October 7, 2014

Break into the field of technology for global development with a hands-on fellowship

Sanergy’s fellows at work. Photo courtesy of Sanergy

Students and professionals often ask us how to start applying their skills to build technology in developing countries. We offer a guide to how to break into the global development field, and now we’d like to draw out one kind of opportunity for people with the right skills. Fellowships are available to students, retirees and professionals between jobs, on a hiatus or looking for a worthwhile way to apply their skills in their free time.

The best fellowships offer training, hands-on work and the right amount of autonomy and chances for leadership. Sanergy, a social enterprise that develops sanitation technology and services in Kenya and other emerging economies, hits those marks and it stands out for the range of different kinds of work it provides.

Good fellowships are available at other organizations, too, and we’ll mention those. But first, here’s an overview of Sanergy’s programs for engineers and other technologists. To apply, visit Sanergy’s Jobscore page and look for fellowships.

Fellows can work for three months at a time with Sanergy’s staff remotely or in Nairobi and later in other countries as the organization expands. Sanergy has developed a speaker series of regional leaders in global development technology to enrich the fellowship. The organization also draws from its fellows to fill its staff positions. These are some of the programs available.

Sanergy’s fellows at work. Photo courtesy of Sanergy

Geographic information systems
Fellows work in Nairobi to combine geographic information systems (GIS) with health data. To culminate the work, the fellow will develop a framework to understand the findings and deliver a white paper that outlines Sanergy’s impact and makes recommendations for improvement.

Expansion research
Also in Nairobi, fellows research recommendations to help the organization decide where it should go next.

Information technology
A long list of projects could keep IT fellows busy, from customizing Salesforce and Rootstock software to more general, creative projects such as data collection, making new mobile applications and tweaking the Web site for better presentation of reports and so on.

Research and development: processors for by-products
Fellows work on machines that process waste and the by-products of waste treatment. Those can include a sawdust separation unit, a feedstock mixing unit, a waste collection bag, an influent and effluent pasteurizer unit, a feedstock dryer, a thermophilic box composter, a faster Biomax machine to replace the thermophilic box, biogas collectors, a system to raise waste-eating black fly larvae for livestock feed and a biogas plant that may someday power Sanergy’s operations.

Sanergy’s fellows at work. Photo courtesy of Sanergy

The fellowship list, continued
In no particular order, this list serves engineers and others looking for experience in global technology development. Do you know of another one that we should add? Please leave a recommendation in the comments.

“Classic” fellowships at USAID
If the private sector and smaller enterprises don’t have what you’re looking for, take another look at the so-called “classic” fellowships at the US Agency for International Development.

USAID has teamed up with other organizations and government bodies including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, US embassies and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (which is one of E4C’s founding members), to offer fellowships in the convergence of science and technology with the developing world.

Product development and IT at GCS Tanzania
Global Cycle Solutions creates and distributes low-cost technologies in Tanzania and other West-African countries. Their products include solar LED lamps, bicycle-mounted phone chargers and maize shellers and simple handheld maize shellers, among others. The organization offers unpaid six- to 12-month fellowships in Arusha, Tanzania in three areas: product development, business and IT.

Impact Economy’s Exergeia fellowhips (pdf)
Impact Economy’s Exergeia Project is working to solve problems in alternative energy. Fellows help take “unconventional approaches” to energy generation, efficiency, storage and distribution.

Kiva Fellows
The microfinancing, investment and loan organization offers fellowships in more than 70 countries, and some of them are for engineers and IT specialists.

The hard-to-get ones: IDEO.org’s Global Fellowship Program…
IDEO, the firm that helps impoverished communities create wealth through well designed products, offers some hard-to-get fellowships in design, business and social sectors.

…And Echoing Green’s three fellowship programs
Echoing Green contributes $90,000 in funding and support to its fellows to turn their ideas into businesses that make a difference in the world. This year the non-profit organization will provide $4.6 million in seed money to its fellows, and it has paid $36 million since its inception 25 years ago. It offers three fellowship programs: Global Fellowship, Black Male Achievement Fellowship and the Climate Fellowship.

IDE’s elusive fellowships
IDE designs farm and water technology and teaches entrepreneurs to manufacture and sell it in developing countries. The organization has fellowships that come and go with funding. Please contact IDE for information on what might be available.

Do you know of another fellowship that we should include? Please tell us about it in the comments and we’ll update this post.

Related resources
How to work in engineering and design for global development
Where to find jobs and tips for getting started.

Sustainable design contests and awards roundup
We’ve rounded up a list of awards and contests to help attract funding and attention to your projects

Humanitarian tech development grants roundup
A round up of grants for your humanitarian technology projects

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