Global Development & Design

FIRE provides first-year University of Maryland students a faculty-mentored research experience that drives accelerated professional development.


FIRE Global Development and Design explores what ethical development around the world really means and needs. We look at the values-based differences between “good” and “bad” development and the technological and design tools that can help program designers do their jobs better.

The goal of this stream is to create an interactive, open-access, online toolkit that activists in your community and professionals around the world can use to design social impact projects, where each stage of the design process will be infused with the imperatives of ethical, inclusive development.  For a presentation about this project, go here.


The field of development ethics is grounded in the assumption that there are values-based differences between “good” (worthwhile) development and “bad” maldevelopment. Sadly, these values are too often afterthoughts in project design. For example, program developers might recognize the importance of local participation in social change, but neglect to build in actual opportunities for broad-based, inclusive participation. Just as urgent, community-based organizations in the Global South often lack access to the tools that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and firms in the Global North can take advantage of to help them create programs that are not only effective and efficient but innovative and transformative. Finally, social impact planners everywhere often lack know-how in human-centered design, which risks missing life-saving opportunities for real communities all around the world.

FIRE GDD aims to build a toolkit to fix that—available for free to anyone, anywhere—that is innovative, inclusive, efficient, effective… and ethical!


Students in FIRE GDD work in teams clustered by theme, learning and employing different skills through different aspects of the project. These include: coding, web design, and app development; principles of international development and best practices in social impact programming; development ethics, moral philosophy, and human rights; human-centered design and lean start-up.