When it comes to understanding economic progress in the context of a developing country, Bangladesh is an excellent case study. It not only faces many of the same hurdles to development faced by poor nations globally but it also has a track record of implementing, often successfully, some of the most innovative solutions to these challenges. Notable challenges include widespread poverty, excessive population, decentralized corruption, brain drain, political instability, women’s rights, inadequate infrastructure and coping with natural disasters (sea level rise and flooding). Great challenges often breed appropriate innovation and creative thinking. Thus, Nobel Laureate Prof. Yunus spearheaded and successfully spread microfinance across much of rural Bangladesh making credit accessible to the poor. Contraception use and population control has brought down the number of children per women (total fertility rate) from over 6 to about 2.2 without any institutional penalties or requirements. Bangladesh has also been the most successful country in South Asia when it comes to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Recent years have seen some notable development of social business and the spread of renewable energy in rural areas.  

During our trip to Bangladesh we do three main things (a) see how development agencies operate at different levels (from the headquarters to the village branches), (b) meet with experts and practitioners responsible for choosing and implementing the policies of several major development organizations (Grameen Foundation, BRAC, USAID, etc. and (c) directly interact with the poor and the clients that these policies affect. Due to time constraints, we limit our visits to villages near Dhaka and Bogra. Overall, students learn first-hand about microfinance, rural electrification, social businesses, poverty alleviation, women empowerment, the textile industry, the views of policymakers and challenges to sustainable economic development.

Learning Goals

  • To enhance students’ recognition and appreciation of the reality, limitations, and scope of current practices adopted by development-related agencies dealing with microfinance, female empowerment, poverty alleviation, child/adult literacy, family planning and hygiene/sanitation programs
  • To learn how to critically assess, modify and present the resulting theoretical models of economic development incorporating field- based observations, discussions with policy makers, and interactions with villagers

Program Features

Site visits to development organizations - BRAC, Grameen Foundation, and USAID - will offer students an opportunity to meet with high-level officials, including Nobel Laureate Professor Mohammed Yunus (subject to his availability).

Additional details about the Bangladesh program may be found on the Off-Campus Studies Program website.