Many Georgetown graduates go on to volunteer for the Peace Corps or do other development work. Now, the Georgetown Development Initiative will help interested students get a head start on international development as undergraduates.

The club’s founders thought that Georgetown lacked a club that dealt specifically with development issues on an undergraduate level. The group, founded last spring, received approval from the Student Activities Commission this fall.

“Our primary goal is getting people together who share the aim of fostering international development through small-scale, sustainable and innovative projects that could be applicable in different parts of the world,” GDI President Berk Guler (COL ’14) said.

As the first undergraduate group on campus devoted to development issues, GDI has reached out to faculty in the department of economics and the Georgetown Public Policy Institute for advice.

“We’re the first undergrad group targeting international development so we don’t have a precedent,” Guler said. “A lot of this is exploration, reaching out to faculty and other organizations.”

Guler sought the advice of associate professor of economics William Jack, co-director of the Georgetown University Initiative on Innovation, Development and Evaluation. GUIDE often sends development-minded undergraduates to work on projects abroad during summer break.

“I think you should do what you care about,” Jack said. “I think Georgetown students have a lot of enthusiasm and energy in doing development work and I encourage them to do so. This is just an opportunity for students who are interested to get involved and I think that’s great.”

GDI member Sona Jain (SFS ’16) emphasized that the club differs from groups with similar aims on campus, such as Hilltop Microfinance Initiative, because of its focus on development research.

“I think microfinance initiatives are very important and can be incredibly successful; however, they are only one facet of development solutions that have been discovered,” Jain said. “GDI is more like a general forum through which people with all types of interests in development can congregate and discuss these issues.”

This semester, the group will focus on bringing speakers to campus and building relationships with non-governmental organizations in the Washington, D.C. area.

“Our aim is to get development experts in the area to campus,” Guler said. “We hope to build connections to NGOs in D.C. while we start working on one or two small-scale projects.”

The initiative has identified water security and cell-phone access as two areas of focus during the coming semester, with the goal of working through NGOs that are already doing water drilling in Kenya and Uganda.

Jain emphasized that the club is driven by its diverse membership.

“I think that development issues require very close attention to the intricate differences between different cultures, different political systems,” Jain said. “The diverse range of students that we have involved helps to accomplish that.”

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