Blogpost #4

  1. Based on your life experience,  skills and interest, what would be a design process that would be both uniquely yours and effective look like?
    1. David
      1. Meet with group members (if multiple)
      2. Clarify question/problem
      3. Identify solutions
      4. Debate on which solutions to pursue
      5. Design chosen solution
      6. Implement solutions
      7. Evaluate successes and shortcomings of solutions
      8. Redesign solutions if necessary
    2. Asgar: Designing a photo as a photographer
      1. Plan out a photo shoot and the composition of the picture during the shoot
      2. Test out various settings to adjust to the environment and the type of vibe I am going for.
      3. Take a few shots with a setting and readjust compositions, angles, aperture, ISO, and shutter speed as needed.
      4. Import and store the images on hard drive to start the editing process.
      5. On Adobe Lightroom, import to the desired folder and quickly sort through the images by either flagging them or rejecting them.
      6. Then, edit the flagged ones with specific presets to create certain moods and rate them from one star to five stars with five stars being the best.
      7. Export starred photos and share with others.
  1. Identify your three most important stakeholders and list five UNIQUE attributes for each one of them.
    1. Local markets in Makeni 
      1. No mushroom competition in local markets
      2. Accessible to many people in Makeni
      3. Possess the need for food products to sell
      4. Has the means to buy our mushrooms in bulk so we can turn a profit and reinvest in ourselves
      5. Since the markets are relatively close, this would reduce the chances of the mushrooms being contaminated.
    2. World Hope International
      1. Provides us with funding for our project in Sierra Leone
      2. Provides us with housing in Sierra Leone
      3. Provides us with transportation in Sierra Leone
      4. Provides us with connections to people in Sierra Leone that can aid our venture
      5. Provides us with a platform to present our ideas and ventures
    3. Jawara (Employee)
      1. He has a degree in agricultural technologies from a local university in Sierra Leone and is the person who understands how to effectively grow mushrooms.
      2. He can communicate well with us and the people of Sierra Leon.
      3. He can help us get different products to experiment with when we are there.
      4. We have a symbiotic relationship with him because we pay him to do work and he helps us with our venture.
      5. Understands the culture of Sierra Leone and can offer us guidance in our interactions


  1. Identify three ways in which you will validate your project concept, technology, usability, and business model. 
    1. Usability — how many kilograms of our mushrooms are bought by the markets will gauge how well mushrooms integrate into the culture of Sierra Leone
    2. Business model — the amount of money we receive from the markets that we can reinvest into our venture.
    3. Project concept — reduction in the percentage of children in Makeni hospitalized for malnutrition.


  1. Give three examples of something very interesting you learned from a friend that was a completely alien concept to you. 
    1. Asgar
      1. Photography using an actual camera was brand new to me when I first picked up my brother’s DSLR camera. I would go out and explore different areas of our town with my best friend and he would teach me how to use the camera. Every week, we would go out and explore different shooting techniques and eventually I got the basic concepts down. I would still shoot in automatic mode because I did not want to miss the chance to capture the perfect shot by changing the settings manually. However, my friend told me to use manual mode whenever I could just so I would have a better understanding of which settings to use under specific conditions. After a lot of practice, I have become knowledgeable and now, I almost always shoot in manual mode to add my unique style to the pictures I take.
      2. Coding is another concept that I learned from a friend. Initially, I would not understand anything when I would try to code by myself. However, when a friend explained how everything works, it sort of started clicking. Now, I understand the basics of Matlab and I look forward to improving my skills.
      3. Something else that I learned from friends here at Lehigh is how to play volleyball. I was always interested in playing volleyball but never had the chance to play because I did not know the rules. However, now that I know the basics of the sport, I enjoy playing it occasionally with my friends.

GSIF Blogpost #3

  1. List the top 20 questions your team needs to answer to advance the venture forward. Categorize the questions if necessary.
  • Sustainability/Standard Process
    • How do we make it so that the system is sustainable? 
    • How do we standardize the process of growing mushrooms?
    • What materials can we use for the grow bags that would be most sustainable?
    • What can we do to improve our systems?
    • What can we do with the systems of production so more people are impacted by it?
    • Are we more focused on being environmentally friendly or producing a profit for the people of Sierra Leone?
  • People of Sierra Leone
    • Who can we rely on to overlook the projects in Sierra Leone?
    • How do we get the people of Sierra Leone involved?
    • Are the people of Sierra Leone willing to help us out?
    • Why would they find value in mushrooms as opposed to something else?
    • How can we impact more lives?
    • What skills do people in Sierra Leone have that we can benefit from?
    • How can we get more people to invest into our production system?
    • What can we do to see problems from the viewpoint of people in Sierra leone?
    • What can we do better to communicate with the people of Sierra Leone?
  • Growing mushrooms
    • What can we use for the substrate that is readily available in Sierra Leone?
    • When would be the best time to grow/sell mushrooms for profit?
    • Are we more focused on profit or nutrition?
    • What can we do to make mushrooms a reliable source of income?
    • What is the most effective way to distribute mushrooms throughout the country?


        2. Develop and Visualize the Theory of Change (Logic Model) for your venture.

  • Outcomes
    • Local food security in Sierra Leone
    • Increase nourishment in the children of Sierra Leone
    • Reduced stunting of growth in the children of Sierra Leone
  • Outputs
    • 100 kilograms of mushrooms produced per 2-3 week cycle
    • Reduced number of children in hospitals for undernourishment
    • Increased height and weight of the children of Sierra Leone
  • Inputs
    • Time put into research and development
    • Money invested as well as produced through mushroom production
  • Impacts
    • Increase in net GDP
    • Change in hospitalized children for malnourishment
  • Stakeholders
    • Selling markets
    • World Hope international

GSIF Blog 2

  • Give three compelling examples of how cultural issues affect your project.

Sierra Leone being a low resource country has cultures that are not quite the same as we often witness here in the United States. Due to this variation in customs, it is understandable that we will face some difficulties with sustaining the mushroom production systems in the West African country. Three prime examples of cultural issues that may impact our project to some extent are the language barrier, the people’s lack of agricultural knowledge, and the ease with how they accept our systems of mushroom production. Firstly, it might be slightly difficult for us to communicate with the people of Sierra Leone because not all of them can understand English. Therefore, to explain and educate them about our mushroom production systems, we would need people that can thoroughly comprehend the English language to be able to spread the knowledge of how beneficial mushrooms are.

Secondly, because the general public of Sierra Leone is unaware of common agricultural practices, we would need to teach them how to properly grow mushrooms since it is a very delicate process. This is mainly the impact of British colonialism since the British used Sierra Leone primarily to extract diamonds and other useful valuable minerals while growing crops in surrounding countries like Ghana. The agricultural sector is additionally constrained by several factors including lack of improved inputs, labor shortages, and post-harvest losses. Land degradation and deforestation have resulted in declining soil fertility, which in turn has undermined sustainable agricultural development in the country (USAID). Our project would be something that would contribute to providing food security in Sierra Leone since the country has a suitable environment for growing mushrooms.

Also, from what I have heard so far, the people of Sierra Leon are very direct. This means that we would need to know precisely what we are talking about or else there is a great chance that the people would be confused. Lastly, they might be reluctant to accept foreign ideas from us since we would seem like saviors. We would want to come off as a group of people who are genuinely interested in helping them at our own will. Through the mushroom production systems, we want to aid the people of Sierra Leone to a brighter future where the concept of malnutrition would not exist.

  • Have you experienced or observed any of these social situations at home? Describe at least three such situations.

Since America is a huge melting pot of cultures, naturally there are some issues similar to the ones in Sierra Leone that overlap. The language barrier is something many immigrants face here regularly. I faced this barrier when I first came to America at the age of eight. I would sit in my second-grade classroom simply observing everything without being able to insert my input. It was quite a difficult time because not being able to understand what is going on around you when you are surrounded by unfamiliar faces is not a good experience. I believe that this is still a common phenomenon that a lot of people that immigrated to America at a young age face. I also think that this issue is bound to stay as long as the immigration policy of this country does not change.

I do not think that the majority of the people here are completely unaware of agricultural practices here. However, there are probably people who are oblivious to how nutritious mushrooms are. Growing up, my twin sister would never eat mushrooms at home because she would say that they are fungi and are disgusting. Even to this day, she does not touch mushrooms even though she knows that they are very nutritious. I believe that there are still people here that do not understand how beneficial mushrooms are. So, it is essential to educate them about the benefits of eating mushrooms.

People here generally tend to be very direct. However, there are exceptions to this just as there are exceptions to anything.

  • Give three examples of cultural practices that can be leveraged to address community/market problems.

One example of how a cultural practice can be leveraged to address community problems is through music. On average, people spend around 18 hours a week listening to music (IFPI’s New Report). If this is the case, then why not use music to educate people about cultural issues? This has already been done in the past and was quite influential. Kendric Lamar has won the Pulitzer Prize for capturing racial issues in America through his album Damn (NPR). If more artists join the initiative to educate people on issues like global warming, race, and other societal problems, it would certainly benefit everyone.

Plastic bags remain a hazardous material that is unfortunately still in use today in a lot of states. They are to blame for many environmental problems. For example, they get into the soil and slowly release toxic chemicals. They eventually break down into the soil, with the unfortunate result being that animals eat them and often choke and die. Not only do they clog up sewer systems, but some of them end up traveling to bodies of water and end up killing marine life. So, the usage of plastic bags must be stopped. One way to leverage this problem is to repurpose plastic bags to make something better. For example, Adidas partnered with Parley for the Oceans, a global network of creators, thinkers, and leaders from brands, governments and environmental groups who come together “to raise awareness for the beauty and fragility of the oceans and collaborate on projects that can end their destruction by reusing the waste plastic” (Adidas). Collaborations between big companies and smaller environmental companies might be the way to save our planet from its current state.

Malnutrition and starvation have become a sort of culture in low resource countries. It is vital to develop sustainable agricultural techniques that will help eliminate malnutrition in Sierra Leone. This can essentially be done by helping the locals learn about effective ways of growing and distributing energy-rich food like mushrooms. It is our goal to essentially put an end to hunger and undernourishment in Sierra Leone through our mushroom production systems.

Works Cited

“Agriculture and Food Security: Sierra Leone.” U.S. Agency for International Development, 21 Nov. 2019,

Flanagan, Andrew. “Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DAMN.’ Wins Historic Pulitzer Prize In Music.” NPR, NPR, 16 Apr. 2018,

“Music Listening in 2019: 10 Takeaways from the IFPI’s New Report.” Music Listening in 2019: 10 Takeaways from the IFPI’s New Report,

“Parley Ocean Plastic.” Adidas News Site | Press Resources for All Brands, Sports and Innovations, 3 Oct. 2018,

GSIF Blog 01

  • Why did you enroll in this course (motivation, prior interests)?

Growing up in Bangladesh, I firsthand witnessed the challenges third world countries often faced. Electricity shortages were a common phenomenon, sometimes food was short at homes, malnutrition was prevalent, the water people drank had to be boiled and then filtered several times to make sure they did not contract any water-borne diseases, and people never seem to have stable jobs to be able to support their families. Things got especially worse when the Rainy Season arrived in Bangladesh. Homes would go days and even weeks without electricity, gas supplies would be short which meant food could not be prepared, roads would certainly be flooded due to their poor design. All these and other atrocious circumstances are regularly faced by people in not only Bangladesh but also other similar developing countries around the world. I wanted to fix all of these issues as a child. And I still have similar goals. I believe that as a human being, it is essential for us to take part in service regardless of our background. Along with that, we must learn about proper ways to tackle problems in developing nations so that they are solved for good. Judging from the first class that I attended, I can say with confidence that I will obtain critical problem solving, strong communication and other necessary skills which will prepare me for carrying out research that will leave a positive imprint in the world.

  • How do you envision this course making you a better (<your major>) student?

This course will make me a better Materials Science and Engineering student because it will help me gain valuable skills that I will need on the field as a professional engineer someday. From soft skills that we gain in class like clear communication abilities, creativity, teamwork, the capability to adapt to certain situations, to hard skills like the vast amounts of information that we will develop through our fieldwork and research will undoubtedly help me have an edge over another mat sci major. Moreover, since my research involves looking deeper into efficient ways of growing mushrooms, it essentially allows me to establish systems that can stimulate faster growth of mushrooms. This essentially means that I get to research the materials that go into the system. It is my responsibility to test out different types of substances with desirable properties to determine which is the best to use for optimal mushroom growth. Further, judging from the first class, this course seems highly structured class provides the likely type of organization skill that I will need as an engineer. I also believe that I will benefit a lot from this class because it is considerably interdisciplinary which will allow me to mingle with people who perhaps are more knowledgeable than me. I know that I can surely benefit from bouncing ideas off of them to get my project to where it needs to be at the end of the semester. Also, the people that I will interact with within this course are most likely the kinds of people I would want to network with since we share the same mindset of helping the world through service and research. Lastly, I believe that this course will make me a better human being as it will provide me with the gift of helping humanity move forward.

  • The World Health Organization estimates that over one billion people who need eyeglasses do not have access to them. The vast majority of these people live in developing countries like Kenya where there is barely one optometrist per one million people. Given the high poverty levels, access to eyeglasses is almost nonexistent. Lack of proper eyeglasses severely impacts people and their livelihoods by decreasing their productivity at work, limiting or eliminating new opportunities, affecting their quality of life, deteriorating their general health and possibly leading to (preventable) blindness. What solution do you propose to address this problem?

There are a few possible solutions that come to mind. Firstly, malnutrition is a primary issue that should be solved because it is one of the root causes of blindness. If children are not malnourished, they are not likely to be blind in the future (Gogate). Also, this blindness crisis should be advertised properly. The more publicity this crisis gets, the more people and organizations would contribute to providing proper eye care to the people of Kenya. In this day and age, it is so easy for us to spread the news in a matter of seconds through social media sites. So, this is certainly a feasible option.

Further, more optometrists should be introduced to Kenya so that more patients can be properly and promptly treated. Perhaps this can be done by developed countries, where they make it mandatory for students pursuing an optometry degree to do one to two years of treating patients in developing countries like Kenya before they can obtain their degrees. This will certainly bring more optometrists into the country. Another possible solution might be for the government of Kenya to work hand in hand with the World Health Organization and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) which has a joint global initiative called the VISION 2020 that aims to eliminate avoidable blindness in developing countries (What Is VISION 2020). Essentially, they can attempt to cure treatable blindness or provide proper eye care to those who need them. I believe that partnering with nonprofit organizations is one of the best ways for Kenya to treat its blind people.


Works Cited

  • Gogate, Parikshit, et al. “Blindness in Childhood in Developing Countries: Time for a Reassessment?” PLoS Medicine, Public Library of Science, Dec. 2009,
  • “What Is VISION 2020?” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 8 Dec. 2010,


Hey there!

My name is Asgar Ali and welcome to my blog! I am a freshman at Lehigh University, studying Materials Science and Engineering in the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering. Currently, I am on the Mushroom Production Systems team and I am excited to have started this journey of positive impact. Some of my hobbies include photography, exploration, traveling, and reading books. In the past, I have done service projects in Bangladesh and in Ecuador. I am thrilled to start researching and systematizing effective ways of producing mushrooms in Sierra Leon.

As I conduct my research on mushroom production systems as a Global Social Impact Fellow, this blog will serve as a record of my journey for you. What is the Global Social Impact Fellowship, you might ask? The Global Social Impact Fellowship or GSIF is a unique opportunity at Lehigh University where multidisciplinary teams work together to tackle huge international issues. The GSIF is run by Vice Provost Khanjan Mehta in the office of Creative Inquiry. In addition, there is a class associated with becoming a GSIF. Here, we learn exactly what humanitarian engineering and social entrepreneurship are through case studies, guest lectures, and of course our individual projects.

The objective of our research projects is to hold true to the three primary tenets of GSIF: Impact, Impact, Impact. Throughout my research as a Global Social Impact Fellow, I aim to leave a positive influence on a global scale.