About

About Us

Our Vision

Solving for Business: Because Business Drives Economic Growth and Social Freedom  

At the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan, unlocking the power of business to provide lasting economic and social prosperity in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is in our DNA. We gather the data, develop new models, test concepts and collaborate with partners to find real solutions that lead to new opportunities. This is what we mean by Solving for Business—our calling since the Institute was first founded as an independent nonprofit educational organization in 1992. We believe societies that empower individuals with the tools and skills to excel in business, in turn generate both economic growth and social freedom—or the agency necessary for people to thrive.

We endeavor to make this vision a reality by collaborating with local and multinational firms, University of Michigan scholars and enterprising students, as well as experts in a variety of fields. Our Consulting work focuses on developing, adapting and applying sound business principles in interrelated economic sectors that are essential for vibrant economies. Our Training programs incorporate the latest thinking in management education, consider the local context and help to shape learners into the global leaders of today and tomorrow. 

Through our unique blend of field-based experience and academic rigor, we help to build both resilient leaders and stronger businesses in low- and middle-income countries. 

Student intern on location in Rwanda

20|21 Insights

Annual Report

Our Mission

To equip economic decision-makers in emerging countries with the tools of commercial success

William Davidson (1922–2009), a successful global business leader and visionary, understood the value of the private sector to empower people around the world. He also understood that business principles could be applied to organizations that were socially beneficial, but unlikely to be profitable. 

With this insight, Davidson established the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

“We are not just educators, administrators or businessmen; we are co-workers for the cause of economic and social freedom,” Davidson said in his speech inaugurating the Institute. 

Davidson’s stirring call paved the way for a legacy of action for the Institute that proudly bears his name. 

Our Founder

William Davidson was a pioneer in business, philanthropy, sports-entertainment and education. 

A native of Detroit, Michigan, Davidson received his undergraduate degree in Business Administration from the University of Michigan in 1947 and his Juris Doctor degree from Wayne State University in 1949. He went on to lead Guardian Industries Corporation, an international manufacturer of glass products headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan as Chairman, President and CEO. 

Davidson became the managing partner of the Detroit Pistons franchise in 1974 and was the majority owner of Palace Sports and Entertainment. He was one of Michigan’s most notable philanthropists, responsible for more than $200 million in donations to local and international charities and universities. 

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Soviet-era communism, Davidson partnered with the University to create the Institute at a time of incredible global economic transformation. 

Bill Davidson

"It can be done."
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