notes in course improvement

Integrate Dependency Theory before Ferguson.

6 countries knock out neglected diseases

Conserving rainwater in Uttar Pradesh, India

Lead kills 5 M people per year with CVD (cardiovascular disease)

How far we are from climate change goals

GiveDirectly to help Ugandans move from flood zone.

As Tuvalu goes under

Indian women improve the groundwater in the Himalayans

Leveraging remittances from the African Diaspora: 4 extra priorities for the General Assembly Sept. 2023

Fog Catchers in Lima and the World?

Indigenous Aquaponics

Africa’s Climate Summit Sept. 2023

Hunter’s Storyline Map

Lionhead Rabbits in Southern Florida vs Hurricane in Malawi vs Burning Man LATimes vs paying bitcoin miners to shed load

Bust of the Baby Boom, The Economist  I have the .pdf on my computer

NPR: Modern Slavery Fueled by 20 Rich Countries

Economist: wealth vs well-being

How to measure Poverty, The Economist

J. M. Korhonen: Technology in a Post-Growth World: Lessons from the 1970’s AT movement.

Modern Slavery has gotten worse during pandemic at 50 million.

No Sex for Fish, update from 2019, Sept. 2022

NPR on “no plastic” week-long self intervention

Fighting the milk industry’s misinformation about breast feeding, Goats and Soda, NPR

NPR: Tiny houses for the homeless

The Economist: Foreign Aid isn’t working: Foreign aid has done little to help Haiti _ The Economist

From December 1 (2021?) Course Redesign, we have:

  • We need to spend time on how to build collaborator report
  • I need to make an agreement with collaborators:
    • They have to make a commitment to communicate with the student groups
    • What are their goals / intentions with the group projects?
  • We should make it more clear that people can switch projects
  • Posting a statement on Canvas is good… responding to others’ posts is not cool.
  • I should not interrupt student presentations
  • I should put time limits on guest lectures… and structure class time a little more.

also get an introduction to me, please see Pete’s Permaculture Experiment.
Please read this NPR article about water access in Sierra Leone, from Sept. 15, 2021.
Taking the Halo off Aid Workers
From Nomad to Californian
Improving Menstruation Huts
The US should provide the world with COVID vaccines
Solar water pump: 
Preventable drowning: 

Spring 2021 student feedback

It was a good idea to meet with the groups during shop to look at their webpages. I should keep notes on the project table documenting where they have to be to facilitate my final evaluations.

There were a lot of critical suggestions. However, the final votes indicate that very little should change:

  • Reduce comments on Perusall
  • At the beginning of class, spend more effort expressing
    • My theory of grades
    • Priorities of grades
    • How your grade will be determined
    • That the process may be frustrating, and may appear that I’m not doing my job as a professor, but that I’ve yet not found a better way to support open-ended projects
  • students can always ask me how they are doing, and if I say, “you’re on track”… it means that the project is on track to receive an “A”.


The duck vehicle… post office truck:

Dual paths of economic development:

Fall 2020, 391: Fall 2020 391 Student Evaluations

Rather than have Perusall, students can read the articles and be required to post a group discussion… ?

Groups should document weekly meetings with collaborator.

One recommendation for future classes would be to strongly encourage groups to reach out to Pete with any difficulties that may be present with this project. He can provide guidance and act as a sounding board for students who are struggling to generate ideas on how to move forward in a successful manner. We also recommend reaching out the earlier the better!
         Another recommendation would be to clarify specific goals for your group project early on. Have your group outline goals, potentially create a development model and/or stakeholder analysis for ISEC development and dissemination at beginning of project as something that can guide you and keep you on track with progress.

I feel one thing this class could improve on is thoroughly outlining that this is a class focused on development local or internationally, that what we do in this class will make a difference (may be small), and that it is okay to not say yes to everything your contact asks of you. I think that last part is very important. Because if you get into a pattern of saying yes to completing multiple tasks for them then it might lead to empty promises when you aren’t able to, or many partially complete projects. I feel that stating clearly what you can and will complete can lead to continuing our strong relationships with these contacts. And then by time the transition from one class on to the next will be smoother, because the contacts will understand the process better.

I personally think that this class should not be open to any student in the school. There should be a prerequisite in which students learn from local and state leaders for development and learn about the principles of development. And then, students can go onto taking this class. I suggest this because I do not think that many students are qualified or can handle the responsibility of working with foreign non-profits. Students should have more information on the subject and really know what the class entails before being able to sign up for it.

A good project is to set up online marketing for Tom Neuhaus / Project Hope and Fairness.

Spring, 2020, 392

Roee says, “have groups early on read past websites for lessons learned / failures.”

WAEV is interested in menstruation / ISEC

Hi Pete,

Very exciting about the expansion of your class and the good work you are doing!

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with all that we need to do in regards to online teaching, testing, zoom meetings, special accommodations for students, departmental stuff, etc. that I don’t think I can participate this quarter.

One idea for a new project would be to figure out how to pasteurize breast milk for a hospital at a really low cost in Malawi.  The hospital I worked with has not good options and would like to operate a breast milk bank for the neonates, especially for  ones born low birth weigh or premature, or one of multiple births.  Just a thought!

PLease do keep me in mind for next time.

All the best,



  1. Please listen to the last 5 minutes of this Economist Pod Cast about why Keynans lie about their income. You can listen to it (or all of it) while you make dinner?

Global Health is an extension of colonialism, NPR story on medical volunteerism

“- This class was probably one of the most unorganized classes I have ever taken here at Cal Poly. And quite honestly, it was also one of my favorite classes. Dr. Schwartz gave us a lot of freedom in our group projects, and initially I found this frustrating. The lack of instruction, however, allowed my group to form our own unique development model. Throughout the quarter, Pete brought in guest speakers to share their development models. A lot of the issues we discussed in class were tangible and allowed us to think critically about our own development models. ”

Fix Syllabus so that it provides a way to know your grade. Include statement about how lowest 2 assessments will be dropped.

Drop the “impossibility of sustainable growth” reading by Herman Daley in the last week of classes.

In future 391 classes, early on, we should have some of the readings/videos from the last two days including Easterly’s White Man’s Burden, Should an NGO work itself out of existence, Malaria Mosquito Nets, and USAID failures. There’s also a list of USAID failures in past classes that I need to find and reinstate.


NPR on Trump and Guatemala Aid

NPR on Open Defecation in India

I need to update the syllabus to include assessments and some other things. On my Notable, one student’s reflection is notable.

Padman is a movie about the guy that invented an inexpensive way to make sanitary napkins. What he goes through to do this work is amazing.

I need to stress that resources shouldn’t be a list of websites. The websites should be directly linked to the relevant statements.

Consider reading this NYT article about how tech companies in rural areas hasn’t mitigated rural economic decline. Better print and post it because they charge.

syllabus: I need to copy the 392 syllabus for grading. It is more qualitative, gentle, and altogether more appropriate.

Oct. 2018 – Delete the NPR on poverty reduction for class #4 of 391

NPR on indirect child deaths from conflict.

NPR on Food Waste Reduction

Great NPR article explaining the pros and cons to microloans on “Crazy Rich Asians”

Great article about Chicken Industry in Rwanda. I can ask a question: Imagine you want to introduce chickens into Africa for nutrition and financial benefit to the people. How would you do it? Please read this article. Did they do it the way you would have done? What are some strengths/weaknesses of their approach?

Immigrants flee violence of USA origin.

Off this Idealist Careers Website.

Do a Gantt Chart around second week

Empathy Intervention: We could assign this TED talk video.

For interventions, the goal should be to make the world a better place, or make you a better person for helping the world. “no filler words”? I think you can do better.Gini Index and where is the USA?

Buying a bus ticket out of poverty

I need to quantify the number of references to talks and articles and discussions in the final exam.

I need to have the videos due the weekend before finals

For 391 and 392, must establish group expectations for quarter at the beginning.

For 391, we should have the Dalai Lama reading (week 10) with the story about the guy who ate a ghost, and how pursuit of self serving isn’t happiness.

As for my suggestion about the approach to empathy for this class, I had not developed an idea for a definite way for this to manifest itself. However, some things I have thought about since you brought it up, is incorporating a recognition of our personal failures more frequently throughout the quarter, both within our projects, and our lives. This could include groups updating and sharing with the class about their failures or road bumps in the process of their projects, as well as a specific section for this on the websites. This could also take place for individuals by doing some sort of failure self-intervention, where students take note of their mistakes or failures for a week, paying special attention to what recognizing these does for them or how they are able to learn from/move forward from them.

I also like the idea of embracing humility in our lives, which could also take place in another kind of self-intervention. (I really liked doing the self-interventions so I might seem too enthusiastic about implementing more of them). But for a humility self- intervention, students could determine what kind of privileges they hold in life, and pay attention to how those privileges affect them day to day, and their interactions with others, or somehow attempt to check those privileges by making changes that remove or decrease the influence of those privileges. Another idea that could be an element of one of these activities is an intervention with which we check our egos, which could be done simply by noticing when and where we place blame—whether the blame was rightfully placed elsewhere or if it could actually be placed on ourselves.”

From discussion with Navajo Nation Student: This is a good class for real life when you are working collaboratively with older colleagues. They have lots more experience than you, but they are not always right and you don’t have to do what they say every time, but it is good practice to learn how to “respectfully disagree” and pose your argument or point of view to them (or anyone else).

Freedom Chair: MIT Development: A wheelchair that is like a mountain bike.
NPR: How to test intervention models. For instance, do people really not value things that are given to them?
Paper Centrifuge:
Sustainability Breeds Innovation
Pit Latrines in Bangladesh
NPR on Famine questions and answers

Flyer for this class – for 392.

Below this line is for Fall 2016, 391.
During the course redesign at the final presentation / potluck / redesign, some things came out:
1) Students have anxiety about grades the way their class is presently graded. I suggested that I do things in 391 and 392 the way I do them in Physics 141: I give tests that don’t count so the students can get the hang of what I’m looking for in an exam. I proposed that I give two midterms, but the grades don’t count toward the final exam. Everyone thought that this would be a good idea.
2) There was considerable disagreement whether there should be more or less homework, more or less structure in the class.
3) I should schedule individual meetings with each project group.

Additional Material: MIT Study that Kenyan’s Mobile Money Lifts People out of Poverty

Below this line is from Winter 2016
add this story about donating peanuts to Haiti:

I met with Walter Yuen today from UCSB. One of the things he’s proposing is to have students make an LED lighting system. We should teach all the students to solder?

Add this reading for food:
and assign the students to visit the website and see what strategies work best.

On the last class day, we had a redesign exercise with a slippery floor (like a sticky wall), and discussion which yielded many suggestions summarized in this document.

We should have class at the SEF on a regular basis.

I am requesting that the class be done spring quarter rather than winter quarter.

Syllabus: Drop the part about providing questions the night before. I think there should be content questions on the final exam and maybe multiple choice, and that the final exam should carry more weight.

Drop for Wednesday of week 6:
1. Read why Tech adoption fails so many times
(Kind of a heavy text but there are only a few pages so do your best!)

For failure, we might include the story of Google X:

Reorganize the timeline to include failure and prototyping sooner. Then we can build the design process around a low fidelity prototype, then a moderate fidelity prototype, then a high fidelity prototype.

I should displace UN Development Goals with the new Sustainability Goals

Class should read about Biolite and Guateca and explore collaborative development models toward mutual benefit.

What about a mechanical advantage log splitter? This issue came up for displacement camps. They had to put an ax head on a vertical mount so no one could take it.

Making Pellets for Cooking would be a great project.

You don’t need Pellets – you can prepare them correctly bundled up corn husks. Make a machine to roll up, bind up.

Below this line is from Fall 2015

Should we add an article about “do INGOs have the right to exist?

EPA Winrock – Webinars – acceptance of cookstoves – UNIV 391 – F16 should study adoption. ISO – Int’l Standards Organization. Adam Creighton.

Some of the ideas that came from the “sticky wall” class discussion on class improvements:
1) Book Reports: There was strong consensus that we should have about 6 books total that people can read, and then we’d cover one book each class, but in more depth. If I set this up, then people can vote for which books they find most compelling.
2) Other readings. I should reduce the number of readings. I should also provide questions for readings before readings.
3) I should set up a structure for discussing development models and appropriate technology models:

  • truth in advertising: I should state up front that I don’t know what appropriate technology is, but we could start with a working model for it and compare technologies and revise our model as the course develops.
  • I could carefully choose the first readings to define the idea of development model… that might include Sachs, Easterly, Beagent, Ferguson (??). Then throughout the class, we might refer back to these publications when we encounter a development activity and try to place it within the framework we already have.

4) Projects, it was generally agreed that we didn’t agree about if the projects should be introduced sooner or later, so likely I’ll keep the timeline roughly as it is. There was a call for increased structure, guidelines, rubrics with an expressed understanding that in order to keep the projects open ended, structure should be minimized. However, I think we agreed that I should state more explicitly what we know and what we don’t know.
5) It was suggested that I tell students what I expect of the projects’ futures.. like if the projects should be done just for this class, or if they have a future. I responded that I don’t know this, and that I look to the students to determine this. The response is that I should provide this statement of uncertainty at the beginning. I should be careful of how I say this, as the students may be frightened of this information.
6) We should have more guest speakers.
7) I read two suggestions that I start the class with more humor, or positive note, or light heartedness. I think I am not so good with this suggestion. i think I’m doing my best to describe a world out there and trying to find a way to be good with this. I think I was a little flippant and I came across to myself as dismissive. I don’t want to be that way. I think that this is a very reasonable suggestion. However, don’t know exactly how I’d do this. Maybe someone can provide help for me with this.
8) I should start the class with more structure with the projects (or with something else?) and then ease off and open up.
9) It seemed rather agreed that we didn’t agree if there should be more or less time allocated for group work. However, I should try having group work in the beginning of class to see if this put everyone on the same page. I might try going around meeting with different groups briefly checking in on their projects.
10) I should encourage more local projects
11) Projects. folks agreed that groups should be able to pick their own project, but I should also be able to provide projects that I’m interested in. It was noted that a key element to success is to have a partner on the ground.
12) I should continue emphasizing learning over grades. It’s not clear exactly how to do this, but I’ll continue the present grade policy and continue open discussions regarding grades.
13) Truth in advertising: I should state up front that I don’t impose too much structure, and I look to the students to determine what we talk about and do. I can say that I used to think I knew about appropriate technology, and I lectured, but that didn’t turn out well, so I just learn along now.
14) I read one suggestion that we should do away with Wikispaces because it’s impossible to work with more than one person at a time. OK, what are some other suggestions? What would we do instead of this? Is it possible that people could gather material on a google doc and then transfer it to Wikispaces? Maybe I can put it up to the students to decide what they are going to do.
15) I’m reading the final exams. People seemed to find benefit in the interventions. I’m going to continue that.
16) I think I will increase the weight of the final exam in the future to 25% of the grade – Or make the class on a rubric rather than a % system. I wonder what people think about that. Additionally, I need to more explicitly state that final exam answers must draw from the class material.
17) First class… we can start with, “what is your model of development?” discussion.
18) For the projects, We should have a half hour session exploring expectations and positions… is this class what your life revolves around, or do you just want to pass it?… and every shade of grey in between the two extremes. I received the following feedback (immediately below), while I don’t plan to impose this structure, I plan to present it to future groups:
“I’ve done group work with interdisciplinary groups before… In my other group work classes, we took on roles (PR, Design, Technical Integration, Organizer) which gave full responsibility and ultimately group respect for the person in charge of their given role. It worked well, because if for example, I was in charge of design, I would have the ultimate say and could design the way I wanted to, and the other people in my group weren’t given that responsibility, and respected my work more instead of questioning it. In my group in this class, we all did everything, so when we would make decisions, everyone pretty much had a say (whether they were contributing much or not). … maybe next class, you could have people in the group all assign certain rolls for this start-up/non-profit that they are starting….”
19) As soon as groups are established, we have team building day, and identification of different priorities, leadership styles. Lay out end goals and steps to get there… then the next class, broaden the design challenge and reverse engineer.
20) There should be after 2nd presentation, update and refine goals.
21) Final presentation can look back on goals and see how you followed or didn’t follow the path you set out.
22) We’d also said that I should meet with each group.

From previously, I may consider dropping “Design for a Living World” because it doesn’t really deal with development

Grading, transition from a quest for “excellence” to a quest for “goodness”, with the achievement being “good enough”

Below This line is from Winter 2015
Discussion with Steph (March 23, 2015). The majority of groups expressed that there is a need for more structure, and they found direction from Pete to be a problem. There is a question about what role the class instructor should have as far as guiding projects.

One proposal for next year is to have mandatory shop time and during this time, students will learn well-defined skills such as milling, welding, and using the 3-D printer. Pete’s role will be to organize learning materials and provide support for projects when students ask for it. Maybe every other lab is a skills lab.

Another proposal is for there to be well-defined projects that Pete will direct. Students will do their best to build what he directs them to.

Another proposal is for students to choose between the above two options.

More guest speakers every 2-3 weeks

Create more structure for deliverables so that they come up with their own conclusions on whether their projects are appropriate or not.

Current event: Every class one person is responsible to present a current event.

Make sure to have student group reflections after each presentation so that we can track involvement.

The syllabus should have clear expectations about:
1) content of webpage
2) requirements for 492 versus 392.
3) group feedback after each presentation

“Start class with forming expectations first.” What did this mean?
One card said, “stop doing the desk beating thing at the beginning.”