Bob Kennedy

Introducing NextBillion?s Newest Managing Partner: WDI

As announced in January (link), The William Davidson Institute (WDI) has joined the World Resources Institute and Acumen Fund as co-Managing Partners of the site. The Managing Partners set strategy, fund enhancements to the site, manage the site, and work together to grow the NextBillion community.

This post is intended to introduce WDI to the NextBillion community and to invite you to explore ways to engage with the Institute.

WDI is a think tank located at the University of Michigan (UM) that focuses on business and policy issues in developing countries. WDI was founded in 1992, just a few years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, because Bill Davidson wanted to help the countries of Central and Eastern Europe make the transition from central planning to market economies. WDI’s focus has always been on practical engagements (see below). Today, WDI has about 30 employees and operates in five broad areas:

In each area, WDI focuses on practical research and engagement and works to build bridges between academic research and interesting organizations in the field. Examples of this are Ted London’s work on Impact Assessment (HBR article) or my book on Offshoring (link).

  • Executive Education – we deliver Exec Ed programs in developing countries using faculty from UM and other leading schools. In 2009, WDI delivered 44 programs in about 20 countries – including Brazil, Costa Rica, Croatia, Latvia, Mexico, Rwanda, Slovakia, Turkey, and many others.
  • Development Consulting Services – we organize and deliver capacity building projects for development agencies (USAID, the World Bank, etc) in developing countries.

DCS has core competencies in six areas: Higher Educational Development, Private Sector Development, Monitoring and Evaluation, Policy Reform, and Post-conflict Economic Growth.

DCS currently manages a portfolio of 12 projects covering 12 countries – including Algeria, Benin, Cambodia, Guatemala, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, the West Bank, and others.

  • Educational Outreach – we develop teaching materials (cases, videos, simulations, etc.) on business and policy issues. WDI has established a leading position in the international business and BoP segments. You can browse the case collection at For those of you who are teaching professionals, you can apply for “registered educator” status here.
  • Supporting international activities at UM – includes a wide range of activities to encourage emerging market research and experiences by the Michigan community. These include research grants, student projects, a speakers’ series, support for faculty travel and research, etc.

As you can see, there is quite a bit of overlap with the interests of the NextBillion community. You can find out more about WDI and its activities by downloading our semi-annual newsletter.

Many of the people at WDI (Ted London, Stu Hart, Heather Esper, Moses Lee, and myself, and others) are deeply involved in the “Development Though Enterprise” space. We look forward to getting to know you all and creating interesting and productive engagements in the years ahead.