The "Why"

Last week marked a pivotal moment for The Center for Science, Technology and Society for two reasons.

Reason 1: Magis

We celebrated our annual Magis event on April 30th, honoring 3 of the quiet builders creating systemic change in social entrepreneurship and impact investing, all of whom embody the word, “Magis.”

What Does Magis Mean?

It is a word closely related to “majority” or “more.” But when Jesuits use it, it doesn’t mean more stuff or more things to do; rather, given all the choices we have, what is a more purposeful or effective way to take care of the health of the earth and the people who live here?

Who Are These Quiet Builders?

Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation introduced our first honoree, Matt Flannery, co-founder of Kiva – the first micro lending site – and CEO of a new start-up, – a mobile based microfinance application for Android users in Africa. As Sally said, Skoll places bets on people like Matt – those who seek to change the system and “set things right.”

John Kohler introduced Lisa and Charly Kleissner, the “first family of impact investing.” Lisa and Charly are self-described workaholics who have connected their capital with their values, finding ways for their money to have meaning beyond enriching their own lives. They founded KL Felicitas, started Social Impact International in India, Hawaii Impact Ready, and co-founded Toniic, a syndication of impact investors. All of these organizations activate capital to create social impact.

Reason 2: The Miller Center For Social Entrepreneurship

Magis also marked the unveiling of a significant donation – $25 million from Karen and Jeff Miller – that renamed our center to “The Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship.”

DOC 2015-04-30 Magis Dinner ( - dkfw)-AY8U3531.jpg

The Most Important Question: Why?

As the honorees pointed out, they have been lucky at “the big casino” AKA Silicon Valley. Why did they challenge the status quo?

For Matt, the first and simplest lesson for him was to look into the eyes of someone halfway around the world and see himself. As he said, “It is a transformative experience to see yourself in the eyes of others and say, ‘hey, we are very similar even though you are far away.’”

For Lisa and Charly, they saw their wealth not as their money, but as their responsibility to improve other people’s lives. Impact investing is an expression of who they really are – an expression to sustainably change the financial system for a better environment and humanity. Charly stated, “We do it joyfully, contributing to the positive development of the planet and humanity.”

And, for Jeff and Karen, the gift is a resounding endorsement of what they see happening at the Miller Center. They believe that the Center is blazing a trail using the disruptive and constructive principles of Silicon Valley. The Millers wholeheartedly believe that, “the Center can and will impact the world now, not by charity, but by sustainably creating livelihoods and lifting people from poverty and restoring their dignity.”

The “why” for all of our honorees and everyone at Magis is a shared conviction, a belief, that through our ingenuity and passion, though innovation and entrepreneurship, we can help transform the lives of the earth’s 3 billion poor. 

Changing the Paradigm for Girls

Grounding banana materials to make pads

The Call to Make a Difference

During his childhood in rural Uganda, Richard Bbaale watched his sister miss school starting when she hit puberty. The issue: his sister had started her menstrual cycle but could not access sanitary pads. Millions of women in rural Africa use leaves or rags, or just stay home, because the products we buy in American drugstores are simply not available. While at university, Richard learned that dried banana stem fibers have superior capacity to absorb blood. Connecting the dots, he recognized a business opportunity to transform the circumstances of African women.

Richard bbaale with banana leaves. 

Richard bbaale with banana leaves. 

Richard founded a group through his university to tackle the difficulties Ugandan women faced in menstruation management. In 2010, this group registered under the name BanaPads. This social enterprise manufactures and distributes affordable, eco-friendly sanitary pads to keep girls in school and create local jobs. Richard adopted the “business in a bag” model for saleswomen, known as BanaPads Champions. Women purchase a bag with dozens of sanitary pads and sell them at schools and in villages, using a portion of their revenue to buy another bag. Richard knew that his enterprise was meeting social needs, but he had a hard time explaining how it could meet its own needs. He struggled to make payroll.

Partners for the Journey 

Richard Bbaale heard of the GSBI at the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and applied to it in 2012. He believed in his vision, but wanted it to pay for itself. He did the preparatory work online from Uganda, and came to the Santa Clara campus for two weeks in August. He learned the nuts and bolts of growing a small business (logistics, unit economics, operations, a growth strategy) but more importantly, he learned how to pitch his vision. He credits the GSBI with helping him improve the management of his enterprise and leverage that into funding for expansion.

Richard returned to Uganda and made immediate changes to his business, and reached out to development agencies and investors. BanaPads partnered with local organizations to conduct education, and demand began to exceed supply. He identified an opportunity to expand into Tanzania. Funders came to share in his vision, awarding grants and making investments.  

A Pro-Woman Social Enterprise

To help BanaPads grow, Richard requested follow-up support from the Center.

A BanaPads employee

A BanaPads employee

  • In 2014, 3 Global Social Benefit Fellows spent 9 months working with BanaPads, including 7 weeks in Uganda. They shadowed Richard and his staff, carefully observing their daily work. They documented community outreach, the recruitment and screening of new Champions, their training, and enterprise operations. They created a series of manuals, available on our webpage.
  • The Fellows completed the manuals in time for Richard to include them with his August application package to the Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship (AAE), the premiere Africa-focused awards program honoring entrepreneurial leaders from around the continent. When Richard made the cut to become a finalist, he wrote, “Had it not been for you, Team BanaPads – Ty, Carol and Kaci – we wouldn’t have gone this far. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.”
  • In November 2014, Richard won African Social Entrepreneur of the Year. Afterwards he wrote, “BanaPads is only as good as like-minded people at GSBI make it.”
  • In January 2015, The Arthur B. Schultz Foundation made a grant to help BanaPads expand in Tanzania. Richard has requested another two teams of fellows in 2015 to help plan a marketing campaign, deploy a mobile app, and create a short documentary film.

 BanaPads is changing the paradigm of health and employment for East African women. The Center is proud to be its partner. 


A Brighter Future for Rural Mexico

Santa Clara University Student Fellows work alongside Iluméxico to gauge constumer satisfaction

Santa Clara University Student Fellows work alongside Iluméxico to gauge constumer satisfaction

Manuel Wiechers was among the brightest of a new generation of young entrepreneurs in Mexico.  After graduating from college, where he studied renewable energy, in 2009 he started a social enterprise: Iluméxico. His vision was to provide solar power to the Mexicans who need it most: remote rural communities beyond the electric grid. These are mostly indigenous people, far from modern roads.

 Iluméxico designs, develops and manufactures technology used for rural electrification. Iluméxico’s products include solar home systems, solar powered energy for community development, such as computer centers with satellite Internet for libraries and schools, and solar-powered water pumps for rural clinics. This company identifies the poorest customers, and tries to sell them the energy that most of us take for granted.  

While the technologies helped people, the enterprise faced significant hurdles. The Iluméxico office in Mexico City was a long way from its rural customers, living in jungles and on the sides of mountains. Reaching them was expensive, and it was difficult to know when, what, and why they would buy.

Enter the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship– Partners for the Journey

Manuel applied to the GSBI in 2013 and reinvented his business model by opening rural energy distribution centers, known as Ilucentros.

We learned so much from our time at the GSBI. We built out our first financial models and we frequently use those models with investors. When we went through the GSBI we hadn’t even opened one center. Now we’ve opened four centers and are in the process of opening the fifth….We plan to open ten more, depending on investment. We have coordinators at each center and local technicians. My role has shifted to supervising and starting new projects.
— Manuel Wiechers, Co-Founder and Director
An Iluméxico beneficiary

An Iluméxico beneficiary

For this plan to work, Iluméxico needed to understand the perceptions of its rural customers, so while he was attending the GSBI in-residence program at Santa Clara University, he requested help from Global Social Benefit Fellows to survey his customers.

In 2014, Fellows spent 9 months studying this social enterprise, including 7 weeks in the field. The Fellows conducted over 250 interviews in rural Indigenous communities measuring customer satisfaction and helping Iluméxico anticipate future customer requirements.

Moving Up

What started as a dream in 2009 has evolved into a thriving company. Going through the GSBI exercises and investor presentations helped Manuel clarify his vision, crystallize his plans and tell people about his mission.  

  • Today, there are five Ilucentros serving 3,500 installed systems and 18,000 households, displacing 1800 tons of CO2 in the process.
  • The Fellows’ reports endorsed the new distribution plan and the value of the Ilucentros as the basis for growth.
  • “We recently received an ABC Foundation grant and the first investment from Banamex’s new impact investing fund, part of its corporate social responsibility program (Banamex is Mexico’s largest bank.) So next year is a huge growth year for us. We hope to close with 14 branches in total. We will be able to set up the structure and operations to expand--hopefully to Latin America.”
  • In March 2015, Iluméxico received a variable payment option (demand dividend) investment from GDF SUEZ to help it reach more customers. “In five years, we want 50 branches to reach 50,000 families.”
The Iluméxico Team

The Iluméxico Team

Wiechers has also changed since the partnership. He’s become not just a visionary but also an executive. What was once an informal partnership has grown to a company with CEO and other executives. With the lessons learned from his time with the GSBI – and through hard work – Wiechers is more than a dreamer. He is a social enterprise leader.

GSBI Alumni Awarded $1 Million

Sanga Moses Pitches at the 2014  Investor Showcase

Sanga Moses Pitches at the 2014  Investor Showcase

Sanga Moses of Eco-fuel Africa, a 2014 GSBI® Accelerator graduate, learned last week that he had beaten out more than 1,800 applicants to win $1 million from Verizon's Powerful Answers Award.

The Verizon’s Powerful Answers Award is a year-long global challenge to discover and help bring to market technology-based solutions with the potential to change our world. The contest drew 1,870 submissions, with 40 finalists invited to pitch to officials in Palo Alto last year. Last week, Verizon announced four $1 million winners in the categories of education, healthcare, transportation and sustainability -- for which Eco-fuel Africa won.

Eco-fuel Africa, based in Kampala, Uganda, teaches farmers to turn agricultural waste like sugar cane stalks or coffee or rice husks into “bio-char” for the production of green charcoal and fertilizer for their land. Eco-fuel Africa distributes the green charcoal through a network of marginalized women, who re-sell them to end users for 30 percent less than traditional charcoal. The process improves the livelihoods of the farmers, women and customers, and also reduces deforestation in Uganda where nearly 75% of forests are already lost.

“Sanga Moses came to GSBI with a heartwarming story of lives being changed,” said his mentor during the 10-month program, Steven White. “His time in the program was spent elaborating the impact with clear metrics, refining the business model, and sharpening his pitch to impact investors. The result is a powerful human story combined with a tightly integrated, sustainable impact and business model.”

“We're so humbled here and very grateful to Verizon for their support,” said Moses, after learning of his award. He noted with thanks the assistance that the GSBI staff provided during the Accelerator, especially the investor pitch which he used in expanded form for Verizon’s competition.

“Thank you to the GSBI team. I will always be grateful to GSBI for all their support,” he said. “And yes, this will greatly improve our project,” he added.

“GSBI believes innovation and entrepreneurship can provide a path out of poverty. We help social enterprises, like Eco-fuel Africa, scale their ventures to positively impact many more people,” says Pamela Roussos, senior director of the GSBI.

“We were honored to work with Sanga as he strengthened his business model and effectively communicated his plan in a compelling way to impact investors such as Verizon. We will continue to support Sanga as Eco-fuel Africa grows in Uganda and throughout Sub-Saharan Africa” In its announcement, Verizon noted that “Eco-fuel Africa is committed to fueling an environmentally and financially sustainable Africa,”

The company noted that its green charcoal “reduces the rate of deforestation, creates sustainable local jobs, saves money and reduces indoor air pollution.”

“According to Eco-fuel Africa, 2 billion people across the globe depend on dirty and expensive wood-based fuels. As a result, 2 billion tons of biomass are burned each year, leading to unsustainable levels of deforestation and CO2 emissions,” Verizon noted.

Honoring Quiet Builders

Sally Osberg of the Skoll Foundation accepts the 2014 Magis Changemaker Award


SANTA CLARA, Calif., March 24, 2015 –Santa Clara University’s Miller Center of Social Entrepreneurship will host an evening celebrating pioneers of impact investing on April 30, at its second annual Magis event. 

The purpose of this year’s Magis is to honor the “quiet builders,” humble individuals whose work embodies broad vision and systemic change through impact investing and social entrepreneurship. The 2015 Magis honorees are Lisa and Charly Kleissner, co-founders of the KL Felicitas Foundation, and Matt Flannery, co-founder of social enterprise Kiva.

Lisa and Charly Kleissner pioneered the theory and practice of “100 percent impact investing,” by targeting both a financial and impact return across their portfolio of investable assets. Employing this strategy, Charly and Lisa have brought together investors who have also committed 100 percent of their investable assets to impact. Currently, over 50 asset owners representing close to $4 billion are active members of this global group. Tireless advocates, Lisa and Charly write, speak, and teach about impact investing to investors, entrepreneurs and intermediaries in the global north and south. Their work over the last 15 years has influenced a generation of family offices, foundations, and high net worth individuals into moving into impact.

The Kleissners were also the first to share the financial results of their foundation's impact portfolio in 2013 and will be publishing the impact report for this portfolio later this year.

The Kleissners co-founded Toniic, an action network of global impact investors and they are also co-founders of three social enterprise accelerators (in India, Austria for Central and Eastern Europe and Hawai'i for the Pacific Basin). 

Matt Flannery co-founded the first successful microfinance marketplace, Kiva, which connects microentrepreneurs without access to traditional loans to “crowdsourced” funds from millions of individuals worldwide. Kiva’s internationally acclaimed work has helped 1.5 million borrowers in 86 countries receive $682 million in loans with a 98.8 percent repayment rate. 

“Both the Kleissners and Matt Flannery disrupted the status quo with innovative and entrepreneurial endeavors that put money to work for meaning,” said Thane Kreiner, Ph.D., executive director of the Center. “We believe these leaders uniquely embody the shining spirit of Magis -- the unceasing quest for what more each of us can do for the greater good.”

The Magis event will be held in Santa Clara University’s Mission Gardens, and will feature a showcase of innovations from social entrepreneurs from around the world; the research of student Global Social Benefit Fellows; an awards program; and a grand dinner. Proceeds benefit the Center’s programs, including the flagship Global Social Benefit Insitute (GSBI®), which empowers social entrepreneurs through quality training and robust mentorship from Silicon Valley executive business mentors. The awards to Flannery and the Kleissners will be presented by last year's honoree, Sally Osberg, president and CEO of the Skoll Foundation; and John Kohler, co-founder of Toniic and director of Impact Capital at the Center for Science, Technology, and Society. 

About Magis

Magis is a Latin term for “more” coined by St. Ignatius of Loyola to encourage others to live and give generously. 

About the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship

Founded in 1997, the Miller Center is one of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara University. The Centers embody the University’s mission to bring together University students and faculty, the Silicon Valley community, and international social entrepreneurs, who are employing innovative approaches to tackle the world’s most challenging problems and create a more just, humane, and sustainable world. Through programs such as the GSBI®. the Center has worked with over 350 social enterprises, affording it unique insights into leading business models and innovations for the developing world and emerging markets. To learn more about the Center or any of its social benefit programs, please 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.Ds. 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
Jaime Gusching | Marketing Manager; | 408 -551- 6048

Belief in a Collective Future

The 2015 GSBI Network Annual Meeting in Mexico City

The 2015 GSBI Network Annual Meeting in Mexico City


India, Kenya, Nicaragua, and Mexico – around the planet, we are working to accelerate global impact through social entrepreneurship. Based on twelve years of practical experience, we are using our GSBI® methodology to strengthen and scale social enterprises of all types that together impact the lives of millions.

  • GSBI Boost “Train-the-trainers” sessions help mission-aligned organizations apply Silicon Valley’s culture of innovation to social enterprises in their geographies and sectors.
  • Fr. Phil Cooke, our Jesuit in-residence, is bringing an innovative, entrepreneurial spirit to Catholic social justice projects. He is combining the powerful Catholic vision of service to the poor with the proven GSBI methodology to effect real change.
  • At the meeting of our GSBI Network, now numbering more than 22 universities and organizations, working groups on impact measurement, capacity development, and early-stage innovation formed. The Network shares best practices to scale collective impact.

The theme of this year’s Skoll World Forum in Oxford is ‘Belief’; our GSBI and Impact Capital leaders will join other delegates from the social, finance, private, and public sectors.  We believe that the Silicon Valley start-up experience we offer can help social entrepreneurs eradicate poverty. We believe that unlocking innovative investment strategies can serve those who need funds the most. And, we believe our students are the next generation of change agents who will help make it happen.

On April 30th, we are hosting Magis, an evening to celebrate the social enterprise movement and honor Lisa and Charly Kleissner of KL Felicitas Foundation and Matt Flannery of Kiva.  We hope to see you there to share in the joy of social entrepreneurship.

We are committed to openly sharing our experience and methods for accelerating global impact. Reach out to us to join our network and circle of friends!