DSO: A Global Development Student Startup in Qatar


DSO is a student startup founded at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Pittsburgh. Its mission is to increase engagement in global development by teaming up students with professors, non-governmental organizations, and corporations. In fall 2009, I co-founded a chapter of DSO at the CMU Qatar Campus. We recruited passionate students, crafted our vision and kicked off various projects.

In January 2010, a deadly earthquake struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti and thousands were feared dead. In response, we planned, evangelized and executed a 2-week fundraising campaign to raise 20,556 Qatari Riyals (QAR). This was no simple logistical undertaking. We organized 60 students across 6 universities, pulled in 5 student organizations and got the Qatar Red Crescent and Bloomsbury Publishing involved. While our team focused on execution, I focused on removing obstacles and securing resources.

Posters and donation booths were setup across 6 universities (design credit: Wafaa Al-Saffar, Tariq Spence)

Distributing handouts helped us recruit students (design credit: Wafaa Al-Saffar, Tariq Spence)

While our project-based model suited CMU Pittsburgh, it did not scale well in Qatar where students wanted to get a more immediate sense of making an impact. The feeling of making progress was the biggest motivator for student organizations here. We adapted our model to focus solely on events: one major attraction per semester accompanied by several smaller ones.

In establishing DSO Qatar, I saw how important it was to focus on something and do it really well. Deciding what not to do is just as important as deciding what to do. I am proud of the challenges we overcame and the culture we built. In only our second semester, we received an award for being the “most organized” student organization.

Pro tip: giving away free donuts and asking people to donate “as they please” will get you more money than selling donuts for QAR 10. 

Easter egg: Early early DSO Pittsburgh poster


Establish a branch of Pittsburgh-based student startup, DSO, at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar and figure out a model to involve students in global development


Strategy & vision, recruiting, leadership & team building, logistics, "getting things done"


DSO (Development Solutions Organization)


Hammad Abbasi, Varun Arora, Shaza Daifalla, Aliah Dehdari, Afnan Fahim, Zaid Haque, Nijat Ibrahimov, Ayah Jarbou, Batoul Khalife, Waleed Khan, Susan Lin, Amal Osman, Saurabh Sanghvi, Edwin Shao, Jevika Shetty, Abid Shirzai


Business Administration, Computer Science, Information Systems


Doha, Qatar


March 2009-March 2010


Fundraising event for Haiti earthquake, VOIP technology project for migrant workers, 4+ global development events

tools used

Google Docs, Microsoft Office


Global Development Startup