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Michael Heyn on Fighting for the Common Good and Interests of the Poor Across the Developing World

Michael Heyn spent over 40 years working in international development for the United Nations, living across 15 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe.  Following undergraduate and graduate degrees at Stanford University, he entered the Peace Corps in 1964 and lived in a small village in the high Altiplano of Peru assisting in the founding of a chicken raising cooperative for income generation.   The experience in facing the harsh realities of the villagers lives and the difficulties and disappointments in achieving their long-term goals was seminal in grounding and shaping his entire future career.  He dedicated himself along with many other UN colleagues to placing and keeping the poor at the center of development no matter what type of project they were pursuing to find more effective ways of addressing and alleviating the underlying root causes of their chronic poverty.

Over his journey, he discovered that development was about much more than economic pursuits.  It was mainly about human development specially for realizing peoples’ rights and gaining opportunities and power to take charge and advance their lives.  He learned that such basic empowerment along with a commitment to good governance was essential to realizing sustainable results, whether to increase their agricultural production, or better their health and educational status, or improve their urban neighborhoods and public space.   

Michael will share with us his long and often challenging learning curve and the inevitable mistakes and missteps that eventually brought insights as to how and what change must take place if there is to be a fundamental transformation in the lives of the poor.

Michael has held UN leadership positions including as UN Special Delegate (Kosovo), UNDP Regional Representative (Asia, Bangkok), UN Special Coordinator of the Secretary General for Emergency Relief Operations (Liberia), UNFPA Country Director (South Pacific, Nepal, Kenya), UNDP Director of Indigenous Peoples’ Development (Bangladesh), and UNDP Senior Adviser for Conflict Prevention (Yemen).  Throughout all these roles and responsibilities, he has maintained a sharp focus on improving the lives and dignity of the poor, and will share the opportunities for others, whatever their field of interest, to do the same.

The CPID Talks are aimed at fostering a dialogue about interesting work being done that is relevant to the public interest design field by inviting speakers from a wide variety of disciplines to share their work and thoughts in an informal setting. These talks are open to the public and held in the CPID office in the School of Architecture at PSU (Shattuck Hall 217).

Free and open to the public.