Over the past year, Villanova University’s College of Engineering has developed a unique partnership with the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In Nicaragua and Burundi, Africa, Dr. Pritpal Singh, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has forged a relationship with the organization through which Villanova students and faculty will participate in projects related to many areas of common interest, including health, telemedicine, education and social programs. Developing community members’ entrepreneurial skills to foster business opportunities in these regions also is a priority, and it was this topic that brought UNICEF Divisional Planning Specialist Natalia Adler to Villanova’s campus in early October.
A self-described “development entrepreneur” in Data, Research and Policy, Adler has spent the past 10 years looking for ways to implement social innovations for children. Borrowing from the design world, she introduced a human centered design approach to support the development of regional policies for children in Nicaragua. Having implemented techniques familiar to engineers, including prototyping, service trials, ethnographic research, co-creation, and crowdsourcing, Adler’s experience made her an ideal guest lecturer for “Creativity & Innovation,” the first course in the College’s Engineering Entrepreneurship minor. Given that the semester’s term project is designing games and toys for children in the developing world, Adler’s presentation proved to be particularly relevant and insightful.