The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) office in Trinidad and Tobago recently took a team of senior policy-makers and local changemakers to visit the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The purpose of the visit was to learn about cutting-edge innovative solutions being pursued in the areas of accountability, transparency, financial markets, manufacturing, learning and urban development solutions.
The MIT Media Lab describes itself as an interdisciplinary research lab that encourages the unconventional mixing and matching of seemingly disparate research areas. The Lab creates disruptive technologies in over 25 different research groups comprised of MIT faculty members, research staff and students, who are presently working on more than 450 unique projects. The annual operating budget of the Lab is approximately US$75 million. The Lab’s operations are supported by a member-subscription model that includes the IDB and some of the world’s leading corporations.
Some of the research groups visited at the MIT Media Lab included the following:
1) City Science
The City Science research group is investigating how new models for urban architecture and personal vehicles can be more responsive to the unique needs and values of individuals through the application of disentangled systems and smart customization.

2) Collective Learning
The Collective Learning research group focuses on how teams, organizations, cities, and nations learn. Their research addresses both the study of knowledge and know-how accumulated in social groups as well as the creation of tools that democratize data analysis and facilitate collective learning.

3) Digital Currency Initiative
Digital Currency Initiative strives to be a neutral leader of world-class research to push the boundaries of knowledge around cryptocurrency and its underlying distributed ledger technology. The Digital Currency Initiative seeks to clarify the real-world impact of these technologies, inspired by their potential for public good, and mindful of the risks and ethical questions attached to them.

4) Civic Media
The Center for Civic Media pursues original scholarship and design work that investigates the tight-knit and dynamic relationships between communities, ecologies of media and technology, and the nature of information and power. The research group develops research tools and conducts case studies to help understand media ecosystems, augment civic participation, and foster digital inclusion.

Members of the TT team have since become part of an action group that is actively exploring ways in which the lessons learned can potentially be implemented across the country in a meaningful and economically productive way.