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Update from Rabtt: Summer Report 2014

Rabtt was awarded a SAI Omidyar Grant for Entrepreneurship in 2013, an award given to students who wish to pursue projects that provide entrepreneurial solutions to social and economic problems in South Asia. The grant was awarded to: Saniya Ansar, Harvard Kennedy School, Asad Husain, Harvard Business School, Nora Elsheikh, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Haider Raza, Harvard Kennedy School, and Imran Sarwar, Harvard Kennedy School.

Rabtt operates in public schools as well as private schools in Pakistan, working to improve three core competencies among students: critical thinking, tolerance, and creativity.

Read more about what they are up to this summer on SAI’s Summer Blog.



Connect. Educate. Evolve – A Story of Rabtt from Rabtt Official on Vimeo.

    Tarun Khanna discusses emerging economies in Dhaka

    Professor Tarun Khanna, Director of the Harvard South Asia Institute and Jorge Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School, delivered a talk on August 19, 2014 titled “Developing an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Emerging Economies”. The talk was given at BRAC Centre, Mohakhali on Tuesday to an audience of renowned Bangladeshi entrepreneurs, academics and corporate managers.

    The program was also attended by BRAC officials and stakeholders allied to the promotion of entrepreneurship in Bangladesh. Dr Khanna, who was touring Bangladesh as a guest of BRAC University, highlighted the critical role entrepreneurs play to advance a nation’s economy and bring forth prosperity. Emerging economies, according to him, can benefit greatly if favorable circumstances that nurture and bolster entrepreneurial ventures prevail. Entrepreneurial ecosystems, therefore, must be developed that are conducive to enterprise creation, their sustenance, and ultimately, their growth,Dr Khanna asserted.

    According to him, Bangladeshi entrepreneurship is of great potential and can impact the country in a big way if ecosystems for entrepreneurs come to existence. BRAC University Vice Chancellor Dr Syed Saad Andaleeb was also present at the occasion and addressed the audience. The program was moderated by Prof Rezaur Razzak, Director of BRAC University’s Centre for Entrepreneurship Development (CED).

    Media coverage:

    Harvard Professor Stresses the Centrality of Developing an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Bangladesh
    Time Watch

    Discussion on entrepreneurial ecosystem
    Daily Sun

    Harvard scholar talks on developing entrepreneurial ecosystem in Bangladesh

      Fall Course: Contemporary South Asia: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Social and Economic Problems

      Societies of the World 47
      Contemporary South Asia: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Social and Economic Problems

      Meeting time: Fall 2014, Monday and Wednesday, 3:30-5, and a weekly section to be arranged.
      Location: Sever Hall 113 (Harvard Yard)
      Instructor: Tarun Khanna, Director of the South Asia Institute & Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School

      Offered jointly at HBS (1266), HSPH (GHP 568), HKS (PED-338), HLS (543) and HGSE (A-819).

      Visit the course’s iSite.

      Course overview:
      South Asia is home to two of the world’s seven billion people. The primary objective of the course is to engage students with the modern day challenges affecting South Asia, and to examine a range of entrepreneurial attempts to solve these problems. The course focuses on several categories of social and economic problems faced by the countries of South Asia, with specific focus on the realms of Education, Health, Financial Inclusion, and Urbanization.

      The goal is to understand ways in which entrepreneurial action can effectively tackle major socioeconomic problems in South Asia, by combining knowledge of historical causes, qualitative and quantitative evidence, and context-specific knowledge of the commonalities and differences across South Asian countries. No prior knowledge of South Asia is required.

      “The idea of the course is to bring together an eclectic collection of students from all corners of Harvard, from the undergraduate population as well as all of the graduate schools, and get them focused in interdisciplinary teams on some of the contemporary problems that are plaguing South Asia.

      “I think the pressing need of the day is to be clever about solving some of the most basic elementary problems and I am a big believer in entrepreneurship,” says Tarun Khanna, course instructor.

      “The room for creativity is simply immense,” Khanna says. “As you know, the problems really are intractable. In a region that has almost 2 million people with endemic poverty, so the opportunity and satisfaction of doing something that is both cool, technically feasible, and can see a dramatic effect, is really quite satisfying to everyone, and a lot of fun. “

      The course will be listed at HBS, FAS, HSPH, HGSE, HLS, HMS, HKS and, time permitting, other Harvard faculties. Last year, the course attracted students from all over the University, including a number of advanced undergraduates. The mixture of student backgrounds is crucial for its success.

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        Tarun Khanna leads discussion on mobile technology in Bangalore

        Khanna, left, leads the discussion

        On August 13th, Tarun Khanna, Director of the South Asia Institute and the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School, led a discussion on“Mobile Technology: Spurring Social and Economic Enterprise in South Asia,” during his visit to Bangalore. The event was hosted by Rajiv Mody,the Chairman and Managing Director of Sasken Communication Technologies, at his residence and drew an eclectic audience of technologists, entrepreneurs, investors, Harvard alumni, and thought leaders.

        Professor Khanna opened the discussion by addressing how the use of mobile technology phones has become ubiquitous in South Asia- not only as a tool to close the information gap, but as a powerful device to promote economic growth in emerging markets. The discussion hoped to broaden the understanding of mobile technology and how it can enable economic and social mobility, particularly for those most in need, through improvements in healthcare, education and financial services.  Professor Khanna focused on the society-changing potential of mobile technologies and, in particular, on specific mobile applications currently used in developing markets, such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India, that have demonstrated a proven impact on social development.

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          Save The Date: Chaat Welcome Back Party

          Celebrate the start of the school year with the Harvard South Asia Institute (SAI) at our annual Chaat Welcome Back Party!

          • Enjoy delicious food from all over South Asia.
          • Meet representatives from student groups across Harvard that focus on South Asia.
          • Learn about SAI’s internship and funding opportunities.

          If you are interested in representing your South Asia focused student group at this event, please email us at

          Monday, September 8, 2014 from 5:00pm – 7:00pm, CGIS South Concourse, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138


            Akshay Mangla shares research on educational policies in Delhi

            Mangla, second from right

            Discussion on “Effective Implementation of Primary Education Policies in India.”

            As part of the “Best of Harvard in India Series,” the Harvard South Asia Institute (SAI) and Harvard Business School (HBS) partnered with the Central Square Foundation (CSF) to host a Round Table Discussion on “Effective Implementation of Primary Education Policies in India” on August 1, 2014. CSF is a non-government organization focused on improving the educational outcomes for low-income children in India. The discussion, held in Delhi at the Taj Mahal Hotel, was moderated by Professor Akshay Mangla, Assistant Professor, Business, Government and International Economy Unit, Harvard Business School, and Member of SAI’s Steering Committee.

            The discussion was based on Professor Mangla’s extensive field research that focused on the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh (UP), Uttarakhand (UK) and Himachal Pradesh (HP). The event was well attended by other experts in the field, both governmental and non-governmental, including Mr. S.R. Mohanty, Additional Chief Secretary, Primary education, Madhya Pradesh, Shabnam Sinha, Senior Education Specialist, World Bank, Colin Bangay, Senior Education Advisor, DFID, Madhav Chavan, Co-founder Pratham and others.

            The event was well attended by other experts in the field, both governmental and non-governmental.

            Professor Mangla shared with the group his on-ground findings on the present day system, based on the Central Government’s education policy which includes the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, as well as the midday Meal Program and the Right to Education. In the course of his surveys, Prof Mangla has conducted over 500 interviews at the State and district level, as well as at the village and school level. He compared his findings in the Northern states of HP, UK and UP.

            There were dramatic variations in school attendance and literacy rates even in these contiguous states, with HP forging ahead of the others because of some innovative social policies. Professor Mangla’s study showed that a progressive and flexible mindset with greater autonomy produced a more effective education system, whereas a rigid bureaucracy proved less effective.

            The discussion, with a goal to try to resuscitate the Indian education system – the largest public education system in the world – and make it relevant to Modern India, was focused on three main areas: 1) How to promote deliberation and learning within the state; 2) How to recognize, adapt and upscale best practices: and 3) How to strengthen the public educational institutions.

            Several key problems were identified by the group of experts, ranging from lack of leadership in public schools, teacher absenteeism, lack of an accountability and monitoring system to an absence of innovation and incentives. What was clear was that more detailed discussions with recommendations for solutions were needed for the main problems identified. This round table discussion is the first of the series of such research-based workshops organized around this subject.

              Visualizing Global Studies in the Classroom

              Teachers share mapping ideas on the first day of the workshop

              From August 4 to 7, 2014, 24 high school and middle school teachers from across the country gathered at Harvard University for a workshop titled ‘Visualizing Global Studies: A Mapping Workshop for Educators.’ The goal of the four-day intensive summer workshop was to teach the educators interested in global studies about using digital media and mapping resources in the classroom.

              Geared toward secondary educators in the humanities and social sciences but open to those in all subjects, the workshop featured training in tools for data visualization, map creation, and map-based storytelling, as well as presentations by scholars and experts who are using these resources in their own work. The teachers had the opportunity to spend a day at the Center for Geographic Analysis to learn WorldMap, and also toured the Map Collection at Houghton Library.

              The workshop was organized jointly by the Global Studies Outreach Committee at Harvard, which includes SAI, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Committee on African Studies, the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, the Harvard Asia Center and the Harvard Global Health Institute.

              Each region was represented through a talk by a scholar or expert who has used mapping tools in their own research. South Asia was represented in a talk by Dr. Pooja Agrawal, MD, MPH, Director, Global Health Education, Section of Global Health & International Emergency Medicine, Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, and Associate Faculty, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

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                Promise Land Q+A: South Asian immigrants in America

                Kevin Dalvi

                “In America, I don’t think many South Asians get a lot of mainstream roles. I think they’re starting to get those roles but when we made the film a couple of years ago, there weren’t a lot of opportunities.” – Kevin Dalvi

                On Thursday, July 31st, film director Kevin Dalvi visited Harvard to screen his film Promise Land as part of the South Asia Institute’s Annual Summer Film Series.

                With immigration as a central theme, Promise Land’s three stories, all set in Chicago, intertwine in a gripping tale of love, conflict, and hope. These compelling narratives reveal the unique challenges and triumphs of the characters as they struggle to keep their families together and pursue their dreams in a place they have come to call home.

                One story follows a same-sex couple expecting a baby and struggling with one partner’s meddling mother; another tells the story of the Khan family as they learn to navigate the legal hoops of immigration law that threatens to split up their family; and another story depicts employees of an IT sweatshop, who feel trapped in their job due to unfair immigration policies.

                Following the screening, Dalvi engaged in a Q+A with the audience. He discussed obstacles facing many South Asian immigrants, and what it’s like to shoot a full-length feature film with an ensemble cast in just 16 days.

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                  SAI welcomes six new Steering Committee Members

                  SAI is excited to welcome six additional members to its Steering Committee, joining the 13 current members who provide guidance and advisement to SAI. The new members represent schools from across the university.


                  New Members


                  ALI ASANI
                  Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures; Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program

                  Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Ali S. Asani is currently Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures at Harvard University. After completing his high school education in Kenya, he attended Harvard College, with a concentration in the Comparative Study of Religion, graduating summa cum laude in 1977. He continued his graduate work at Harvard in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, receiving his Ph.D. in 1984. Prof. Asani holds a joint appointment between the Study of Religion and NELC, where he is currently the chair. He also serves on the faculty of the Dept. of Sanskrit and Indian Studies. He has served on the Committee on the Study of Religion since 1992 and has taught at Harvard since 1983, offering instruction in a variety of languages such as Urdu/Hindi, Sindhi, Gujarati and Swahili as well as courses on various aspects of the Islamic tradition.

                  Besides his various language courses, he teaches Culture and Belief 19: Understanding Islam and Contemporary Muslim Societies; Culture and Belief 12: For the Love of God and His Prophet: Religion, Literature and the Arts in Muslim Societies; Religion 1802: An introduction to the Islamic mysticism: the Sufi tradition; Religion 1820: Islam in South Asia: Religion, Culture and Identity in South Asian Muslim Societies; Freshman Seminar 37y: Muslim Voices in Contemporary World Literatures. He directs the university’s Ph.D. program in Indo-Muslim Culture.

                  In addition to his specialization in the Muslim literatures of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Prof. Asani is also interested in Shiism, Sufism and popular or folk forms of Muslim devotional life, and Muslim communities in the West.


                  HOMI K. BHABHA
                  Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities in the Department of English, the Director of the Humanities Center and the Senior Advisor on the Humanities to the President and Provost at Harvard University

                  Homi K. Bhabha is the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities and the Director of the Humanities Center at Harvard. He also serves as the Senior Advisor on the Humanities to Harvard’s President and Provost. Bhabha is the author of numerous works exploring colonial and postcolonial theory, cultural change and power, and cosmopolitanism, among other themes. Some of his works include Nation and Narration and The Location of Culture, which was reprinted as a Routeledge Classic in 2004 and has been translated into Korean, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Serbian, German and Portuguese. A selection of his work was recently published in a Japanese volume. Harvard University Press will publish his forthcoming book A Global Measure, and Columbia University Press will publish his next book The Right to Narrate.

                  Bhabha has delivered the Presidential Lectures at both Stanford University and Freie Universität Berlin, and most recently the Hegel Lecture at the Freie Universität Berlin, Mellon Distinguished Lecture at Duke University and keynote lectures at Peking University in Beijing, the Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding and the Korea Foundation in Seoul, the “Changing the Humanities/the Humanities Changing” conference on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the University of Cambridge and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research conference on the humanities. Bhabha serves as Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Human Rights, on the Advisory Boards of the Graduate School of North American Studies and the International Research Center “Interweaving Performance Cultures” at Freie Universität Berlin and in the Advisory Group of the Literary Studies Symposia at the German Research Foundation.

                  Bhabha most recently contributed essays to exhibition catalogues on the work of Anish Kapoor, Raqib Shaw, and Shahzia Sikander and interviews with Akbar Padamsee and on the work of ORLAN. He has served as an advisor at key art institutions including the Institute of Contemporary Arts London, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Rockefeller Foundation; he is a member of the Asian Art Council at the Guggenheim Museum New York and an advisor on the Contemporary and Modern Art Perspectives project at the Museum of Modern Art New York. Bhabha also serves on the Steering Committee and Master Jury of the Aga Khan Architectural Prize, is a Trustee of the UNESCO World Report on Cultural Diversity, and served as a juror at the 53rd International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale.

                  Educated at the University of Bombay and the University of Oxford, Bhabha was profiled by Newsweek as one of “100 Americans for the Next [21st] Century.”

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