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.”

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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.