Development Practice Lab

Connecting practitioners, scholars, and professors to bring real experience to an academic program

What is the Development Practice Lab?

A new practical class in the Master of Public Administration in Development Practice (MPA-DP) program uses integrated cross-sectoral hands-on training to give its students skills essential to development professionals.

Designed by Professor André Corrêa d’Almeida and Laura Budzyna MPA-DP ’12, the Development Practice Lab is a two-semester requirement in the first-year curriculum. It consists of 10 workshops taught by guest practitioners from the field, who use cases from MPA-DP core courses to train students in skills and techniques required for problem appraisal and program design.


What does it entail?

First Semester

First-year students are being trained in skills related to problem appraisal that will be applied in cases and assignments from the core course of Foundations of Sustainable Development Practice.

Students are learning how to use the key tools, techniques, and approaches employed by development organizations when diagnosing complex problems. Among the skills that are taught are stakeholder and institutional analysis, problem mapping and causal analysis, geographic information systems, logical framework analysis, and social media, advocacy, and agenda setting.

Second Semester

Students learn about program design using cases from the Global Health Practice class. In the spring, the main skills taught in the lab are monitoring and evaluation planning, results-based budgeting, cost-benefit analysis, quantitative information gathering, negotiation and trust building, ethics, and working with communities.

Although the DP-Lab course is only mandatory for first-year students, the focus on competencies and skills expands into the third and fourth semesters.

Third Semester

Students learn about program implementation in their Management for Development Professionals class, and in the fourth semester, they can hone their skills in monitoring and evaluation through independent study projects.

The MPA-DP trains aspiring practitioners to understand, develop, and implement integrated approaches to sustainable development. In addition to completing core coursework, students take part in a three-month summer field project. Launched in 2009, the program was accredited by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) in July 2013.

Who is involved?

Note: Current guest practitioners include Laura Budzyna (D-Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Katherine Rockwell (Office of the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Financing the Health MDGs and for Malaria), Kate Granger (Fintrac), Daniel Charette (Development Alternatives Incorporated), Eva Weissman (School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University), Nikolas Katsimpras (Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity, AC4, Columbia University) and Jeremiah Trinidad-Christensen (Lehman Digital Social Sciences Library, Columbia University), Eric Glass (Lehman Digital Social Sciences Library, Columbia University).