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MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship


Legatum Center – About

The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT is a community for MIT students, faculty and departments who are passionate about improving lives through principled entrepreneurial leadership in the developing world. We are committed to providing education, funding and community resources that will equip our students with the skills, values and critical thinking they need to succeed as entrepreneurial change agents in the world.

The capstone initiative at the Legatum Center is our competitive fellowship program. Each year we build a cohort of the most promising 20-25 students who are committed to building and scaling ventures in the developing world. We provide them with tuition, travel and prototyping support as well as access to mentors, special seminars and other cross-campus resources tailored to their educational and venture needs with a focus on principled entrepreneurial leadership.

There are travel seed grants for students looking to explore and refine an idea in the developing world; grants are most commonly used to conduct primary market research, test business assumptions and run pilots on the ground. In collaboration with the Trust Center, we hold Entrepreneur in Residence office hours and workshops for those looking for mentorship and guidance. We also provide resources to enable ecosystem activities such as student club grants for conference and competitions related to our mission. In collaboration with other campus partners, including D-Lab, we run a campus-wide conference, Scaling Development Ventures. For faculty and research-oriented students, we have begun to offer research grants and student research assistantships focused on understanding and shaping the conditions for systems change.

Beyond our educational offerings, the Legatum Center aspires to be a global knowledge hub, providing pathways for entrepreneurs around the world to access MIT resources, contribute to our community and research, and advance thought leadership. We run international activities, such as Open Mic Africa, the Zambezi Prize and convening events, like our annual regional conference. We also support research related to the transformational power of entrepreneurship in society and are developing a library of resources, including case studies and podcasts featuring founders from around the world.

Through all of these efforts, we are shaping discourse on bottom-up development and systems change through principled entrepreneurial leadership.  The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT was founded to demonstrate the power of entrepreneurship to catalyze transformation in society and to improve global wellbeing.

Legatum Center – Principles of Operation

  • Improving Lives: Our center’s mission is to improve lives by creating (and learning from) principled leaders and innovation-driven entrepreneurs in the developing world. We empower our entrepreneurs to create and scale businesses that will have significant social impact through their technology or service while also ensuring they develop a sustainable business model that will lead to the creation of good jobs and ethical management practices. We aim to equip our students with the skills, mindset, values and networks to create thousands of local jobs and to increase average local incomes while delivering game-changing solutions that tackle the world’s most pressing challenges. Whether they are increasing life expectancy, providing better education or providing access to financial tools that significantly improve an individual’s productivity at home or in the workplace, we aim for our students’ innovations and management strategies to give people the joy of everyday life and the prospect of being able to build an even better life in the future.
  • MIT Standard of Excellence and Rigor: We work with MIT faculty and partners to incorporate MIT’s standard of excellence and rigor into everything we do. We enroll students with integrity, strong leadership potential, high aspirations, and exceptional intellectual ability. We deliver the highest-quality “entrepreneurship for development” education, advising, and practical experiences. In turn, we shape leaders who will create, redefine, and build cutting-edge products, services and organizations in the developing world.
  • Collaboration: We do our upmost to capitalize on and contribute to the Institute’s distinctive intellectual excellence and entrepreneurial culture. We do this by working closely with other MIT departments, labs, centers, groups, alumni and partners to connect students with the best “entrepreneurship for development” curriculum, programming and expertise across the institute.
  • Diversity: “Entrepreneurship for development” requires diversity of opinion, ideas and people. As such, our team, fellowship cohort and programming offerings combine a range of critical perspectives, including on-the-ground perspectives from entrepreneurs in the developing world. We recognize and educate our community on micro-biases where they exist and do our upmost to ensure diversity and high ethical standards in all that we do.
  • Experimentation, Evaluation & Iteration: We foster an adventurous learning community. Each year, we try new activities and partnerships that could enhance our students’ educational experience. If we fail, we learn in the process. When we succeed, we scale rapidly. To ensure we are meeting the needs of our students, we take a rigorous approach to program evaluation and iterate and refine our approach as needed.
  • Honest Broker: The interests of our student and entrepreneur are paramount. As such, no one in an advising, educational or support role at the Center will take a part of a student company or look for a place on their board. We aim for our students to have a clear understanding of their investment and partnership options before they make a decision on whether to exchange a part of their business for additional funding. Our only goal is the student’s long-term success.
  • Mens et Manus: True to the motto of MIT, in all our program offerings, we operate on a hybrid model that fuses academic and practitioner perspectives.Please note: The Legatum Center Principles of Operation build on the principles of the broader MIT entrepreneurship community, as described in the MIT Sloan mission statement and the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship Principles of Operation.