Our Mission

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

— William Davidson, 1992


Established at the University of Michigan in 1992, the William Davidson Institute (WDI) is an independent, non-profit research and educational organization focused on providing private-sector solutions in low- and middle-income countries. Through a unique structure that integrates research, field-based collaborations, education/training, publishing, and University of Michigan student opportunities, WDI creates long-term value for academic institutions, partner organizations, and donor agencies active in these markets. WDI also provides a forum for academics, policymakers, business leaders, and development experts to enhance their understanding of these economies. We are not theory-based. Our mission is to create true, sustainable solutions. Our work spans understanding, testing, and implementing actionable, private-sector business models which address the challenges and opportunities in low-and middle-income countries.

In 2017, WDI celebrated its 25th anniversary by honoring Bill Davidson, who founded the institute in 1992. Click here to see how WDI, its U-M partners, and other global stakeholders commemorated Bill Davidson and his vision.

View or download our WDI brochure here.


We exist to create real change in every area we touch. We believe in research to ensure our efforts result in positive, long-term change. WDI brings together academic rigor and field-based collaborations to study, test, and evaluate emerging market issues to bring significant and practical benefits to our stakeholders. The scope of our research varies by project and can take the form of research survey design, strategic assessments, analytical and simulation models, data collection coordination, and more. Our research uses frameworks designed to provide reliable information upon which to build effective business solutions in low- and middle-income countries.


We connect people and resources with the world’s most challenging issues. Based on rigorous and in-depth research, WDI delivers expert, multidisciplinary recommendations to enterprises, multinational organizations, non-governmental organizations and other key stakeholders focused on low- and middle-income countries’ market development. We provide pathways for enterprises in these countries to implement solutions that drive sustainable economic growth.


WDI partners with universities and other organizations in emerging markets to enable affordable delivery of world-class management education and training. Additionally, WDI brings best practices to practitioners, managers and thought leaders through hosted conferences, symposiums and published works in journals and other technical publications. WDI research fellows and initiative leaders teach within their areas of expertise at the University of Michigan and serve as advisors for WDI-sponsored student internships and multidisciplinary action projects (MAPs).


The true outcome of our work is to affect change in the world – and that requires resources. WDI partners with firms and institutions in developing economies to implement the solutions developed through research and field work we’ve completed. Our goal is to ensure rapid, sustainable, and successful execution of development solutions in the regions we serve. We also recognize the importance of having a large number of limited partnerships with organizations in multiple sectors within the same regions.


Global change requires a philosophy of freely sharing best practices. WDI broadly shares research results and other findings through working papers, reports, journals, print and digital media reports/articles, conference keynotes/sessions, webinars, books, and blogs. WDI has two robust media platforms within its organization that continually publish relevant news and research about development in low- and middle-income countries.

  • NextBillion.net delivers insightful coverage and commentary, discussion platforms and solutions-oriented resources for practitioners, business and nonprofit leaders, entrepreneurs, academics and students dedicated to advancing market solutions to poverty.
  • WDI Publishing disseminates the latest case studies and other teaching materials that document research and solutions focused on global development so that our future leaders can learn and advance similar work in the future.
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