The Ripple Effect of Replication

by Neal Harrison, Associate Director of Replication, GSBI

How do we define replication at Miller Center? An analogy for social enterprise replication is to imagine a rock thrown into a pond. Where the rock hits the water is the splash of a pioneering social enterprise technology or business model tackling a social problem. The growth of the original social enterprise or the adoption of the enterprise model are the ripples in the water. Replication, to us, supports the ripple-effect by making these innovations diffuse further and more quickly. This is where we see huge development opportunities for the social impact sector.

Miller Center's Replication Initiative was launched in 2016. Over the past year we approached the problem of how to replicate tested and proven business models through a series of experiments. We wanted to better understand the challenges of replication and where to best position our future work.

The first set of experiments focused on services for GSBI Alumni social enterprises looking to expand internationally. For example, we teamed up with the International Center for Social Franchising (ICSF) to support Sistema Biobolsa (GSBI Alumni 2014) and their efforts to scale their biodigester technology and business model from Mexico to Kenya. We worked with Sistema Biobolsa to design their replication model to afford control over their business functions. Therefore, they decided to open up a new branch in Kenya and leverage strategic partners to offset some of their business costs such as marketing and technical services.

While the path to open new branches is the right choice for Sistema Biobolsa’s ambitions, it is not easy. To achieve this scale, it is necessary to have the appropriate type of investment, tight management of the supply chain, and operational efficiencies to expand. Social enterprises such as Sistema Biobolsa with strong leadership and dedicated resources for expansion may be able to pull this off, but what about the dozens, or hundreds of other business models addressing social challenges? How do we increase their ripple-effect?

We want to see more organizations such as Sistema Biobolsa that are ready to replicate and decide to either design a replication model or share their business model for adoption. Going forward, we are trying ways to integrate replication readiness into our Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) Accelerator.

Our second set of experiments have involved looking at an alternative path. We have been working to understand the optimal ways to spread best practice business models and to increase the uptake of scalable solutions. Our idea is to develop a series of “Replication Playbooks” designed to support the launch of enterprises adopting existing business model solutions. These Playbooks will include details such as operating model and business logic, supply chain models, customer segmentation, impact metrics, and financing requirements. Adopting entrepreneurs leveraging these Playbooks will be able to use their creativity to adapt these business models for their local markets.

Let's look at Last Mile Distribution enterprises as an example. There are various types of Last-Mile Distribution social enterprise models that are all doing the same thing: distributing life-changing products to people in need. Whether they are serving rural populations or urban slums, there are commonalities within the value chain: sourcing, storage, training sales agents, distribution, and finance options. If we develop a Last-Mile Distribution playbook based on a handful of successful enterprises, we can catalyze the growth of more companies localizing proven solutions. Perhaps we can even improve all Last-Mile Distribution enterprises in the process by sharing the adoption models and lowering barriers to entry.

This is at the heart of the next phase of the Replication Initiative. We plan to test our assumptions with local partner organizations and GSBI Alumni social enterprises. Together, we hope to incorporate replication readiness into GSBI, diffuse pioneering social enterprise models with local partners, and provide the support necessary to increase the ripples in the pond.

Creating Leaders in a Climate Crisis

Isabel Miranda, Santa Clara University, Economics, 2017

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I want to start off by sharing my story…

I was born in México, a developing country, but primarily grew up in the Bay Area. While traveling back and forth between México and the Bay Area, I quickly realized how privileged we are to not feel or see the “1st wave of climate change,” one that disproportionality affects the poor. I always wanted to build a career aimed at supporting developing countries, but it wasn’t until about a year ago that I had my “aha moment!” 

There is a myth that obtaining sustainable energy is very expensive relative to other forms of energy such as coal or natural gasses, and moreover, that it’s impossible for a country to develop sustainably. I had a firsthand experience of watching both of these myths being debunked. Last year, I had the opportunity to work with the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship as well as ILUMÉXICO, a social enterprise whose mission is to provide solar energy to off-grid rural communities. ILUMÉXICO has installed over 8,000 solar homes in communities where people make less than one dollar a day. These people have managed to purchase solar energy, which has expanded their opportunities while being significantly better for the environment and individual health. 

This experience ignited a passion for me to advocate for sustainable development for the sake of the less fortunate and our planet. This chapter of my life is also what led me to apply for and attend The Climate Reality Project’s Leadership Training in Denver from March 2nd-March 4th. 

As I walked into the Colorado Convention Center that Thursday morning, I was overwhelmed and excited by the diversity and the amount of people I saw that were as passionate and eager as me to learn and become leaders on climate change. 

Founder Al Gore Speaking at the Climate Reality Project Conference.

Founder Al Gore Speaking at the Climate Reality Project Conference.

As Former U.S. Vice President and Founder of the Climate Reality Project Al Gore stepped onto the podium, he presented three questions that shaped the rest of the conference:

  1. Do we really have to change?
  2. Can we change?
  3. Will we change? 

After having completed the training and getting certified as a Climate Reality Leader, I can confidently answer all three questions with a yes! 

Contrary to what first comes to mind, climate change is much more than melting ice caps and rising sea levels. It is much more complex and affects virtually everyone and everything! Climate change means worsening air quality, which kills 6.5 million people every year due to air. It means declining growth rates by as much as 6 percent of GDP by 2050 as a result of water-related losses in agriculture, health, income, and property. It means disease outbreaks spreading such as malaria moving through the highlands of eastern Africa, to the rising incidence of Lyme disease in North America in which studies are increasingly naming the changing climate as a major factor. If we want any chance of living, and having a habitable planet for future generations, we must immediately change our ways!

As Winston Churchill once said: “A pessimist is someone who sees the difficulty in every opportunity, and an optimist is someone who sees an opportunity in every difficulty.” There will always be those that claim that making a change isn’t realistic, but to all those people I say, “we have the tools and solutions in front of us, and we can change!” Globally, wind could supply worldwide electricity consumption 40 times over current demand. In 2015 renewables accounted for around 90% of new electricity generation globally. By 2030, new renewable energy capacity added is projected to exceed new fossil fuel capacity by more than four times. 

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Over the course of 3 days, I became part of a network of over 11,000 climate reality leaders committed to changing. While there are many deniers of climate change, data shows that we are transitioning to a sustainable future, because the economics of sustainable economics is more powerful than any one administration, because we have an immense opportunity with the tools to solve this problem, and because at the end of the day it is the morally right thing to do. 

Al Gore ended his presentation on climate change and the conference by sharing one of his favorite quotes by Wallace Stevens, “After the final no there comes a yes and that yes the future world depends.” He talked about so many movements that were faced with a final no and then change happened; women’s suffrage, civil rights, same-sex marriage. This is another one of those movements, and as we come together across the world to fight climate change, we will achieve change and save our planet for future generations and ourselves. 

From start to finish, I was at the edge of my seat, filled with emotions ranging from fear, concern, sadness, hope, excitement and confidence. My life has truly been changed in the past year, and my eyes have been opened by the exciting possibilities to make a positive impact and change in this world. I now move forward to the journey ahead.


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Powering the Next Generation

By Keri Tesch, Santa Clara University, Accounting, 2017

Global Social Benefit Fellow Erika Francks interviewing rural farmers in India.

Global Social Benefit Fellow Erika Francks interviewing rural farmers in India.

“A few things I’m grateful for: my team, air conditioning, Uber, bug bites that don’t itch, and hotels that have hot water” – Erika Francks.

Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is committed to fighting global poverty to create a more just world. The center works towards this mission by supporting social enterprises around the world, through programs like the Global Social Benefit Fellowship. The Fellowship selects Santa Clara University students to work in a nine-month action research project for social enterprises in Miller Center’s network. In 2016 there were eighteen fellows working on eight projects around the world.

Three of the fellows, Erika Francks, Nate Bradford and Carson Whisler, worked with ONergy, a for-profit social enterprise that offers affordable solar solutions to those without access to clean energy in India. The rural communities served by ONergy do not have access to a power grid, which leads to numerous hardships in citizens’ lives. ONergy brings many solar solutions to these communities, such as solar panels for schools, solar water pumps, and solar microgrids. With these solutions, residents no longer need to worry about lacking light at night, or lacking water for crops.

Erika Francks, Carson Whisler and Nate Bradford with ONergy customers.

Erika Francks, Carson Whisler and Nate Bradford with ONergy customers.

In their project, the fellows conducted 47 semi-structured interviews on camera. They talked to ONergy customers, partners, and employees in cities and villages throughout the rural Indian regions of West Bengal and Odisha. Their interviews observed the impact of ONergy’s products on customers’ lives and the business model that allows ONergy to reach its last-mile customers. Erika, Nate and Carson worked with customers in their homelands for seven weeks and received eye-opening, first-hand experience in what it means to live without a reliable source of power. They saw that access to solar solutions offers families the ability to provide for their rural communities, have safer and more comfortable homes, and gain an education for new generations.

Farmers in Narandi with a solar powered water pump on their farm.

Farmers in Narandi with a solar powered water pump on their farm.

Solar Irrigation in Narandi

Farming is the only source of income for 20 families living in the village of Narandi, in West Bengal, India. Before solar powered irrigation, the families relied upon diesel pumps to water their crops. These pumps were not only unreliable, they were also costly for families who struggled to make ends meet and who were at the mercy of the weather, particularly rain, as farmers. ONergy helped the community install solar powered irrigation pumps as a better solution for the Narandi farmers.

After installation, the cost of irrigation was cut in half and it utilized a resource that was plentiful in the region: the sun. This energy source offered the one steady form of energy for the families in Narandi. Utilizing the sun as the energy source to water their crops made the process cheaper and more reliable.

Erika, Nate, and Carson interviewed several farmers that were able to use the solar irrigation system. The farmers showed a deep appreciation for the new technology and the extra money saved allowed them to expand their crop offerings, feed their families, and send their children to school. The payoff from a simple conversion of energy paid dividends to the families reached. The solar pumps give a steady source of power to pump water for crops, which in turn provides a steadier source of income for the farmers.

Residents in Sergarh stand behind a solar microgrid that provides power to the village.

Residents in Sergarh stand behind a solar microgrid that provides power to the village.

Solar Microgrids in Sergarh

A microgrid is a small network of those using power or electricity from a local source of power supply. The microgrid can function independently, or be connected to a larger power grid. The solar microgrids installed in Sergarh, Odisha, provide a local source of power from the sun for community residents. Prior to this installation, the 40 residents in the village would farm during the day and then at night come home to dark homes. Light was formerly very dim when provided by kerosene lamps. Dark smoke from the lamps lingered in the home, even long after the lamps would be put out for the night. The dim lighting also strained children’s eyes when trying to study. A lack of light posed danger to villagers as poisonous snakes and scorpions would come in during the night.

Like in Sergarh, the solar microgrids installed offer a way for communities to have access to electricity and power for the late hours in the evening.

Erika, Nate and Carson found that when given the opportunity, villagers were willing to pay more of their savings upfront for a reliable solar microgrid versus the former unreliable power grids. They found that villagers are instilled with a sense of pride in their access to light for cooking and studying at night. Positive change was exemplified through the village’s new study session, offered because of the light that is now available. Villagers can also stay safe from the dangerous animals that are now more visible at night. More light means a higher quality of life for rural populations in India.

 School children with the newly installed rooftop solar panels at Khardah Sibnath High School.

 School children with the newly installed rooftop solar panels at Khardah Sibnath High School.

Solar Rooftops for Schools

In developed nations it can be easy for students to take for granted air-conditioned classrooms, healthy school lunches, computers in the lab, and sports programs that are offered after school. For the 800 children attending Khardah Sibnath High School just north of Kolkata, this was not a reality, but with new solar panels, amenities like this are more achievable and the benefits are demonstrable. The solar panels have cut the school’s electricity bill in half and the extra money can be spent to provide fans and computers in the classroom, more protein can be added to student’s lunches, and they are able to start sports programs. The newfound financial resources from the solar installation have improved students’ lives and learning opportunities. Environmental conditions have improved due to ONergy’s solar solution and there is the possibility of future expansion of the system to further reduce electrical expenses, and to provide even more opportunities for students at Khardah Sibnath High School. 

The students and administration alike expressed their excitement of the new resources to the fellows. One of the students attending the high school was thrilled at the idea that students were “no longer living in the dark.”

Ashish Kumar Roy, the principal of the high school, also shared his excitement with the fellows. He spoke of the pride he felt for his school and the hope he has for India’s future because of renewable energy. He hopes to continue expanding his school’s solar system, exclaiming “we want more! We have 5 kW now generating. We want 25 or 30 kW.”

While the school started small, the money they are now saving can be put towards an expansion of the solar system for even greater benefits to come.

Erika filming during interviews.

Erika filming during interviews.

Final Fellowship Thoughts

The Fellowship offered by Miller Center gives undergraduate students the opportunity to learn within communities that are gaining access to new innovations like those offering clean solar energy in India. The Fellowship offers more than just a simple study abroad experience; it offers deep immersion and direct experience working with populations that are commonly underserved. The fellows’ work supports enterprises like ONergy, to help the companies assess their impact and effectively touch more lives.   


Weaving Rural Indian Women into the Global Market

Claire Schwartz, Santa Clara University, Finance, 2017

Santa Clara University student Sandhya Bodapati works with local artisans in India and watches them practice their craft.

Santa Clara University student Sandhya Bodapati works with local artisans in India and watches them practice their craft.

In the Barmer and Bikaner regions of India, women are often denied independence and work, and the economic power this provides. In recognition of this, Rangsutra, a social enterprise in India, links rural artisans to global markets to provide them with equitable jobs while enabling economic stability and sustainable livelihoods.

During the eight weeks of July and August 2017, two undergraduate students from the other side of the world, Grace Matthews and Sandhya Bodapati at Santa Clara University, worked with this social enterprise to assess the company’s impact on women. This partnership was formed through the Global Social Benefit Fellowship, a program of Santa Clara’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Sixteen other fellows like Grace and Sandhya, who are juniors at Santa Clara University, work with social enterprises across the globe to support their social impact. The two fellows working with Rangsutra conducted a baseline assessment of job opportunities and metrics in the Indian regions served to develop how the company’s goal to uplift lives is achieved. Miller Center provides this fellowship as a comprehensive program of mentored, field-based study and action research for its selected students to support the Global Social Benefit Institute worldwide network of social entrepreneurs. After carefully learning about social entrepreneurship and sustainable business models for companies like Rangsutra, Grace and Sandhya developed a socioeconomic impact assessment tool to measure the enterprise’s impact on artisan employees. During this assessment, the fellows completed 131 interviews with participating artisans, of whom 100% were women. The women ranged in age from 16 to 55, averaging at 31 years old. In the survey, the two fellows experienced the challenge of measuring women’s socioeconomic empowerment compared to men within a household.


 The baseline metrics of the fellows’ work revealed a trend suggesting a need for more work orders in the Barmer region. In their report, the girls found that:

· 39% of the artisans were content with the amount they were working

· 61% of the women artisans asked for more work

· Nearly 100% of the participants worked for the local craft market at some point in time, giving participants a comparative insight to the benefits of working for Rangsutra

· 41% of women artisans saved their money on their own, in contrast to 24% of women who contributed to pooled household saving

· 9% of money earned by women artisans went to education for themselves or their families

Overall, the data collected represents the need for change and an increase of job opportunities in the Barmer Region. After analyzing the survey results, the fellows discovered that most women couldn’t work a full year because of the agricultural responsibilities they hold and that they want to work more than an hour more per day like they currently do. The ambition and eagerness of the women was obvious in nearly every interview in Bikaner, and the women were proud and grateful to work for Rangsutra.


 Pappu Kanwar embodies ambition. When interviewed, Pappu explicitly stated her desire for more work and suggested that she was currently unable to work for more hours because of how far away the Rangsutra work centers are from her home. However, Pappu isn’t settling with her current situation. She shared with Grace and Sandhya that she is taking the lead on opening a new center in her own village. This inspiring change maker said that she would also be the craft manager in the new center beginning next month, so earnings from this role will certainly raise her income and offer life improvements. Pappu’s example is one of many inspiring stories that illustrates how Rangsutra enables women to make changes at both personal and community levels. The employed women impact not only themselves but also their families, and in many cases, the rest of their communities too.           

Rangsutra allows women in rural India to provide an income for their families.

Rangsutra allows women in rural India to provide an income for their families.


Grace and Sandhya noted that younger women train in Rangsutra’s apprentice program while they go to school. The program allows women between the ages of 16 and 18 to work a limited number of hours throughout the week to learn skills from their mothers and other women in their community. One woman interviewed by the fellows reported that two of her daughters work as apprentices in the program, which supplements their family’s income and helps the girls gain valuable skills and practice. Through interviews with women like this artisan, Grace and Sandhya found that Rangsutra increases employed artisans’ sense of independence and future prospects as they gain their own income and apprentice younger generations.

Grace Matthews and Sandhya Bodapati working with Rangsutra.

Grace Matthews and Sandhya Bodapati working with Rangsutra.


 After their in-field research, the two fellows expressed hope to see an increase in the socioeconomic impact metrics that imply growth and that enable sustainable livelihoods for women in the Barmer and Bikaner regions of India. Grace and Sandhya recommend that Rangsutra set timeline goals for improvements to keep track of its progress. These goals are tangible products that can be shared with future investors to further help with making them possible.

The data recorded and carefully analyzed by the two students is encouraging overall. Their work with Rangsutra revealed the drastic impact that Rangsutra’s programs have upon the lives of the women in rural India. Their lives are reportedly being changed for the better, as they each expressed gratitude towards their increased independence and sense of meaning within their families and community.




Providing Power While Working with Women

Cody Hall, Santa Clara University, Accounting, 2017

Empower Generation Solar CEOs with their solar products.

Empower Generation Solar CEOs with their solar products.

 “Though we only shared a few words, I saw so much of what I aspire to be in her. Her kindness and thoughtfulness did not require the same native tongue…”

Santa Clara University student Clarissa Nguyen reflects on an impactful interaction she had while working with Empower Generation in Nepal this past summer. Even though there was a langue barrier, Clarissa found a way to identify and connect with this local Nepalese woman.

Global Social Benefit Fellows Clarissa Nguyen and Ash Hammad.

Global Social Benefit Fellows Clarissa Nguyen and Ash Hammad.

Empower Generation is a US-based social business, offering reliable and sustainable clean energy by providing solar-powered lights and lamps at an affordable price. Empower Generation also hires and educates local Nepalese women, called “Solar CEOs” to help sell Empower Generation products; they, in turn, learn valuable business skills.

Through Empower Generation and their products:

·      Over 244,400 individuals in Nepal now have access to solar lights

·      More than $2.38 million USD has been saved by customers

·      Students can spend 2.5 more hours a day studying


The Global Social Benefit Fellowship is offered through Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University, and is open to all juniors at the school. Students are paired with social entrepreneurs throughout the world to help conduct action field research. After multiple months of academic research, students spend the summer completing fully funded field research. Clarissa and her research partner, Ash Hammad, conducted 36 in-person interviews and surveys of Solar CEOs and Sales Agents working with Empower Generation to understand the impact Empower Generation has on their lives.


Imagine living a in a dark world. Literally. In Nepal this is a reality for over 30% of the population who lives without electricity. Even the customers with electricity experience blackouts lasting up to 18 hours a day due to the limited electrical generation and weak grid.

A Solar CEO shows off her Empower Generation Products.

A Solar CEO shows off her Empower Generation Products.


In Nepal, women are mostly financially dependent on men. Women generally receive less education than their male counterparts and frequently earn little or no wages for their work. Most recently, Nepal ranked 108th out of 156 in the United Nation’s Gender Development Index. This index measures the difference between men’s and women’s achievements in three different aspects: health, education, and earned income. Many families in Nepal face financial hardship and can only afford education for one of their children. Boys receive more education than girls, in part because of the widespread belief that men are better suited for nonfarm work, and thus are in greater need of a formal education. This educational disparity reinforces the injustice suffered by women in Nepal.

Women are paid considerably less on average than men in Nepal – even though women make up 90% of the agricultural workforce. In 2006 50% of 223 women interviewed in Nepal reported earning no income in the past 12 months. Women have also reported working an average of three to four more hours a day than men.


The Empower Generation average Solar CEO income, at $1,535, starkly contrasts the struggling national GDP of $694. The income earned by Sale CEOs is more than double the national average wage in Nepal. Through Empower Generation women are breaking free of the employment limitations set upon them.

One Solar CEO, Sita, made over $11,200 USD in a single year. Sita was able to sell over 30,000 units, mostly to two large organizations, to help reach this astonishing number. With a substantial income like this, women like Sita are able to fully support their families and offer uplifting new opportunities for them. Through increased income women can afford to better educate their children, purchase new clothes and better food, and start saving money to apply for credit.


During July and August of 2016, Ash and Clarissa worked with Empower Generation to conduct field research in Nepal. With the help of a translator and questionnaire, they conducted interviews with Sale CEOs and Sales Agents. The interviews often took place in personal homes of the women, allowing Ash and Clarissa to immerse themselves in the daily lives of each family. They also shadowed some of the Solar CEOs to local markets and other areas where they conduct business to fully understand how Empower Generation is changing lives.

Ash and Clarissa spent countless hours working with local women to respond to the 40-page questionnaire they created. Questions in the interview included:

·      How economically independent are you?

·      Did you have any prior work experience before becoming an entrepreneur?

·      Is your opinion more respected in the community now that you are an entrepreneur?

Questions like these allowed Ash and Clarissa to measure the positive impact Empower Generation is having on numerous different aspects of these women’s lives.

Solar CEO Kala.

Solar CEO Kala.


When asked what she does with her money earned from Empower Generation, Solar CEO Kala said, “I use that income to send my kids to school. I want them to travel the world. I don’t want them to be looked down upon like me.” Kala wanted to ensure her three daughters were getting a proper education, an unattainable reality if not for Empower Generation.

Through the employment opportunity offered by Empower Generation, no longer are women like Kala viewed as inferior to men, but rather their actions and ideas are being supported in ways they have not been in the past. Women are now also able to support their families and provide their children opportunities that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.  As Empower Generation continues to grow in Nepal, it appears the status and respect for women will grow as well.


The Fellows experienced moments of joy and uncertainty. Both Ash and Clarissa expressed how being in Nepal allowed them to reflect on their privilege and realize the diverse opportunities they have in the U.S. Ash stated, “I learned an immense amount about my privileged status as an American male on a global scale.” Participating in the Global Social Benefit Fellowship can be an eye opening experience and cast light on issues from around the world. It can also help add perspective and reflect on the Jesuit philosophies taught at Santa Clara University, where the vision is to “educate citizens and leaders of competence conscience, and compassion and cultivate knowledge and faith to build a more humane, just, and sustainable world.”

Both Ash and Clarissa feel they have been transformed by participating in the Fellowship experience. Witnessing firsthand the change social entrepreneurship is having on the world inspires them. Ash states, “the joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment that I receive from data collection in the field is incomparable to other work I’ve done.” And Clarissa believes, “ I am not the same person I was before the fellowship… I will always love with my full heart and strive to be a good person, because like social entrepreneurship, change starts from the bottom up.”

Providing a Brighter Future for Rural Uganda

Melita Patricia, Santa Clara University, Marketing, 2017

“If you pick fruit from a tree while menstruating, the tree will go barren.”

This notion is among many myths that primary school girls are taught in Uganda. Even as the girls advance to secondary school, they are shy to address beliefs that result in unsafe methods and that fail to protect them.

Challenges in Rural Uganda

The challenges faced by Ugandan society as a whole are extreme for young girls. The rural poverty level is higher than in urban Uganda, and school-related expenses are barriers for many girls seeking to attend school. Even when girls can afford to stay in school and buy sanitary pads, many mature without understanding appropriate menstruation management.

Undergraduate Students with a Mission

With a passion for social justice, Christina Egwim and Déjà Thomas worked together with Bana -- a social enterprise that provides a hygienic way for girls to manage menstruation -- to evaluate Bana’s work from an outside perspective. They spent 8 weeks living, traveling, working and conducting research in rural Uganda.

Christina and Déjà’s work with Bana was coordinated through Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Fellowship. Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is committed to improving lives globally. It is situated on Santa Clara University’s campus and works towards the Jesuit mission to foster wholesome and uplifting education. The Fellowship exemplifies this commitment, as it provides a comprehensive program of mentored, field-based study and action research for driven students like Christina and Déjà.

Working with Bana

Christina and Déjà observed how Bana staff interacts with local communities and how Bana conducts its menstruation education workshops and business skills training.

The observations were conducted at:

●      2 primary schools and 5 secondary schools (150 school girls)

●      5 community meeting places

●      1 health clinic

●      1 Bana collection center

The girls witnessed how Bana strives to cultivate powerful social change in the community through sensitizing, educating and operating.


Christina and Déjà learned how important the power of word-of-mouth is to spread awareness of Bana’s mission. To address the importance of menstrual hygiene, Bana begins by approaching community leaders and village health teams, then relies on word-of-mouth.

Their observation introduced Christina and Déjà to Sylvia, who has served as the village health team for seven years. Her passion for women’s health has allowed her to gain a reputation around the village of Bukibura as a resource for women and girls. One day Shakirah approached Sylvia and described how uncomfortable she felt with folding pieces of cloth into the cotton lining of her underwear to mimic a pad every time she menstruates. Not only did she have to change the cloth every thirty minutes, but she also had to walk carefully to avoid making the cloth move around too much. With a huge smile on her face, Sylvia described to the fellows how blessed she feels to work with Bana and help girls like Shakirah experience better options when handling menstruation.


The two fellows found out that girls in Uganda suffer in school when menstruating, as they are constantly worried about leaking through clothes and facing disgust against their natural menstruation process. The disruption in performance can lead to dropping out of school for many, which results in a decrease in education for girls.

To address this issue, Bana provides better education about menstruation and offers business skills training for the community. Proper education of young girls and older women allows Bana to uplift marginalized women in communities that are unaware of proper menstrual management. Bana’s workshops train locals in business skills so that schoolgirls and young women can start their own small businesses and afford Bana pads. The workshops teach the 4P’s of business (Place, Product, Promotion and Price), how to assess direct and indirect cost, and the practice of record keeping. Girls slowly become more comfortable with the topic of menstruation through the workshops, which the fellows saw as the avoidance of eye contact and hushed giggles turned into strong, loud voices and steady eye contact by the end.

Three school girls at Bukibura Primary School during menstruation education and business skills training.

Three school girls at Bukibura Primary School during menstruation education and business skills training.


Bana manufactures 4,600 packets of ten pads every week, with one rural woman producing 92 packets per shift, five days a week. Once the pads are made, Bana depends on rural women, known as “Champions,” to sell the products.

Champions travel through rural Uganda, carrying a backpack full of Banapads and wearing a shirt that signifies their association with Bana. Christina and Déjà noticed that Bana’s business model allows the women to keep 16% of sales revenues, which provides an opportunity for Champions to earn approximately 1 million Ugandan shillings ($300 USD) in extra income every year.

Sarah, a Champion for 5 years, conveys that Bana has positively impacted her life. Bana helped Sarah quickly recognize her misled ideas about menstruation and has since educated her daughter properly. The extra income earned and business skills learned have allowed her to open her own store in Bukibira Village, where she offers products and services that range from clothes to boda-boda (motorcycle) repairs. There is a notable increase in people walking and talking in the area because of her store, which enables Sarah to interact with her community.

Apart from their observations, Christina and Déjà conducted 28 group and individual interviews with Champions, users, parents of users, teachers and health clinic workers. They also took 87 pages of ethnographic field notes during their work in the field.

Christina and Déjà interviewing a user.

Christina and Déjà interviewing a user.

Student Researchers Driving Impact

In order to effectively evaluate Bana’s work, the two fellows created an evaluation plan to track the various health impacts that Bana has on the community. The girls created a Monitoring and Evaluation Plan made up of two components:

1.     Health Data Reporting System: helps Bana understand the relationship between regional sales data and incidents of acute infections and conditions related to menstruation. This report lets Bana compare health impacts before and after its partnership with local health clinics, and conclude the effectiveness of product use and educational programs.

2.     Interview Guide: provides further detail to the health report data and collects feedback on Bana’s products and services to help improve impact. Informal interviews will give a voice and story to Bana’s customers and community. The 28 group and individual interviews Déjà and Christina conducted offered insights to improve Bana’s products and services, showcasing how interviews will allow Bana to gather feedback on its products and training.

Christina and Déjà also developed a Theory of Change Profile for Bana, which documents in detail how Bana achieves its social impact. This detailed report explains how Bana spreads awareness, educates communities, and operates as a business. The report narrates the diverse impacts Bana has on local communities, while also explaining Bana’s impact model and theory of change to external stakeholders and potential investors. 

 What’s Next

Miller Center’s Fellowship allowed Déjà and Christina to learn valuable lessons from working directly with a social enterprise in the field, rather than merely reading or studying about social enterprises from afar. Together with Bana, the students were able to impact lives on a deep level and help the company continue to instill lasting impact. Everyone directly connected to Bana was inspired to bring positive impact in their communities, not just for menstruation, but for other issues regarding health and education.

Bana is not only providing sanitary pads to schoolgirls but also building a brighter future for whole communities in rural Uganda. Currently, Bana has impacted over 50,000 rural girls and women, yet it hopes to continue expanding and generating positive change for as many lives as possible!

Déjà Thomas and Christina Egwim interviewing for Bana.

Déjà Thomas and Christina Egwim interviewing for Bana.

Shining Bright in Rural Mexico

By Katie Waddell, Santa Clara University, Marketing, 2017

Isabel Miranda installing Iluméxico’s solar home system in Chilan-Balan.

Isabel Miranda installing Iluméxico’s solar home system in Chilan-Balan.

“I’ll never forget the look of this little boy as soon as we turned on the light bulb in his home. He lit up along with the light and couldn’t stop smiling and pointing at the light bulb saying: “luz, luz!””

Isabel Miranda reflects on her experience in rural Chilan-Balan, a small village in Mexico previously without light. Isabel worked with Iluméxico, a social enterprise that offers affordable solar home systems to alleviate energy poverty in Mexico. During her time in areas like Chilan-Balan Isabel helped the organization install twenty home systems in two days. Children and adults alike watched in awe at the magic


Isabel’s work with the social enterprise was coordinated through the Global Social Benefit Fellowship (GSBFⓇ) program at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. The fellowship is a nine-month action research program that selects undergraduate students at Santa Clara University to curate projects for social enterprises. Isabel was among a cohort of eighteen fellows in the program and worked alongside one research partner, Madeline Nguyen, for Iluméxico specifically. In their project the two students measured the impact that Iluméxico’s solar home systems have on end beneficiaries, particularly compared to the experience government program recipients have with the traditional government aid model. The girls also introduced a solar cooler prototype generated by Santa Clara University engineers and researched the impact it could generate in rural communities.

To implement this research project the girls spent two months travelling through rural areas of Mexico, conducting a total of 50 semi-structured interviews: 32 regarding the satisfaction of participants’ solar home systems and 17 regarding the solar cooler prototype. Apart from time spent in Mexico the students dedicated countless hours and energy to the project both before the travels and after, as they planned their work and then analyzed the results. This analysis and dedication allowed the girls to develop professional reports that will instill lasting impact for the company and the rural Mexican citizens it serves.



Isabel and Madeline’s work resulted in three thoroughly researched, impact-driven reports for Iluméxico:

●      Comparative Study

●      Referral Program Proposal

●      Solar Cooler Report

To fully adhere to the needs of the organization Isabel and Madeline offered each report in both English and Spanish. They doubled their hard work to cater specifically to the organization and its cultural context, showcasing their commitment to the mission and furthering their impact.


In the comparative study, Isabel unpacks field data comparing Iluméxico’s social entrepreneurial approach versus the donation-based government program. She discovered that the enterprise’s business model generated greater impact for end beneficiaries than the government system. Her research in the field led Isabel to uncover the specific key elements in Iluméxico’s business model that generate greater customer satisfaction:

●      Stronger after-sales services

●      Deep customer relations

●      Incentives for customers to “move up the energy ladder” and to collaborate with the organization to extend service to more community members

Upon analyzing these findings, Isabel recognized how Iluméxico and the government can generate deeper impact for Mexican citizens by coming together. This partnership could deliver greater impact and be cost-effective for reducing energy poverty across the country. The partnership would leverage both organizations’ strengths as they could reach more customers and then instill deeper, more sustainable impact.


Isabel’s research allowed her to recognize that a referral program would help Iluméxico increase its client base. The proposal outlines potential benefits a referral program can offer, backing her analysis with evidence from similar social enterprise case studies. She then recommends that Iluméxico conduct further research to gage the best strategy for developing an effective program. Research should be broken into two steps:

1.    Conduct a competitor analysis

2.    Execute a randomized control study

After gathering the necessary research and analyzing results, Iluméxico could then design a program that will be most effective to the specific people it serves. Isabel offers two examples of potential program structures:

1.    A discount program, in which both the recommender and new customer would receive discounts for participating in referral.

2.    A gift with purchase, such as a solar flashlight, gifted to both the recommender and the new customer. This would also increase exposure to more of Iluméxico’s products.


According to Isabel’s analysis, a referral program can also help the company incorporate government recipients into its client base - offering a way to achieve the recommendation she made in the comparative study report.

Isabel with a solar cooler prototype.

Isabel with a solar cooler prototype.


For Santa Clara University, this product comes full circle. The prototype Isabel and Madeline presented was designed by undergraduate engineering students, and the analysis of how it can change lives was engineered by the two undergraduate fellows. The report developed by Isabel and Madeline outlines this analysis and recommends that Iluméxico add solar coolers to its product line. The interviews indicated an existing viable market for solar coolers, as 100% of respondents expressed interest in the product, and 91% responded that they would buy the product. The difference in commitment rests in dedicating valuable income, so the solar cooler would need to be price sensitive. Isabel and Madeline kick-started a deeper look into the need for food preservation in rural Mexico. They observed how making a food cooler affordable and energy-efficient can meet this need and improve health. They developed next steps for Iluméxico based off these findings:

1.    Look for possible manufacturers and calculate best-case margin cost for the solar cooler in order to give an accurate price.

2.    Conduct a user experience pilot study in which customers use the solar cooler for a few months and report back the positive and negative aspects of the product.

Iluméxcio solar light

Iluméxcio solar light



Programs like GSBF further Miller Center’s mission to touch lives and work towards poverty eradication. It furthers Santa Clara’s Jesuit mission to educate the whole person and serve communities in our world. Isabel and Madeline directly impacted lives when installing solar home systems in Mexico. Their reports will help Iluméxico impact more lives as they find tangible ways to eradicate energy poverty. Both Isabel and Madeline express unwavering passion to improve the lives of those most in need. They have gained the experience and further knowledge of how to tackle today’s most challenging social injustices. Miller Center is investing in generations that will drive our future towards social good.

Madeline Nguyen at Iluméxico

Madeline Nguyen at Iluméxico



“My passion for social justice and ambitions to be a life-long agent for change remain, but now they blaze brighter than ever.”


“This fellowship challenged me on both a personal and academic level no other class or experience has during my undergraduate career. I know the social entrepreneurship industry is more challenging and there is never an answer laid out for you, but I am determined to help find or build solutions for these global problems.”


Watch 12 Entrepreneurs Uplift and Inspire

In Pakistan, 80% of the population lives in rural areas and does not have access to health care. In India, pregnancy is commonly life-threatening instead of life-giving. In Mexico, low-income children are at risk of delayed development due to poor childcare services.

The list goes on across the globe, but there is hope. Social Enterprises like United Care Foundation, Best of the Bump, and Hipocampus Centros de Aprendizaje are delivering innovative and sustainable means to an end for these pressing challenges. There are companies and entrepreneurs that recognize the underserved and fight the good fight to support them.

Hope Grows for the Twelve

This year on February 10, twelve social enterprises such as these graduated from GSBI Online 2016-2017 Cohort 9. These social enterprises focus on a range of problems including access to low-cost medical diagnosis camps, women’s reproductive health, clean energy access, and education. Over the past six months the social enterprises, along with their expert mentors, have worked to validate their business models and growth strategies to solidify their business and expand impact.

In addition to graduating from the program, these social enterprises have reached important milestones, including:

●      Establishing growth partners,

●      Expanding their enterprise, and

●      Receiving important seed funding.

Meet the Twelve

Below are the twelve presentations from the GSBI Online Cohort 9, which showcase each social entrepreneur’s passion and innovative work towards alleviating global poverty. These presentations highlight their mission, value proposition, and the business models that were elaborated upon throughout the six months of the program.

Presentations and Profiles

In addition to these presentations, interested impact investors and foundations can also view Cohort 9’s investor profiles on the Miller Center website. Each profile highlights the enterprise's work, its impact, growth plans and financing needs. We are also excited to announce that recent GSBI Online alum, Hipocampus Centros de Aprendizaje, has been selected to participate in the 2017 GSBI Accelerator.

To check out the current Online cohorts, please visit here.

Applications for our upcoming GSBI cohorts are open and all interested social enterprises are encouraged to apply!

For more information contact us at:


Social Entrepreneurship in Central America

Social Entrepreneurship in Central America

Central America doesn’t rank as the most active geographic region for social entrepreneurship and impact investing. Yet, as the social enterprise movement becomes more mainstream, it is reaching all parts of the globe. With Central American civil wars from the 1980s having been replaced with entrenched gang violence, it is a region worth understanding and supporting.

In this conversation, Andy Lieberman, Director of New Programs at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, shares his insights about social entrepreneurship in Central America.

Read More

Introducing the 2017 GSBI Accelerator Cohort

Photo Credit: Resonate

Photo Credit: Resonate

“When I heard, “And the winner is Wendo Dorcas” that evening I took the trophy to my room, sat on my hotel bed and cried until my ribs hurt. I cried for the woman who did not have confidence in herself, who considered herself inferior, who was fearlessly afraid, who was so proud of herself for doing something she had never done before. She had pitched and won. Yes! The villager as I commonly, proudly, refer to [as] myself, had won $10,000 plus a trophy.”

Dorcas’s story is one among many from uplifted women in Resonate’s programs. Its program encourages women to write and share their stories with others. Women are being encouraged to reach for - and achieve - greatness, to love themselves, and know that they can pursue leadership with confidence.


Resonate is not alone in its vision to change lives for the better. It is one of sixteen social enterprises involved in this year’s Global Social Benefit (GSBI®) Accelerator program at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

Miller Center addresses the problems of poverty by focusing on women’s economic empowerment – “women rising” – and climate resilience through our Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) programs. We believe that by investing in these two target markets, the pains of poverty can be sustainably addressed. The GSBI Accelerator supports trailblazing social enterprises through business training and in-depth mentorship. We are excited to embark on the 2017 program with our newest cohort! Each enterprise expresses innovation at its core as they cater to different needs around the globe.

Photo Credit: Food For Education

Photo Credit: Food For Education


Although the cohort impacts lives all across the globe, there is a concentration of enterprises in Africa this year. Over half the organizations work in these African countries:

●      Kenya
●      Uganda
●      Niger
●      Burkina Faso
●      Nigeria
●      Ghana
●      Rwanda
●      United Republic of Tanzania
●      Zambia

Plus, the social enterprises work in sectors that range from education to energy to agriculture, and more.

In the education sector Building Tomorrow, Inc. and Food for Education provide schoolchildren with the facilities they need to stay in school. Building Tomorrow, Inc. works to improve education in hard-to-reach rural areas of Uganda by constructing new schools and supporting various improvements in the quality of education offered. Food for Education works in neighboring country Kenya and provides vulnerable children with nutritious, heavily subsidized lunches in public schools to improve attendance, performance, and nutrition. The lunch subsidies are covered by the profits from Food for Education’s food delivery business.

In the energy sector are enterprises like Simusolar and VITALITE Zambia Limited. These organizations work in Tanzania and Zambia, respectively, each offering energy-efficient products at an affordable price to underserved households. Both offer mobile financing with payable increments over time. Energy-efficient products include solar home systems and clean cookstoves, among others, which enables communities to be more resilient to the effects of climate change.

In the agriculture sector:

●      Excel Bit Com Limited - helps smallholder farmers in Ghana cultivate rice, soy, and maize by providing them with fertilizer, tractors and other products. The organization then trades the produce with buyers and processors to help the farmers reach this end of the supply chain.

●      KadAfrica - equips Ugandan girls who aren’t in school with knowledge, skills, and assets to begin their own cooperative passion fruit farms, enabling them to become financially literate leaders capable of generating income through agriculture.

●      MoringaConnect - changes the story for 120 million small farming families who use the nutritional, medicinal and economically valuable crop “moringa.” MoringaConnect changes the leaves into super-food tea and snack products, sold under Minga Foods. They also use the Moringa seeds for beauty products under True Moringa.

AFRICAQUA and Tugende are the remaining two African enterprises. Working primarily in Kenya, AFRICAQUA is an organization that sits at the intersection of women rising and climate resilience: It offers affordable access to safe drinking water for rural and urban communities plus it trains girls in enterprise development. Tugende is an asset finance company in Uganda that helps people take control of their economic futures by owning the productive assets they use to make a living. For example, Tugende has been offering lease-to-own financing of motorcycles (locally referred to as “boda bodas”) to over 4,500 motorcycle taxi drivers. Through the financial support, taxi drivers are able to own their bikes and make greater profits.

Photo Credit: Hippocampus Learning Centres

Photo Credit: Hippocampus Learning Centres


Two of the social enterprises outside of Africa work in education initiatives and don similar names at opposite ends of the world. Hippocampus Learning Centres (HLC) works in India, and its business concept is being replicated to Mexico as Hipocampus Centros de Aprendizaje. The enterprises offer educational programs to serve those most in need of them in the regions that they serve.

●      India: HLC works to provide affordable, joyful education in small towns and villages. The enterprise hires teachers that deliver consistent high quality education in a sustainable and scalable manner. Through programs such as its Full School Programme, the EnglishSTAR Programme, Training Academy and its Pre-School Programme, HLC offers rural districts of India the power of choice.

●      Mexico: Hipocampus Centros de Aprendizaje offers affordable care and early childhood education to Mexican families with children between one and six years old. It is able to do so by leveraging modern teaching techniques, technology, women and community empowerment, and corporate alliances.

Education is a powerful tool for everyone, whether in Mexico, India or elsewhere. This example of business replication speaks loudly for the good that can be accomplished through social entrepreneurship.

Photo Credit: Yellow Leaf Hammocks

Photo Credit: Yellow Leaf Hammocks


Also in Mexico is Someone Somewhere, an enterprise that works to empower artisans. Someone Somewhere sells clothing that connects global adventurers with rural artisans through its products that combine traditional handcrafts with functional and fun designs. Someone Somewhere recognizes the struggle that Mexican artisans face in trying to keep up with today’s demands. Its connection to a new consumer base opens life-changing opportunities.

Another enterprise working in artisanal empowerment is Yellow Leaf Hammocks. Yellow Leaf Hammocks is an outdoor lifestyle brand, dedicated to “blissful relaxation” and sustainable job creation. Through global sales of “ridiculously comfy” hand woven hammocks, it helps artisan mothers in rural Thailand create a brighter future for their families and communities. From receiving less than a dollar a day working as field laborers in slash and burn agriculture, hammock weavers are able to earn a solid middle-class income and escape the cycle of extreme poverty and debt slavery.


Imagine the world without light - no doubt it would be a very dark place. Our world heavily relies upon energy and electricity to be productive, safe, and connected. Social enterprises involved in energy recognize the unmet need of those without electricity, and offer affordable, alternative clean energy products payable over time. Nizam Bijli works in Pakistan to offer affordable, pay-as-you-go (PAYGo) solar energy. The solar energy it provides is coupled with mobile payments, monitoring, and data-driven credit scoring. Through this approach, Nizam Bijli is able to provide electricity to off-grid homes in Pakistan, effectively allowing kids to study, families to supplement their income, and off-grid access to modern society. Health is also improved as homes switch from using kerosene to solar.

Photo Credit: Be Girl

Photo Credit: Be Girl


One of humanity’s most urgent development problems stems from women’s lack of access to effective and affordable Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) solutions. Be Girl offers MHM products globally to address this persistent barrier. Its “period panties” deliver affordable high-performance products designed for womankind. The for-profit social enterprise is dedicated to enabling women and girls to radically improve their quality of life. Its approach is to eliminate stigma as a barrier to opportunity, so that women are empowered as agents of change for themselves, their families, and the world.


At Miller Center, we are proud to accompany all of the organizations in this year’s GSBI Accelerator program. Their missions provide those most in need with safe drinking water, improved livelihoods and better access to education, support in agriculture, and so much more. Each one understands, inside and out, a specific need that exists in a specific region, and then works tirelessly to provide a solution. It is through the dedication and innovation of the entrepreneurs that lives can be changed for the better.


Offering affordable means to safe drinking water for rural and urban African Communities

Be Girl, Inc.
Offering women Menstrual Hygiene Management solutions that effectively enable girls the autonomy to improve their lives

Building Tomorrow, Inc.
Providing children access to education in hard-to-reach rural areas of Uganda through the construction of new schools

Excel Bit Com Limited
Helping smallholder farmers in Ghana cultivate rice, soy, and maize by providing them with fertilizer, tractors and other products

Food for Education
Providing vulnerable children in Kenya with nutritious, heavily subsidized lunches in public schools to improve attendance, performance and nutrition status.

Hipocampus Centros de Aprendizaje
Offering affordable, quality care and early childhood education for children 1 to 6 years old to Mexican families

Hippocampus Learning Centres
Providing affordable, joyful education in small towns and villages in India with teachers that deliver consistent high quality educational outcomes

Equipping girls who out of school in Uganda with knowledge, skills and assets to begin their own cooperative passion fruit farms

Changing the story for 120 million small farming families who use the nutritional, medicinal and economically valuable crop Moringa

Nizam Bijli
Providing the under-served and the off-grid with affordable, Pay-As-You-Go solar energy coupled with mobile payment, monitoring, and data driven credit scoring.

Using storytelling to empower women and girls in East Africa to build self-confidence and unlock leadership.

Offering energy-efficient products with mobile technology and PAYGo payments

Someone Somewhere
Connecting global adventurers with rural artisans from Mexico

Providing financial services to help people take control of their economic futures by owning the productive assets they use to make a living

VITALITE Zambia Limited
Offering energy-efficient products with mobile technology and PAYGo payments

Yellow Leaf Hammocks
Helping artisan mothers in rural Thailand create a brighter future for their families and communities through the sales of hand woven hammock


Miller Center's 20th Anniversary Celebration

On February 1st, Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship celebrated its 20th anniversary along with the 5th anniversary of its Global Social Benefit Fellowship. The center is a pioneer in social entrepreneurship and student action research. Founded as the Center for Science, Technology, and Society in 1997 by Father Paul Locatelli, Miller Center unites Silicon Valley’s spirit of innovation with Santa Clara University’s Jesuit ethos to help find sustainable business solutions to end global poverty.

Father Engh opened the evening talking about the genesis of the center and the vision of Father Locatelli. He quoted Locatelli from a speech made at the launch of the center, “We are experiencing an avalanche of new technologies at an unprecedented rate of acceleration that could either unite us and provide creative opportunities to improve our sense of community; or, create a divide between the haves and the have-nots.” 

Father Michael Engh Photo credit: Joanne Lee, Santa Clara University

Father Michael Engh
Photo credit: Joanne Lee, Santa Clara University

“The reason for the existence of Miller Center is more important today than ever,” said Thane Kreiner, PhD, executive director of the center. He went on to describe how the center uses the Silicon Valley principles of innovation and entrepreneurship in its efforts to bridge that gap between the haves and have-nots. Santa Clara University uniquely provides a platform for the center – the students, the professors, the curriculum, the Jesuit network, the location, and the guiding principles – to make a significant contribution to help end poverty around the globe.

Almost 300 people attended the event, including the founding executive director, Jim Koch, and the founders of the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) program, Al Bruno and Pat Guerra. Eric Carlson – the third employee at the center and the force behind operationalizing the program – was also present. 

Jim Koch, Al Bruno, Pat Guerra and Eric Carlson Photo credit: Joanne Lee, Santa Clara University

Jim Koch, Al Bruno, Pat Guerra and Eric Carlson
Photo credit: Joanne Lee, Santa Clara University

“Miller Center was founded with a vision of uniting the Jesuit tradition of working to create a more just, humane and sustainable world with the Silicon Valley tradition of innovation in science and technology,” said Jim Koch, senior founding fellow of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and the Don C. Dodson Distinguished Service Professor of Management for Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business. “I’ve always seen our role as connecting humanism with technology to serve the common good and especially the needs of the poor. It’s gratifying to witness Miller Center’s progress so far.”

A short video was shown at the celebration that includes more comments from Father Locatelli, Jim Koch and the other founders, Thane Kreiner, and Father Engh.

More About Miller Center

Miller Center is part of a broad ecosystem that uses social entrepreneurship—which blends the goals of social action with the rigor of business know-how—to create social change and address environmental challenges. Aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2015 and the call to action by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’, Miller Center concentrates on advancing social enterprises that help poor communities become resilient to the damaging effects of climate change and that foster economic empowerment of women.

“Climate change will impact the global poor most dramatically, and the majority of the world’s 4 billion poor are women,” said Kreiner. “Social entrepreneurship offers a solution to these inextricably linked global challenges of poverty, climate change and gender inequality.”

Some Miller Center Accomplishments and Milestones

Jeff and Karen Miller Photo Credit: Joanne Lee, Santa Clara University

Jeff and Karen Miller
Photo Credit: Joanne Lee, Santa Clara University

Jeff Miller talked about his involvement in the center over the years. “I’ve seen the center from a variety of angles – as a GSBI mentor essentially since the beginning, as a co-managing director with Rahda Basu, as an advisory board member and chair, as a participant on immersion trips into the field meeting the social entrepreneurs we work with, and as a donor – and I can’t tell you how extremely fortunate I have been to be part of a group of people who were able to turn an idea into such a success. My participation with the center has been educational and humbling, as well as, inspiring. Karen and I could not be more excited or more proud about the center.”

Jeff Miller, Thane Kreiner, and Rahda Basu Photo credit: Joanne Lee, Santa Clara University

Jeff Miller, Thane Kreiner, and Rahda Basu
Photo credit: Joanne Lee, Santa Clara University

Accomplishments highlighted by Jeff included:

·      Serving through its Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) programs more than 600 social entrepreneurs from 65 countries who have positively impacted more than 230 million lives

·      Enlisting a cadre of more than 140 Silicon Valley executives as Miller Center mentors, who accompany GSBI social entrepreneurs for 6 to 10 months through structured curricula that are personalized and tuned to the needs of the entrepreneurs

·      Deploying 75 Global Social Benefit Fellows, undergraduate Santa Clara University students who conduct field-based action research that has helped 22 Miller Center GSBI alumni scale their impact

Thane closed the evening by saying, “While Miller Center has accomplished a great deal, the need for social justice is greater now than ever. We continually experiment with new ways to scale the impact of social enterprises, leveraging the acumen of our Silicon Valley mentors, the impact investing community and future change leaders among our students.” He further asked, “Directly and through our global network of mission-aligned accelerators, how can we help thousands of social enterprises successfully scale their impact? How can the next generation of change leaders engage in lifting billions of people out of poverty? These challenges occupy and inspire us.”

Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is a pioneer in social entrepreneurship and impact investing. Founded as the Center for Science, Technology, and Society in 1997, Miller Center melds Silicon Valley’s spirit of innovation with Santa Clara University’s Jesuit ethos to help find sustainable solutions to global poverty.

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Taking "Poo Power" Around The World

How innovative technology could soon be helping Kenyan farmers
Author: ICSF, Cho Kim, and Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship

Small farmers supply over 80% of the food in the developing world, but today they are confronted with critical challenges of animal waste management, procurement of high quality and affordable fertilizer, and access to inexpensive and reliable energy sources.[1] Climate change, increasing price pressures, and lack of affordable agricultural inputs threaten the viability of small farms, while unsustainable agricultural practices and energy dependency threaten ecosystems, and create further economic and environmental risks to food systems.

What if we could harness Poo Power to improve the well-being of small-scale farmers while reducing our environmental footprint?

Transforming waste into opportunity is at the core of Sistema Biobolsa. Founder Alex Eaton’s interest in solar energy and small-scale organic producers led him to a small town in Michoacán, Mexico in 2006. Here, Alex met Calletana Nambo, who had recently installed a homemade “biodigester” to convert her animal manure into energy and fertilizer at her small farm.

Biodigesters use naturally occurring bacteria to breakdown organic waste into two useful by-products: a high potency natural fertilizer; and biogas, a natural gas that farmers can use for cooking, heating, and producing electricity. Seeing the impact in Calletana’s flourishing crops and bright blue cooking flame, Alex’s vision for Sistema Biobolsa was born.

Sistema Biobolsa has since become the largest supplier of biodigesters in Mexico and Central America. By 2015, the organization improved the lives of over 20,000 people in rural Mexico. In addition to the product itself, Sistema Biobolsa sets itself apart from its competitors by providing high-quality services to help farmers finance, install, and maintain the biodigesters.

Sistema Biobolsa’s technology has few competitive alternatives and it has been proven to work in diverse geographies around the world; thus, the company has decided to scale its offering across the globe.

With 500 million small farms around the world, how can Sistema Biobolsa’s impact be replicated?

The Sistema Biobolsa team brought this question to the non-profit International Centre for Social Franchising (ICSF) in early 2016. ICSF and Sistema Biobolsa co-designed a strategy and lean replication model for scaling Sistema Biobolsa to Nicaragua. After the successful opening of its Nicaragua branch, Sistema Biobolsa is now bringing this transformative technology to the African continent, starting with Kenya.

Why Kenya? Kenya has:

· An estimated 1.2 million farms with little biodigester penetration.

· The political will through initiatives such as Vision 2030 supporting its transition to renewable energy sources.

· A business-friendly way of doing business in comparison to other African countries.[2]

The case for replication: Why reinvent the wheel?

Sistema Biobolsa is partnering with ICSF and Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, based at Santa Clara University, to provide strategic support for its move to East Africa. Miller Center supported Sistema Biobolsa in 2014 through its flagship GSBI® Accelerator program. Now, Miller Center’s replication initiative will continue to support its expansion into Kenya through strategic connections, funding, and mentorship.

At ICSF, we believe that the social sector can achieve significant transformational change by broadening the reach of what has been proven to work rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. That’s why we are thrilled to be working with Sistema Biobolsa to scale its impact. Stay tuned for updates following our visit to Kenya in February 2017.

[1] Source: Arsenault, C. (2014, October 14). Family farms produce 80 percent of world’s food, speculators seek land. Retrieved from

[2] Ranked 92 of 190, 5th highest in Africa. Source: Doing Business (2016). Retrieved from:

Announcing 17 GSBI Online Social Enterprises for 2017

Photo Credit: Rebel Nell

Photo Credit: Rebel Nell


Graffiti artists, egg farmers, and soccer players couldn’t possibly have anything in common - could they? When it comes to fighting poverty they can! Social enterprises from all over the world, working with people from all different kinds of backgrounds, overlap in that all of their missions focus on doing good through business.

Seventeen of these social enterprises will begin working closely with Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship this year to gain support in meeting their goals and scaling their businesses. A common theme among the social enterprises at Miller Center is a focus on “women rising” as a means to end poverty. Women and poverty are closely intertwined as women are most deeply affected by the consequences of poverty and they are simultaneously more likely to re-invest their income in their children and communities. Enterprises like Rebel Nell and Last Mile recognize this dynamic as they reimagine ways to employ and empower women.


Located at opposite ends of the world, Rebel Nell in the United States and Last Mile in Tanzania, together support women rising initiatives through training and employing vulnerable women. Rebel Nell works with women transitioning out of homelessness in Detroit and Last Mile works with impoverished women across the Kilimanjaro region. The homeless women in Detroit are offered a new beginning as they become artisans and receive training in financial independence, among other things. Impoverished women in Tanzania distribute Last Mile’s socially beneficial products and develop new skills while earning a commission on sales. These are just two examples of the ingenious social enterprises working with Miller Center this year. Like Rebel Nell and Last Mile, each organization in the GSBI Online cohort imagines a new way to create more just and sustainable communities. As 2017 begins, we can’t wait to highlight their stories as the social enterprises scale and reach greater impact.


Miller Center is located at Santa Clara University in the heart of the Silicon Valley. The center is dedicated to poverty eradication initiatives through its Global Social Benefit (GSBI®) programs. GSBI Online is a 6-month, virtual program for early-stage social entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs in the cohort work weekly with Silicon Valley executive mentors to create their business plans, improve their business models and growth strategy, and reach meaningful results. Organizations range in sector type and location, among other details, but they each drive meaningful change in the face of poverty’s many pains and consequences.


These social enterprises aim to advance women, plus over half of them are led by women. Rebel Nell and Last Mile are two of the eight enterprises led by female entrepreneurs. While these two enterprises work directly to train and empower women, three of the others work in education, two work in healthcare access, one works to fight against the dangers caused by climate change, and one offers affordable access to clean energy.

Photo Credit: Library For All

Photo Credit: Library For All


The women-led enterprises vary in sector and in location. There are three education-focused organizations: TalkingPoints, SEED - Youth and the Green Economy, and Library for All. TalkingPoints is located in the United States, SEED - Youth and the Green Economy is located in South Africa, and Library for All is located online and works in America, Africa and Asia. Each of these enterprises tackle different educational challenges based on the needs in their locations:   

      TalkingPoints provides an improved communication platform for teachers, parents and students.

      SEED - Youth and the Green Economy educates and connects unemployed township youth to the green economy.

      Library for All provides affordable online books to children who otherwise cannot afford school books.

The Ihangane Project, located in Rwanda, uses porridge known as “Aheza” to provide low cost access to fortified foods for children and communities while also investing revenue into additional health services for the community.

The last two women-led enterprises are Cloud to Street and Solstice. Cloud to Street and Solstice work in the climate sector and recognize the implications that today’s declining environment has upon the poorest in our fragile world. Cloud to Street provides online information on climate disaster risks helping governments and others mitigate unnecessary death and damages. Solstice radically expands access to clean energy by providing community solar to the 80% of American households that cannot install an array on their roof. Like the connection between women and poverty, climate also plays a role in the vicious poverty cycle. Both Cloud to Street and Solstice recognize this connection, and they are not alone in working towards climate resilience.

Photo Credit: Eggpreneur

Photo Credit: Eggpreneur


Seven more of the enterprises in the cohort are also working to create “climate resilience.” Miller Center defines climate resilience as the ability of individuals or communities to withstand and adapt to the stresses of climate change. Miller Center works with social enterprises that are involved in climate resilience because of the close relationship between climate change and poverty. It is no secret that our climate is changing and imposing negative consequences on our earth, but perhaps it is lesser known that these consequences most directly impact the poor and women in particular. The declining environment reinforces the cycle of poverty, so it is crucial that we support climate resilience actions. These actions align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which includes activities like enhancing agricultural production, enhancing rural livelihoods, providing clean energy, water and sanitation products, and strengthening health systems. Eggpreneur Initiative, iNuka Pap, Awamu Biomass Energy, and CookClean Ghana Limited each have missions that align with these climate resilience goals. Awamu Biomass Energy and CookClean Ghana Limited develop clean cookstoves, while Partagria works with West African farmers and WateROAM develops portable water filtration devices in Singapore. Lastly, Sunpoynt Health, located in Kenya, uses garbage as a financial resource, enabling uninsured slum dwellers access to healthcare twice monthly.

 The remaining social enterprises are GoForGood and the third half. GoForGood improves corporate social responsibility initiatives through the use of volunteer management software and the third half provides education to disadvantaged children through sustainable soccer tourism.

Photo Credit: Sunpoynt Health

Photo Credit: Sunpoynt Health


These enterprises drive impact in various locations across the globe, covering Africa, North America, South America and Asia. Their services cover a variety of initiatives as well, in sectors such as health, energy, education, and agriculture - with an overarching focus on women rising and climate resilience. Each organization has an incredible and empowering story, and we are excited to work with each of the talented entrepreneurs to help them create an even larger positive impact in the world.

© GSBI is a registered trademark of Santa Clara University. All rights reserved.

AT A GLANCE: The 10th GSBI Online Cohort, Spring 2017

Awamu Biomass Energy
Manufacture clean and affordable cookstoves while creating employment, saving household incomes, reducing indoor air pollution and mitigating climate change.

Cloud To Street
United States
End unnecessary death and damages from flooding or other climate disaster.

CookClean Ghana Limited
We protect and save lives and our forests.

Eggpreneur Initiative
To reduce child malnutrition and poverty in rural Kenya.

Offers a volunteer management software with an app developed for better employee engagement.

iNuka Pap
Improve access to financial and health services in Rural Africa.

Last Mile
United Republic of Tanzania
Access to life-changing products for the last mile.

Library For All
United States
Our mission is to make knowledge accessible to all, equally.

Connecting West African farmers to global produce and financial markets.

Rebel Nell
United States
Provide employment, education, support and opportunities to address joblessness for women who are living in homeless shelters in Detroit.

SEED – Youth and the Green Economy
South Africa
We educate, mentor and connect unemployed township youth in Cape Town to opportunities in the green economy.

United States
We radically expand access to clean energy by providing community solar to the 80% of American households that cannot install an array on their roof.

Sunpoynt Health
We are a micro health insurance program that uses garbage as a financial resource in enabling uninsured poor slum dwellers access to health care twice monthly.

Talking Points
United States
Meaningfully connect parents, schools and students across tech and language barriers to improve parent engagement in low-income communities in the US.

The Ihangane Project
In Ruli, Rwanda, local production and sale of fortified porridge (Aheza) provides low cost access to fortified foods to the entire community, subsidizes the cost of porridge provision to the most vulnerable children and generates revenue to be invested into additional health services.

The Third Half
United States
Provide education to disadvantaged children around the world through sustainable soccer tourism.

Wateroam develops water filtration devices for disaster relief and rural/ developing communities that are durable, affordable, portable and easy to use.  


The GSBI® Online Program is Advancing Women who are Changing the World

Image Credit: Comprehensive Design Services

Image Credit: Comprehensive Design Services

Originally posted on Medium.

Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) is the number one cause of maternal deaths, in particular areas without adequate maternal care facilities and kills over 90,000 women globally every year. This means that every six minutes a woman dies of PPH. InPress Technologies has developed an easy-to-use device aimed to eradicate maternal death caused by PPH that does not require surgery.

Nigeria currently faces a staggering 17 million unit housing deficit. Only half of the population has access to a power supply, two-thirds to clean water and only a third to improved sanitation. Comprehensive Design Services (CDS) is tackling the housing deficit in sub-Saharan Africa by building eco-friendly homes. The housing units are bio-climatically designed to be 70 percent energy-efficient, self-cooling, solar-powered, and water sufficient.

These two enterprises are part of the latest group of the 15 social entrepreneurs (or SEs) to graduate from Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) Online class. Despite the diversity amongst the social enterprises, this cohort was unique in that 7 of the 15 social enterprises, including the two mentioned above, focused on Women Rising, meaning the social enterprise was working to benefit women or the social enterprise was woman-led. That’s almost half of the cohort!

Miller Center exists to unify the Santa Clara University campus to the rest of the world by combining innovation and entrepreneurship. Our goal is to help social entrepreneurs help more people; by aiding these entrepreneurs to become investment-ready for financial capital, they can scale their impact. The GSBI distinguishes itself from other capacity development organizations for social enterprises through the quality and depth of its mentoring. GSBI mentors, who are successful Silicon Valley executives, volunteer to work one-on-one with a single social enterprise every week for the duration of the program.

The GSBI Online program focuses specifically on early-stage enterprises, helping them create their business plans and develop or refine their impact models. The program’s curriculum is broken into topic modules such as social impact model, value proposition, marketing and sales, cost structure and revenue streams, and financing plans. Social enterprises and entrepreneurs can expect to come out of the online program with a validated and refined business model, and with a path to prepare to scale in the future. Furthermore, upon completion of the six-month program, social entrepreneurs will have a compelling pitch, a slide deck for investor presentations and valuable connections.

These 15 presentations from GSBI Online Summer 2016 Cohort 7 represent the best, brightest, and most passionate group of social entrepreneurs who are working to positively impact lives.

As can be seen from these presentations, the social enterprises are as diverse as they are compelling in their drive to positively impact lives and represent the culmination of the work each of them does to validate their business models.

Interested impact investors and foundations can also view Cohort 7’s investor profiles on the Miller Center website which highlight the entrepreneurs’ work, their impact, growth plans and financing needs.

Check out the current GSBI Online cohort. Applications for our upcoming GSBI cohorts are now open and all interested social enterprises are encouraged to apply. For more information contact us at

Assessing the Impact of Social Enterprises Using the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and IRIS

by Joe Schuchter, Associate Director of Social Impact Assessment, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship is increasingly recognized as a means of addressing the world’s most pressing social and environmental problems. However, assessing the impact of social enterprises continues to be challenging. Part of the challenge is to find a shared language of impact in the myriad approaches used by social entrepreneurs, impact investors, and development agencies to code, classify, and interpret impact.

Two of the more prominent approaches are the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Global Impact Investing Network’s (GIIN) IRIS. At first glance, the SDGs and IRIS appear to use different “languages” for different audiences. To better support social entrepreneurs, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship decided to e