoming development diplomats. The seminar will draw from articles, case studies, and the book The Development Diplomat: Working Across Borders, Boardrooms, and Bureaucracies to End Poverty.

Development Strategy from Thought to Action, facilitated by CID Research Fellow Karim Sarhan

Why have some countries managed to achieve significant economic development and others failed to do so? Can this success be attributed, even partially, to a well-designed and effectively implemented development strategy? But what is strategy in the first place? And what is development strategy?

Over the course of four sessions, this CID seminar will introduce you to the fundamentals of strategic thinking and how to bring them to the field of development. You will learn how a number of countries succeeded in designing and implementing a “Grand Strategy of Development.” You will experiment in a safe space with how to design and think about implementing a development strategy for your country of choice.

“What I really like about the study group is that we had a dash of developmental economics, a pinch of strategic thinking, and then we threw in a bit of history.” - MPA candidate Alain The

Unlocking Africa's Potential through Developmentfacilitated by CID Senior Fellow Patrick Achi

This seminar is an opportunity to gain exclusive insights on the critical challenges holding the continent back, and uncover the innovative paths to unlock its immense potential and accelerate its transformation. Despite abundant potential, Africa has not fully realized its promise and prosperity. While some progress has been made, the overall transformation has lagged behind especially when compared with Southeast Asia. This seminar aims to discuss this performance gap through a comprehensive diagnosis of underlying challenges and identifying key vectors for development.

The seminar will tackle four critical questions:

  1. How can we drive economic growth through private-sector innovation?
  2. How can we develop future leaders equipped to handle Africa's challenges?
  3. How can we strengthen peace and democracy through good governance?
  4. What role can the climate transition play in Africa's development?

Participants will learn from a seasoned expert with experience at the highest levels of central and local government, and the private sector. They will acquire a practical perspective on Africa's challenges and opportunities, and discuss key factors for speeding up development. It will also be a chance to network with like-minded participants and strengthen your credential as a development leader.

Bringing a Gender Lens to Development Policy and Practice, facilitated by Mara Bolis (part of CID’s Road to GEM series)

  • Dates: Wednesdays: February 7, 14, 21, 28
  • Time: 12:00 pm – 1:15 pm ET; lunch will be served
  • Location: Harvard Kennedy School, Rubenstein 429 – Perkins Conference Room
  • Office hours: For one-on-one support on applying a gender lens to development policy and practice, click here to book office hours with Mara Bolis (offered to seminar students, as well as to the broader Harvard community).

Development Strategy from Thought to Action, facilitated by Karim Sarhan

  • Dates: Tuesdays: February 13, 20, 27, March 5
  • Time: 4:30 pm - 5:45 pm ET; light refreshments will be served
  • Location: Harvard Kennedy School, Rubenstein 429 – Perkins Conference Room

Development Diplomacy, facilitated by Fatema Z. Sumar

  • Dates: Wednesdays: March 20, 27, April 3, 10
  • Time: 12:00 pm – 1:15 pm ET; lunch will be served
  • Location: Harvard Kennedy School, Rubenstein 429 – Perkins Conference Room

Unlocking Africa's Potential through Development, facilitated by Patrick Achi

  • Dates: Thursdays: March 21, 28, April 4, 11
  • Time: 4:30 - 5:45 pm ET; light refreshments will be served
  • Location: Harvard Kennedy School, Rubenstein 429 – Perkins Conference Room

Seminar participants are expected to commit to attending all seminar sessions and engaging as much as possible with the reading and content. All sessions are in-person. Each seminar can accommodate up to approximately 35 participants. Final seminar size will be determined based on applications received. The seminars are non-credit courses, no grades or assignments.

Application Process

These seminars are open to undergraduate and graduate students across all schools at Harvard who are interested in international development. Students need not be experts on a seminar’s given topic, but they should be able to demonstrate interest in applying what they learn to positively influence their work.

Click here to access the application for Bringing a Gender Lens to Development. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis.

Click here to access the application for Development Strategy from Thought to Action. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. 

Click here to access the application for Development Diplomacy. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. *Note: This seminar is currently at capacity and we are accepting applications for the waitlist only.

Click here to access the application for Unlocking Africa's Potential through Development. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis.

CID seminars fill up quickly. Preference will be given to students who submit applications early. 

Yes, students can apply to participate in more than one seminar if they are able to make all the classes. If applying to multiple, students should indicate their primary preference; final admittance decisions will factor in individual applications as well as overall demand.

Reflections from CID's Seminar on Gender and Development

Insights from CID's Fall 2023 Seminar on Development Diplomacy