Practical Impact Alliance

What if world-leading organizations teamed up to develop, experiment with, and scale technology and business solutions to global poverty?
This was the question that MIT D-Lab sought to advance through the Practical Impact Alliance (PIA). From 2014 to 2019, MIT D-Lab ran the Practical Impact Alliance (PIA), a community of practice made up of business and innovation practitioners recruited from diverse sectors and industries committed to innovation and inclusion who were convened by MIT to learn, collaborate, and develop best practices together.
D-Lab designed PIA as a community of practice network to allow member organizations to increase their individual and collective impact — all while leveraging and supporting the work of MIT programs focused on global poverty alleviation and inclusive business.
PIA sought to ensure inclusiveness and diversity within its network by including social impact leaders from across diverse industries and sectors including corporations, nonprofits, social enterprises, and government, and D-Lab designed its program targeting these diverse inclusive business practitioners with three objectives in mind: co-design, co-learning, and convening.


Co-creating for a more equitable is MIT D-Lab's tagline and alongside this ethos, PIA emphasized participation, action-oriented learning and inclusion within its program, embedding the core D-Lab asset of co-design within its program. Practitioners had the opportunity to learn about co-design through an online participatory design course and access to a library of design resources including a co-design toolkit and then to apply and experience the process of co-design by participating in an annual Co-Design Summit.
Peer learning and practitioner-driven knowledge was at the heart of PIA's programming through its learning labs. Designed as capacity-building, content-creating, and virtual-convening mechanisms, the groups provided a forum for practitioners to learn from one another, while also contributing to the generation of new content relevant to the wider inclusive business (IB) community. Themes were identified and collectively chosen by PIA members, and each learning lab captured and transformed its knowledge into actionable insights and toolkits, resulting in a library of PIA publications targeted to corporate and social-sector practitioners and social ventures.
Intimate by design the PIA networks provided an opportunity for individuals and organizations to connect and build relationships and to exchange ideas and experiences to similar challenges in a trust network. At the time of its founding, PIA members expressed that they often felt isolated within their organizations, without many peers or examples of fellow intrapreneurs with whom they could connect and learn. PIA convened its network members virtually over the course of the year through the learning labs and in person with an annual meeting at MIT and the Co-Design Summit.
Over the course of five years, PIA’s programming expanded to encompass practitioner-focused learning, networking, co-design, and individual and organizational capacity building activities. PIA hosted five Co-Design Summits in Zambia, Colombia, Morocco, and Uganda, convened 14 learning labs, and published over 10 toolkits and frameworks in themes ranging from scaling social ventures, local innovation ecosystems, and inclusive multi-stakeholder partnerships.
Read more about PIA outcomes in Challenges to Building an Inclusive Business Community: 5 Lessons from the MIT Practical Impact Alliance.


PIA Theory of Change. 2019. MIT D-Lab


Participatory Design Curriculum

Global Scale Up X