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The South Asia Institute supports a number of interfaculty research projects, which bring faculty from various Harvard schools together to engage in multidisciplinary scholarship.


Leadership Development Workshops

Non-State Players in Human Development – Achieving India’s Goals

In partnership with the World Bank, SAI hosted a four-day Executive Development Program in Mumbai on corporate social responsibility for 47 top executives from public and private sector companies. Tarun Khanna, SAI and HBS, Ashish Nanda, HLS and IIMA and Kash Rangan, HBS, cofacilitated the workshop.

Click here to read more.

A Multidisciplinary Approach to University Leader Development

From July 30 – August 3, 2012 SAI hosted a leadership development workshop for 29 educators and policy makers from Maharashtra, India.

Read more here.

Multidisciplinary Research Projects

Current Projects

Disaster Relief and Mental Health

Disasters, natural or man-made, put enormous stress on virtually every function of society. What are the best practices in urban disaster planning and response, and how can trauma care be implemented effectively in dense urban settings?

In recent years, cities where disasters have been prevalent, such as Karachi, have experienced an increased incidence of mental illness related to the pervasive psychological trauma of recurrent disasters and violence. Moreover, mental health services, in areas without pervasive trauma, are an ongoing challenge throughout South Asia, involving issues of stigma, access to adequate treatment, and awareness.

Harvard Gender Violence Project

The overarching goal of the Harvard Gender Violence Project is to elevate the status of South Asian women by engaging societies to reject violence and foster respect for all people. The Harvard Gender Violence Project (HGVP) is a collaboration between SAI, Harvard Law School,Harvard Business School, and the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, and regional experts working in the area of gender violence prevention and intervention programs.

The HGVP was established shortly after the 2012 Delhi gang rape incident that generated wide spread attention, both nationally and internationally, and a call for action.

Mapping the Kumbh Mela

The Kumbh Mela is a Hindu religious fair that occurs every 12 years at the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers on the plains of northern India.  Today it draws tens of millions of pilgrims over the course of a few weeks to bathe in the sacred rivers. The next festival will take place from January 27 – February 25, 2013 in Allahabad.

Harvard faculty and students from the Faculty of Arts and Science, Divinity School, Design School, Business School and the School of Public Health, will journey to Allahabad to study this “pop-up mega-city.”

Mobile Technology

Use of mobile phones has become ubiquitous in South Asia — not only as a tool to close the information gap, but a powerful device to promote economic growth in emerging markets. This project hopes to broaden the understanding of mobile technology and how it can enable economic and social mobility particularly for the low-income population. Our collective efforts can increase knowledge of, and provide better access to services in areas of mobile-healthcare, banking, education, etc. and improve livelihoods


There are two complementary needs in higher education in science and technology for India and the United States. India has several outstanding institutions for higher education that are limited by their ability to provide cutting-edge research to eager students. The United States has several outstanding young researchers who have excellent training in specialized research fields, but have had few opportunities for teaching and mentoring students.

‘Resonance’ is a multi-year effort between MIT, Harvard and Indian academic institutions to address the needs of the two countries.

The Contemporary South Asian City

Unlike most regions in the world, the common underlying theme that permeates through South Asia’s major urban centers including Colombo, Delhi, Dhaka, Karachi, Lahore, and Mumbai, is a shared colonial past. In each city, post-colonial transformation has generated similar socio-economic tendencies, population growth dynamics and migratory trends, albeit different trajectories in political development. South Asia includes some of the largest and fastest-growing urban agglomerations in the world today, all of which are becoming increasingly interconnected with the larger regional and global economy. Equally relevant is the experience of small and medium-sized cities in each country, and the economic, social and spatial possibilities they represent. This shared past, as well as the comparative points of divergence, merits a deeper examination into how we conceptualize, document and conduct practice in South Asian cities.

Past Projects

Inclusive Innovation

Inclusive innovation encompasses innovation in products as well as processes to improve the welfare of traditionally excluded populations (the economic base of the pyramid, or BOP) and other minority groups.

In June 2012, the South Asia Initiative at Harvard University, the Omidyar Network, Growth Dialogue and the World Bank Group convened a Stakeholders’ Roundtable for the Promoting Inclusive Innovation Program on June 22, 2012 at Harvard University. Participants included entrepreneurs and senior policy-makers from Brazil, China, India and South Africa as well as leaders from academia, NGOs, global networks, and donor agencies.



The above photo, taken by Lisa Kristine, shows the many pilgrims who come to the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India. 




In August, 2012, the South Asia Initiative brought 28 university leaders from across Maharashtra for a leadership development workshop at Harvard. In this photo, one of the educators is featured at Harvard’s Innovation Lab, which was one of many sites the leaders interacted with during their week-long stay.