Hi, my name is Sam Lee.
International development specialist. Technologist. Masher of Ideas & Words.
My Drive By Day
There are a lot of people named “Sam Lee” in this world. For the moment, you have somehow found this one. I am a passionate and curious believer in the smart power of data, technology, transparency, and innovation- each holding immense potential to positively impact the world. I strive to push myself and institutions to put these words into practice, lest they remain just words- a mere extension of a suboptimal status quo. I believe in responsive and demand-driven civic tech and social change. I also feel bridging the “digital divide” is an unparalleled opportunity to create a more equitable and sustainable world. I believe in a fundamental human responsibility to change and improve the world. To that end, I try to imagine a better world and find small spaces to make progress towards that vision.
The fields of social impact and international development have been natural mergings of my interests. Currently, I am the Lead Researcher at the Institute for Development Impact, where I have led high profile social impact studies for Gap, Inc (Women +Water, women’s empowerment at WASH in India), USAID (Ebola Survivors Program in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone), and Mars, Inc. (Sustainability of Cocoa & Next Generation Program in Indonesia). This role is a bit of a departure from my implementation experience, but I enjoy being able to step back and really think through and assess outcome level social change. Prior to this, I followed my drive and curiosity for social change with Humanity United, a part of the Omidyar Group. I oversaw and managed social impact investments and technology products and services that address forced labor in supply chains- most notably designing and launching a digital recruitment alternative in Nepal. This part of my professional journey took me especially deep into the world of ethical recruitment and worker voice. Before that, I had the privilege of tackling complex social issues from multiple vantage points including the World Bank, private sector, public sector, and a medical relief NGO that works in North Korea. Each leg of my professional journey has allowed me to see, feel, and touch the world- both “on-the-ground” and from a distance. More here. But at the end of the day, I’m just a curious boy from a little town in Jersey…
My formal education includes Bachelor of Arts degrees in Economics and Political Science from Rutgers College in New Jersey and a Master’s in International Policy from Harvard University. Collegiate athletics is an inextricable part of my life as I bleed Scarlet and Crimson.
As a child, I used to lament that I was born in an era when much of the world had already been “discovered.” As an adult, I have found that taking the curious approach of an amateur leads to new discoveries- and that expertise at best is a temporary snapshot in time.
On The Side
The art of storytelling is one that I have always been drawn to. I fell in love with written word first, both savoring the words of others and eventually crafting my own. Especially if genuine and rooted in a real place, I discovered that words and stories have immense power. Whether writing application essays, corporate copy or press releases, academic papers and research, or just simply prose- I have always enjoyed the creative process. Every instance is an opportunity to move, amuse, or challenge someone- even if it is just myself.
An intense desire to study and practice photography struck a decade ago, and I now count visual art as another tool in my storytelling kit. I love the technical aspect that eventually becomes second nature, freeing one to compose creatively inside and outside the frame.
The world is wide, and our lenses are so small. Here’s to seeing and sharing as much of it as possible!
Notable Speaking Engagements, Presentations & Lectures
- June 2017 – Innovation Forum (Washington, DC): [Panel] Worker Voice Solutions and Emerging Technologies
- March 2017 – RightsCon (Brussels, Belgium): [Panel] The Search for Technology Solutions to End Slavery in Supply Chains
- November 2016 – Electronic Industry Citizen Coalition (EICC) Responsible Electronics (Santa Clara, CA): [Panel] How Technology Impacts Supply Chain Solutions
- February 2016 – USIP PeachTech Lab (Washington, DC): [Panel] How a Scaled-Up PeaceTech Industry Helps Fortune 500s
- March 2015 – The Center for Global Development (CGD): Exploring Demand for Open Data & Open Government
- February 2015 – Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tennessee): [Lecture] (Political Economy of Development) International Development – Theory, Practice, & In Between
- October 2014 – Personal Democracy Forum Italia (Rome, Italy): Data Society, Challenging the Status Quo
- June 2014 – Open Data Workshop (Chisinau, Moldova): Open Data, Finance, & Technology
- November 2013 – TechCamp Community Boostr (Sarajevo, Bosnia): [Closing Keynote] Data, Connectivity, & Civic Engagement
- September 2013 – Open Knowledge Conference (Geneva, Rome): [Opening Talk] Exploring the Demand for Data Offline
- June 2013 – Data Bootcamp (Lilongwe, Malawi): Open Financial Data & Development Data Challenge
- May 2013 – Sunlight Foundation Transparency Camp (Washington, DC): Demand for Open Data, Online & Offline
- April 2013 – Post-Arab Spring Governance in the Middle East & North Africa (Cairo, Egypt): Data, Technology, & Civic Engagement
- January 2013 – Open Spending, University of Mundiapolis (Casablanca, Morocco): Open Financial Data
- Spring/Fall 2011-2014 – World Bank Annual/Spring Meetings, Civil Society Forum (Washington, DC): Open Data, Open Government, Citizen Engagement
- January-June 2012 – World Bank Data Camps & Open Data Roadshow (Kenya, Indonesia, Vietnam): Open Data, Open Finance, and Development 2.0