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The Blue Pioneers Program aims to leverage the talents and resources in coastal California to develop leaders and innovators who start and grow organizations to overcome the ocean conservation challenges in Asia.

Blue Pioneers Program (BPP) was initiated in early 2016 by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in the U.S. and the Paradise Foundation and Yintai Foundation in China, in recognition of the central role that China’s blue economy will play in the country’s 21st Century development and the tremendous need for leaders and entrepreneurs who can build organizations that innovate to solve the challenges to advance ocean conservation and sustainable use.

The BPP pilot program was launched at Beijing University Guanghua School of Management in December 2016 and completed at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS) in California in July 2017.

The current professional program was launched in June 2018, consisting of three four-day courses at Duke Kunshan University in China, a short field course, and a two-week accelerator program in Monterey, California.

The accelerator program aims to leverage the talents and organizational resources in coastal California to create an immersive learning course that will expand the participants’ capacity to start and grow new nonprofits and social enterprises or to transform established organizations, with a bias toward actions to solve complex ocean conservation and sustainable use problems.

Dates: July 28-August 10, 2019

Location: Monterey, California and the San Francisco Bay Area

The 2019 group includes 20 participants from across Asia including mainland China, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Indonesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea. 

Their current and past work positions include WWF, Fauna & Flora International, Ministry of Marine Affairs, TNC, Coral Sea Foundation, Mana Impact Partners, Rare Inc, and Mana Impact Partners.

Tentative Schedule


  • Introduction to Ocean Conservation Issues and Complex Problem-Solving/Raw Case Method
  • Leadership Development
  • Overview of team projects


  • Problem Discoveries with Think Beyond Plastic
  • Impact Management Systems


  • Enterprise Solution Consulting examples with Fishwise
  • Current challenges in impact management
  • Practice pitching solutions


  • Ideas Marketplace
  • Strategic design-thinking
  • Lean Research and Development
  • Site visit to Center for Ocean Solutions and Hopkins Marine Research Station


  • Ecosystem thinking and mapping
  • Innovation funding and funders
  • Theory of Change and Case Study on Lean Data


  • Project Plan Presentations


  • Site visits to Big Sur and Fisherman's Wharf


  • Self-Regulating Systems
  • Goal planning 
  • Transformative power of capital: Capital stacks for funding innovations


  • Harnessing and generating demand for sustainability solutions


  • Site visits to Packard Foundation and other locations in Silicon Valley


  • Project development


  • Project presentations with Packard at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Program debrief and concluding thoughts

Contact: BPP Program Manager, Katie Aker, at bpp@miis.edu or 831-647-6417. 

BPP Faculty and Staff

Katie Aker, Program Manager for Blue Pioneers Program

Katie Aker is the Program Manager for the Blue Pioneers Program and a current graduate student in the International Education Management and Public Administration programs at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS). Prior to starting her graduate studies, Katie served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru, working on community economic development projects with local artisans and youth for two years.

Carolyn Meyer, Director of Immersive Learning and Special Programs in the Graduate School of International Policy and Management at MIIS

Carolyn Meyer manages MIIS immersive learning programs including semester-long internships, international onsite courses, and professional trainings on pressing international policy and business issues. She served as the main staff member during the first three years of the Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) Fellowship program before it was spun-off into the Center for Social Impact Learning at MIIS. Her work with the Frontier Market Scouts fellowship included placement of fellows with over 100 social enterprises in 20 different countries.

Program Design Team 

Kent Glenzer, Associate Professor at the Middlebury Institute

Dr. Kent Glenzer recently served as the academic leader overseeing the school’s degree programs in Business Administration (MBA), International Education Management, International Environmental Policy, International Policy and Development, Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies, and Public Administration (MPA), as well as a variety of related non-degree programs. He is now a professor in the Development Policy and Practice program. 

Daniella Russo, CEO and Founder of Think Beyond PlasticTM

Daniella Dimitrova Russo is the CEO and Founder of Think Beyond Plastic, an innovation accelerator with focus on ecosystem solutions to solve the plastic pollution problem. She believes that intractable global challenges can be addressed by harnessing the forces of innovation and entrepreneurship, and the power of the markets to do good. Since 2009, she has led the development of an innovation ecosystem to reduce the impact plastic pollution on the environment and public health, with an emphasis on ocean plastic.

Yuwei Shi, Professor of Strategic Management at MIIS

Dr. Yuwei Shi is Professor at MIIS’s Graduate School of International Policy and Management. He was the inaugural dean of the School and served the position for six years. He was also the founding director of the award-winning Frontier Market Scouts Fellowship program and served as research director of the Middlebury Center for Social Impact Learning.