Social Entrepreneurship: A Look Back, A Look Ahead

Social Entrepreneurship: A Look Back, A Look Ahead

The cusp of the new year naturally prompts reflection about the past and speculation about the future. Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship invited some leaders in social entrepreneurship and impact investing to share their thoughts about the current state of the sector and some trends they see for 2017 and beyond.

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Impact Convening Information, Tools, Practices, and Outcomes

Originally posted on

SOCAP’s annual gathering of mission-focused investors, entrepreneurs, and social impact leaders is always a highlight for As an organization with a mission to support the diverse ecosystem of impact-focused conveners and accelerators, we recognize the transformative power that convening has to positively change the world, and SOCAP is a great example of meaningful convening.

During this past conference, we co-hosted three sessions over three days, bringing together diverse segments of the social impact community.

The week kicked off with an all-day pre-conference session in support of one of our signature programs, Accelerating the Accelerators (AtA). With our co-hosts, the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and SOCAP, we brought together 35 accelerator program managers from 28 unique accelerators, representing 12 countries around the world to explore how to move collaboration into action. During the week we also met with leaders in the impact mapping community to share initial ideas on developing a new Mapping the Mappers initiative, an effort currently underway. We then wrapped up the week by celebrating our third birthday with our Convening the Conveners (CtC) community, a membership community of conveners who are dedicated to advancing ecosystem-wide impact through collaboration. Below are outcomes from the three sessions and information on how you can get involved.

Accelerating the Accelerators

In partnership with the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, we co-hosted the third annual Accelerating the Accelerators @SOCAP day-long workshop. A continuation of conversations from years past and similar workshops hosted by community leaders, including Ian Fisk of the Mentor Capital Network, the session served to further build the field for stronger accelerator network ties and more frequent and meaningful peer-to-peer exchanges.

The morning segment focused on gaining a better understanding of how one another’s programs work, what each program does well, and where each program could benefit from support. The afternoon segment was organized as an unconference, with participants sourcing conversation topics that were of the most interest to them, and then creating an agenda to break into small group discussions. These conversations included:

  • Sustainable business models/revenue generators for scaling accelerators
  • Supporting non-selected entrepreneurs
  • Getting entrepreneurs investment
  • Best practices in getting comparison groups
  • How do you measure the impact of your accelerator and the businesses you accelerate?
  • Curriculum best practices

The workshop concluded with the group identifying opportunities to continue exploring topics throughout the coming year through three new AtA Collective Impact Projects run by Collective Impact Projects (CIPs) are working groups that focus on a specific topic, for a defined period of time, with the objective of creating a new industry resource, solution, or tool. The new CIPs sourced from our sessions at SOCAP include one focused on impact measurement, which has a Slack group going and is open beyond those who signed up at SOCAP; another CIP centers on the support that can be given to entrepreneurs who are not accepted to an accelerator program, and will launch in January; the third CIP is focused on providing feedback for a new initiative called the Accelerator Selection Tool which will get started in Q2 of the new year.

To read more about these unconference sessions, including key takeaways from each conversation, click here. And if you’re interested in joining a Collective Impact Project, send an email to

Convening the Conveners

Convening the Conveners (CtC) is a membership program for organizations that use the powerful tool of convening to advance positive change. The program was born at SOCAP13 when Topher Wilkins, CEO of Opportunity Collaboration, organized a gathering to discuss a radical idea: that greater coordination, cooperation, and collaboration among conveners would lead to greater collective impact.

In January 2015, we formally incorporated as and we haven’t looked back since — co-hosting sessions around the globe, building out our membership website, supporting collective impact projects, and establishing a strong team to serve our members.

At SOCAP this year, we celebrated our three-year anniversary and continued the conversation of how best to convene for impact.

Mapping the Mappers

In the spirit of convening, took a popular quarterly call series called Mapping the Mappers (MtM) and hosted an in-person gathering at SOCAP16 to discuss the formalization of a program on how to generate efficiencies in social ecosystem mapping efforts.

The purpose of the gathering was to coordinate efforts, avoid the trap of re-inventing the wheel, and learn what technologies and approaches have worked well for mapping peers. One outcome of the meeting was the creation and launch of a Mapper Directory, as well as the launch of an MtM Google group, and the setup of a follow-up call in December to continue the conversation and collaboration.

If you’re interested in learning more about this and other initiatives, send us an email at And make sure to connect with us next year at SOCAP17!


A registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, advances industry-wide practices that foster system-level progress and drive collective impact at scale. We manage two flagship programs, Convening the Conveners and Accelerating the Accelerators, through which we offer knowledge, tools, and resources that support the growing ecosystem of impact-focused conveners and accelerators, and enable coordination, connections, and conversations that change the world.

We work with such organizations as SOCAP, Skoll World Forum, Social Venture Network, Mentor Capital Network, SRI Conference, Social Enterprise Alliance, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, ANDE, World Affairs Council, Echoing Green, and Opportunity Collaboration.   

USAID Extension Grant Propels Carbon Roots International in its Mission to Improve Lives, Livelihoods, and the Environment in Haiti

USAID Extension Grant Propels Carbon Roots International in its Mission to Improve Lives, Livelihoods, and the Environment in Haiti

What does a $500,000 award extension made possible by the generous support of the American people through USAID mean to Carbon Roots International? More predictable and efficient production of green charcoal for cooking in Haiti, with even less environmental degradation—and acceleration of our mission to create jobs, reduce deforestation, and improve lives in Haiti.

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Spurring the replication of eco-inclusive enterprises – towards a collaborative integrative support approach

Originally published by Mirko Zuerker on Inclusive Business Hub.

Authors: Mirko Zuerker & Lina Frank, SEED jointly with Neal Harrison, Global Social Benefit Institute

At the 2016 SEED Africa Symposium in Nairobi Ligia Noronha, Director of the UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, underlined that “Replication is a key theme to foster green growth and sustainable development”. But replication demands targeted support at every stage, which calls for collaboration between diverse support providers and a strong ecosystem.

Replication as a key path to leverage impact…

SEED Award Winner Karibu Solar Power makes energy available at the price of kerosene in Tanzania. The business model is based on a pay-as-you-go model: shop owners buy the “business in a box” kit and end consumers recharge batteries by paying “rent-to-own” fees which will eventually make them solar independent through the ownership of the solar charging panel.[1]

Karibu Solar Power’s successful business model can serve as a blueprint for eco-inclusive enterprises in other developing countries. Jon Freeman, Advisory Board Member at the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship emphasises the point: “Social entrepreneurs are more likely to build successful enterprises if they can start with a blueprint or proof of concept that has already been developed and confirmed somewhere else in the real world.”[2]

… but not without support!

Imagine, that Karibu wanted to replicate its business model in Uganda, where people also lack access to clean off-grid energy solutions. Both Karibu and the potential adopters would need support to successfully go through the process of replication.

Information Potential adopters in Uganda need to know that a successful model like Karibu exists and has been proven, and which parts of the business model are adaptable to their context. Karibu, the originator, needs market information to identify business opportunities in Uganda as well as a channel to disseminate business model information. Support providers can help make available information for adopters and originators.

Resources Karibu would need financing or personnel resources to document and disseminate the business model. Adopters in turn need financing to implement the adapted business idea, as well as skills to adapt and implement Karibu’s business model. Both need a space to share experiences, learn from each other and cowork. Tailored financial support and capacity-building is needed at a very early stage for the adopters and at a later stage for the business model dissemination by the adopters.

People Karibu would need to find appropriate replication partners in Uganda. On the other hand, adopters would need the right people to work with in their local context and suitable business development services and advisors. Accordingly, support providers need to facilitate the process and bring together originators and adopters.

The gap in replication support services

Sure, there are tons of organisations and programs in the inclusive business field that offer all kinds of support. But only very few focus explicitly on business model replication. In our recent SEED White Paper on Replication Support, we looked at the support needs around replication and what is already offered in the field, in order to identify where there is room for action.

It seems that many organisations offer support for scaling of eco-inclusive enterprises, but not for the open dissemination of business models. Similarly, quite a few organisations foster the transfer of technologies. The business model that provides a marketable and revenue-generating solution is often left aside. Although support resources and efforts are out there, there is a critical need for a collaborative approach from support providers to bridge the gap between these services.

Connecting the dots: collaboration beyond organisations’ boundaries

What if actors as different as a university, an investor, a business incubator and a government agency collaborated to enable proven solutions such as Karibu’s to be replicated elsewhere? The university could run immersive training programs and contribute to building a talent pool in the adopter’s region. The investor could provide a replication-tailored financial product and link peers with each other. The incubator could provide a physical coworking space, help disseminate business models and connect the enterprises with business development services. The government agency could facilitate the organisation of a networking event and support local market research. All those complementing support activities taken together could form a quite comprehensive replication support approach.

But ecosystem actors are often specialised in their own support approach. There is a pressing need to engage in a dialogue to identify the support areas and eventually build a common understanding for an integrative support approach. This could be achieved through the connection of different services and actors with each other and through enabling the right support for every stage of the replication process. Learning from each other’s experience and sharing knowledge will allow support providers to combine their activities and create synergies to be able to push the eco-inclusive business sector to unlock its full potential through replication.

Collaboratively contributing to a comprehensive replication support approach

The Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) programs from Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and SEED take on a similar approach to support replication: the focus lies on the dissemination of business models with a more open replication approach. Or, as Thane Kreiner, Executive Director, puts it: “[…] To meaningfully address the pressing problems of poverty, we need to amplify the scaling process by working on multiple successful business models in parallel, reproducing and launching them in other geographic regions.”[3]

The overlap in GSBI and SEED programs reveals the huge potential for collaboration to offer integrative and attractive replication support by taking advantage of synergy opportunities and combining our expertise and core activities. Although some organisations are taking significant steps on the path of enabling replication, there is room for more collaborative effort in the support ecosystem to scale impact by effectively exploiting the potential of existing eco-inclusive solutions.

Are you curious to learn more about the gap in replication support services? Do you want to explore a mapping of service providers in the replication support system? Get inspired on how we could unlock the potential of collaboration between replication support providers. Read our new publication on Replication Support “White Paper – Collaboration for Impact: Building the Ecosystem for Replication Support Services” here.


This blog is part of the November 2016 series on Scaling and replicating inclusive business models, in partnership with DFID and SEED. Explore with us the key ingredients of a pathway to scale, debates and new ideas on replication, and look at what small companies, large companies and ecosystem actors can do.




Local Perspectives, Global Application: Global Lessons from Impact Investing in Central America

Originally posted on The Practitioner Hub for Inclusive Business

By Brooke Latham, GSBF Alumni

The Latin American Impact Investing Forum for Central America and the Caribbean (FLII CA&C) was hosted in Antigua, Guatemala by Alterna Impact and New Ventures on November 16-17th. The conference focused on leveling the playing field to bring all relevant actors on same page to advance impact investing in the region.

In one of the final panels, Perspectivas Globales y la Relevancia Local (Global Perspectives and Local Relevance), speakers from ANDEMiller Center for Social EntrepreneurshipI-DEV InternationalDAI and CeroUno shared their social entrepreneurship experiences in Africa, Asia, and other parts of the world, as well as how these lessons can be applied to Central America.  Important advice and lessons for the region were addressed. Market lessons learned in Africa can help Central America. But the concerns addressed are not specific to the region but to the whole sector.

After reflecting on the conference, I realized issues facing Central America are not solely isolated to the region. For example, greenwashing, lack of education, lack of consistency in language and terminology, and ensuring that we are not merely implementing venture capital tools into emerging markets are all pressing issues in the global impact investing sector. So yes, Central America can learn from global perspectives but in the same sense that it engages in the same learning process as the rest of the developing world. 

So what is the future for Central America and how can these lessons be expanded globally? The actors, the ideas energy, and collaboration were all present at FLII CA&C. The playing field has started to be “leveled,” so how can we continue this theme into action in the region? Beyond the immediate success of an event, the true success of FLII CA&C will come from action, future investments, and growth in the region. 

Next steps:

Education is key

Education is a broad concept when applied to social entrepreneurship, but it is one of the most powerful tools to activate change. Raul Pomares, Founder of Sonen Capital, in his opening keynote speech stressed that education is key to expand impact opportunities and knowledge about impact investing. To integrate traditional investors into the sector education is needed and people need to be informed of the growing resources about impact investing. For instance, companies like Acumen are creating free databases of information to expand knowledge on impact investing. Also from successes and failures, the sector can learn how to maximize impact and capital within their portfolios. Additionally, teachers, parents, advisers need to educate the rising generation of entrepreneurs to create knowledgeable global citizens. The sector needs to provide the right tools and knowledge for enterprises to raise capital and to be financially stable. To expand the ecosystem, we need education.

Avoid Greenwashing, keep impact as the focal point

A common theme addressed during the conference was the fear of greenwashing. As Corporate Social Responsibility continues to grow, so does the concern of greenwashing. A company may be investing in an enterprise, but is the impact or the returns that motivates new actors such as banks and corporations to enter the sector? If impact is not a focal point, the social change will not happen. To avoid greenwashing we must truly understand the impact of the company and have supporting data. Therefore, data measurement is extremely important to ensure that the social impact remains at the center. As Sasha Dichter, Chief Innovation Officer of Acumen, mentioned, we need see people behind the numbers to gauge if the change is truly benefitting the customers. Beyond all the due diligence, we still need to ask if it is creating a better livelihood for a person or is striving to eliminate poverty. Capital returns should not be compromised, but we need to ensure that investments categorized as impact, truly have a sustainable impact. Sticking the title ‘impact’ on a deal to write off CSR or to be perceived, as a ‘green’ or ‘social’ company does not benefit the two billion people in poverty. Although greenwashing is a general concern, actors in the impact sector are cautious and trying to take the preliminary steps to ensure that mission of impact investing is not lost. This initiative was clearly shown during FLII CA&C. Brigit HelmsIDB, in her keynote speech, voiced that investors need to ensure they do not solely apply venture capital tools to emerging markets and call it impact investing. Instead, they need to take the power of investments and create innovative tools to help social businesses scale and become financially stable. 

 Innovate tools

One of the biggest issues Central America faces is that a majority of its enterprises are seeking early stage seed funding, but most investors are looking for a higher ticket size due to the high risk associated with early stage investments. This is the typical issue of the Pioneer Gap, which other regions have faced over the years. Collaboration, co-investments and partnerships will allow the region to successfully grow and hopefully provide solutions to close the “the Gap”. The partnership between Enclude, Agora, and the Bank of Nicaragua is a prime example of collaboration between commercial banks, impact investors, and capacity developers. All resources need to be pooled together to help generate more regional investments. Partnerships expand the network, provide more access for entrepreneurs, and strengthen the ecosystem. Additionally, innovative tools and collaborations also provide a different approach to investing to assure we tailor traditional investment tools to the specific markets and truly listen to the needs of the market.

Impact Investing in Central America may not be as established as other regions; however it continues to grow with great potential using lessons can be applied globally.


How NGOs Are Turning to Impact Capital to Achieve Long-Term Goals

Originally posted on Devex Impact

As NGOs look to explore how they can work in the emerging space where business meets social good, John Kohler, the director of impact capital at the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, writes about the three critical features their experiments need to have to succeed. 

An increasing number of international nongovernmental organizations, faith-based social ministries, and aid organizations are beginning to incorporate impact investing into their operations.

By now, there’s enough evidence in impact investing to see the benefits of applying money and building markets to foster entrepreneurship and prosperity from within underserved communities around the world. Unfortunately, evidence also shows that the last 60 years of foreign aid has yielded scant long-term results, apart from things like disaster relief, where foreign aid is crucial.

Those involved in programmatic support recognize the broad failure of a top-down aid approach in addressing long-term, systemic issues such as poverty, health, education and environmental degradation. That’s why they’re interested in approaches that have more persistent results.

Social entrepreneurship, fueled by impact investing, is about the creation and growth of ongoing businesses that can become self-funded, or where the market pays for the goods and services that the businesses deliver.

Social enterprises exist at the intersection of the public, social and private sectors — along with emerging corporate engagement and mission-based business efforts to serve the poor.

International NGOs and faith-based organizations such as Heifer InternationalOxfam, Humanitarian Aid Commission, Christian AidCAREMercy CorpsCatholic Relief ServicesBRAC, and ACDI/VOCA are beginning to experiment with new ways to achieve sustainable impact through the support and funding of businesses arising from within local communities.

In other words, they’re experimenting with social enterprise solutions fueled by impact investment.

As NGOs look to explore how they can work in the emerging space where business meets social good, their experiments will need to have three critical features:

1. “Points of presence” — i.e., staff, facilities, projects, partners — local to the problem that deeply understand the context of the problem, both culturally and systematically.

One way NGOs can begin is by evaluating the programs and partners at existing points of presence and asking if any of them are fundable. This might mean observing that an NGO purchased a sewing machine for a poor woman making garments to earn income, then using some of the proceeds to buy more sewing machines for more women — eventually building a profitable garment shop. It might mean expanding relationships with local farmers into the creation of agricultural-based businesses, such as bakeries or wineries. Or it might be as ambitious as meeting some or all of a village’s electricity needs through community solar systems or solar products distributed by networks of community members.

Points of presence can also be offices, staff, church parishes and NGO program partners that are embedded into the communities being served. In these cases, the points of presence can provide valuable local context for fundable enterprises.

2. Capital along with the knowledge of what it takes to run a successful business — otherwise known as capacity development.

Once fundable points of presence are identified, the next step is identifying sources of capital. The traditional routes of grants and donations are giving way to some flavor of impact investing. That’s because applying for grants, soliciting donations, and managing how the funds are spent consumes enormous amounts of energy and staff resources. Because grants are highly focused and short-lived — a particular program might be funded for only two or three years — it’s almost impossible to sustain momentum toward any particular impact goal.

Plus, grants and donations are by definition one-way trips for capital: from the funder to the recipients.

What if instead of spending their time writing and managing grants, NGOs instead spent that time investing in social enterprises? They wouldn’t have to see market-rate returns or even profits to come out ahead financially. Making back the money invested with no profit — i.e., seeing their capital make a round-trip journey — would mean they could take that same capital and invest it over and over again.

Achieving round-trip returns on investment requires that the social enterprises be successful as businesses. It also requires a different form of investment vehicle that can “self-liquidate” over time. Such vehicles are beginning to appear and are attractive to some NGO investment funds being set up. In addition, social entrepreneurship accelerators and business-savvy mentors become important for this step, to help shift mindsets from aid and grant-funded processes to solid business fundamentals.

3. Innovation, which means new ways of breaking open a problem to solve it.

The final piece needed here is innovation. Are there new ways of breaking open the problem of how to achieve long-term social and environmental impact in a way that’s sustainable and rewarding for everyone involved, including investors? How can we address issues in ways that are different from the old ways that haven’t worked, despite a surplus of good intentions?

Helping the world’s poor to enjoy a more developed, self-sufficient, prosperous, and dignified living space is the goal here. Empowering NGOs through social entrepreneurship and impact investing can play an important role in achieving that goal.

John Kohler is the director of impact capital at Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

Top 5 Things You’ll Learn At a GSBI Accelerator Program

Originally posted on Your Mark On The World

By Cassandra Staff

Entrepreneurship is challenging! Being an entrepreneur means being tested and pushed beyond reason. This is especially true for social entrepreneurs—those offering market-based solutions to the poor that address a social need, such as selling affordable, safe drinking water.

Social entrepreneurs must navigate the already turbulent startup waters with the added challenges of operating in widely uncharted territory. They likely work in an environment with little infrastructure (physical or economic) while traversing a young, confusing ecosystem. Plus, they must build their team, develop their business strategy, seek funding, and keep a laser focus on the social impact they intend to achieve.

The Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) programs at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship exist for one reason: to help social entrepreneurs help more people by filling resource and information voids and providing in-depth mentorship. The GSBI offers business model-focused programs tuned to social businesses at their particular stage of development. The best part is that each program participant is paired with at least one Silicon Valley business executive mentor throughout the entire 6- or 10-month duration of the programs.

I talk to social entrepreneurs often, and my favorite question is, “How can GSBI help me?” Let me count the ways!


GSBI mentors are successful business leaders with decades of experience and connections who volunteer to work intensively with social entrepreneurs.

Mentors are selected carefully. Besides strong business acumen and operational experience, mentors need the interpersonal skills to interact and empathize with someone from a different culture, who is often struggling with minimal resources and funding.

GSBI mentors become “trusted advisors” who—through their education, background, and experience—know the fundamentals of business planning and the challenges of executing on those plans. And because Miller Center is part of Santa Clara University, mentors share SCU’s mission to create a more just and sustainable world. While not necessarily experienced in Base of the Pyramid (BOP) markets, mentors must have experience in international business environments, able to work in a variety of cultural, legal, and market environments.

The primary role of the mentor is not to provide answers or act in a consulting capacity, but to support the entrepreneur in asking the right questions and using a variety of resources to find the right answers.

Sustainable Growth & Scalability

The GSBI believes that helping organizations achieve sustainable growth and scale nvolves four crucial factors: the impact model, business model, operations, and financing, or investment readiness:

1. Impact Model

The impact model has to be clear, showing value to beneficiaries, how that value is measured, and the ability to convey these details to impact investors.

GSBI programs work toward five milestones demonstrating the strength of an organization’s impact model:

  1. Clear mission statement
  2. Problem statement based on the beneficiaries’ input
  3. Validated products or services that are compelling to the poor
  4. Formalized metrics that prove impact
  5. Documented impact metrics demonstrating superiority to alternatives

2. Business Model

A social enterprise’s business model and its associated metrics must show how the business model works, in detail. Throughout a GSBI program, entrepreneurs are encouraged and supported to better articulate their business models. They identify:

  1. Clear target market
  2. Unit economics with margin per product/service
  3. Value chain, including customer ROI
  4. Customer acquisition methods and market development plans
  5. Partner relations

The overlap between impact and business models is the most critical piece: When a business grows, it helps more people. With increased impact comes more revenue. The overlap area essentially defines the value proposition. When the business and impact models are complementary and integrated, the business can grow economically while scaling its positive impact on the poor.

3. Scalable Operations

Scaling means creating efficiencies to achieve the profit margins and cash flow necessary to fund growth Scalable operations require building:

  1. Management team
  2. Operational budget plans able to compare to actual results (e.g., KPIs)
  3. Process manuals for quality control and repeatability
  4. Strategic initiatives for multi-year, sustainable growth
  5. Integrated KPI/strategic initiatives with financial metrics

4. Investment Readiness

Investment readiness includes a broad set of elements related to the financial components of the business, including:

  1. Audited financial results
  2. Multi-year financial projection for baseline business and strategic initiatives
  3. Breakeven analysis, profit, and cash flow
  4. Justifiable ask
  5. Complete due diligence folder

The “justifiable ask” that we help entrepreneurs formulate includes:

  1. How much funding is needed
  2. What form of capital is being sought (debt, equity, grants, etc.)
  3. The use of the funds and how it’s tied to the strategic initiatives and expansion plans
  4. The ROI for the investor, either as social impact, financial returns, or a combination

In the end, Miller Center GSBI alumni can articulate a great impact model, a solid business model, efficient operations, and a clear financial ask.

If this sounds valuable to you, apply to our programs at We have a rolling application, and applications received before October 21 will be considered for GSBI Accelerator and GSBI Online programs starting in January 2017.

Beyond Imagination: GE, Miller Center Helping Keep Moms, Children Healthy

Photo Courtesy of GE healthymagination

Photo Courtesy of GE healthymagination

Originally published on Next Billion Oct. 4, 2016

By Marie Haller

It’s hard for those of us who grew up in relative comfort here in the United States to imagine the childhood of Kajira Mugambi, born in a Kenyan village. Some days, when there wasn’t food to eat, he drank a lot of water. It filled his empty stomach, but it also flooded his body with water-borne pathogens. Inevitably, he became sick.

Kajira remembers, barely able to put one foot in front of the other, walking with his mother five miles to the nearest medical clinic. Years later, after Kajira earned a degree from UCLA’s School of Law and became a member of the faculty, he never stopped thinking about the lives of the mothers and children in his village. He returned to found Village HopeCorps International, a public-health microenterprise that serves communities in rural Kenya.

The problem that Village HopeCorps International is trying to solve is similar to the problems addressed by all the social enterprises that gathered this summer in Nairobi for a three-day workshop – actually a kickoff event for a pilot called healthymagination Mother and Child. The pilot accelerates much-needed medical innovations in nine countries across sub-Saharan Africa. It is a partnership between Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, where I work, and GE, the multinational corporation. GE is investing $20 million in the joint venture.

The 17 members of the healthymagination Mother and Child Program cohort are from Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, Zambia and Uganda. All, like Kajira, are leading social enterprises that address the region’s discouraging rate of child deaths from preventable causes.

Although their enterprises are viable and already making a difference, the entrepreneurs joined the Mother and Child pilot because, as one of them told me, “We need help organizing the work in a way that our enterprises can grow.” And we can help them do that.


Santa Clara University is in the heart of Silicon Valley. We take advantage of our location among legendary tech companies to recruit outstanding executive mentors to work with social entrepreneurs around the world.

In Nairobi, we introduced the entrepreneurs to our Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) methodology and mentoring style. Over the ensuing seven months, the healthymagination entrepreneurs will work with Silicon Valley executive mentors who will help them scale their social enterprises for greater impact. They will work on managing every aspect of their businesses: from mission statement, impact, business model, to financials and operations.

Simultaneously, experts from GE Africa will train the entrepreneurs in the use of medical products and services aimed at improving maternal and child health.

At the end of the mentoring phase, the entrepreneurs will be ready to stand before potential investors and make their case for funding.


GE has been doing business in Africa for more than 100 years, but this is a first-of-its-kind social enterprise accelerator program.

You might wonder how tiny Miller Center was able to partner with giant GE for this program.

Sue Siegel, CEO of GE Ventures, was a member of our advisory board. She was aware of Miller Center’s track record working with social entrepreneurs. Siegel introduced us to GE’s healthymagination team, which creates initiatives like the Mother and Child Program.

When I joined Miller’s GSBI this past February from my previous job running an even smaller social-impact accelerator, GE and Miller Center had already forged the informal agreement to go with the program. I jumped in to work on it during my first week on the job, before the agreement was even signed. And a few short months later, there we were in Nairobi with a full cohort of entrepreneurs, ready to begin the program.

I want to point out how unusual it is to recruit excellent candidates and start a program that fast. Typically, we have a longer lead time – at least two-and-a-half months. For healthymagination Mother and Child, it was only three weeks.

The heathymagination team got down into the weeds with us and started gathering referrals. We approached other accelerators, as well as funders, impact investors and foundations. And we received referrals from the GE team in Africa.

We wanted to build a cohort of impact-focused enterprises that addressed health problems of sub-Saharan mothers and children living in poverty. Our definition of health issues was fairly broad. (For example, we looked at an organization educating people about malaria prevention with mosquito nets.) And we considered a number of business models: for-profit, nonprofit and hybrid. We accepted some early-stage organizations and some older enterprises, but they all have the potential to scale to reach larger numbers of people than they do today.

One of our very connected partners in Nairobi told me he was shocked that we got such a large and broad applicant pool, including some organizations he’d never encountered before. To me, that meant we had done a great job of unearthing some worthy groups that have been flying under the radar.

The GE heathymagination team understands that philanthropy has its place, but it’s not the only way to do good in the world. In my mind, social entrepreneurship – supported by big companies – is going to become more mainstream and less of a niche approach. Many corporations already have a corporate social responsibility arm that is focused on philanthropy. Through supporting social enterprises using those same funds and human capital, corporations can continue to make a positive impact in the world while simultaneously advancing their business goals. It’s also a win for organizations looking to retain employees through offering a way to use their skills for good. The healthymagination program is just one example – Miller Center has also engaged with Seagate Technology employees as mentors for a program with social entrepreneurs in Thailand and Sephora’s recent accelerator pilot has similar motivations.

It’s exciting to watch a large corporation like GE “get” it, and really walk the talk.

Miller Center Appoints Correnti and Stecker to Key Posts

Michelle Stecker

Michelle Stecker

Originally Posted on

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Sept. 29, 2016 —Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University (SCU) today announced the appointments of Mark Correnti as director of impact investing, and Michelle Stecker as associate director of education and action research at Miller Center.

Mark Correnti

Mark Correnti

As impact investing director, Correnti plans to identify and execute on practical improvements to moving financial capital to social entrepreneurs, utilizing Miller Center’s over 570 alumni, as well as assist in scaling impact investing and philanthropy via thought leadership. This much-needed effort seeks to breakdown the major barrier of social entrepreneurs being able to scale their impact.

Before joining Miller Center, Correnti held leadership positions in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, combining his passion for serving the poor and the planet with his financial acumen. He has more than 20 years of experience in the investment management industry, including 10 years at Nicholas-Applegate Capital Management (acquired by Allianz) serving in the Management Committee and as Lead Portfolio Manager.

Correnti holds a juris doctorate from Loyola Law School and bachelor’s degrees in biology and psychology from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

As Miller Center’s new associate director of education and action research, Stecker will develop new courses and curricula in social innovation and entrepreneurship. Stecker created the world’s first Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)-accredited major in social entrepreneurship and is a founding coach for Ashoka U Commons, a program to foster social enterprise education on university campuses. She spent five years as a visiting assistant professor of Business & Social Entrepreneurship at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. prior to her appointment at Miller Center.

Stecker holds a Ph.D. in American history, and a juris doctorate from the University of Toledo and is a member of the Ohio bar. She earned her master’s of divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary and studied at Princeton Theological Seminary; she is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church USA. For her entire professional life, Stecker has worked with changemaker students who have the passion to solve the world’s most pressing problems.

About Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship
Founded in 1997, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is one of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara University in California. Miller Center accelerates global, innovation-based entrepreneurship in service to humanity. Its strategic focus is on poverty eradication through its three areas of work: The Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI), Impact Capital, and Education and Action Research. To learn more about Miller Center or any of its social entrepreneurship programs, visit

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 9,000 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business and engineering; master’s degrees in business, education, counseling psychology, pastoral ministry and theology; and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.’s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see

Media Contacts
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Relations | | 408-554-5121
Colleen Martell | Martell Communications for Miller Center | | 408-832-0147